Cars, the new office

5 January 2023

How long does it take you to get to the office?and visiting customers? what if it rains or there are traffic jams, How much time did you spend in transit? It seems that Elon Musk is not a fan of a world full of time inefficiencies. So much so that Zoom during “Zoomtopia” announced that they reached an agreement with Tesla for which cars of the electric giant will include Zoom video conferencing solution in its infotainment system. If you have Zoom fatigue, get ready, you will not be able to escape even in the car.

The (recurring) idea of communicating from the car

The inclusion of communication and conferencing capabilities in vehicles is not a breakthrough idea. We can find references in 80’s Sci-Fi movies and TV shows. Vehicles like the Sedan Deckard from Blade Runner or KITT from Knight Rider made us dream of a connected car with AI and communication capabilities. 30 years would go by from the birth of these iconic cars until we started seeing those technologies applied to real commercial vehicles.

Focusing in communication capabilities it was during 2016 when Volvo made the first move adding skype to the infotainment system in some of the high end models. During that year Mercedes also added “in car office” services to its most exclusive cars. It was also in 2016 that Quobis did a proof of concept of car videoconferencing with PSA Citroen (Stellentis as of today) within the R&D project Sat2Car. Later, in 2020, Elon Musk anticipated in Twitter that video conferencing would be a feature included in the Tesla cars. It is now that we know that it will be Zoom, the company in charge of bringing to reality that vision.

Communication as a passive element

Aside from the concept of the car as a communication element between people for leisure of work; there is the idea of embedding emergency communication features in the car (eCall). Mercedes cars have been doing this sort of approach since 2012. In fact, all vehicles certified in Europe from 2018 are required to have the capability of doing an emergency call in case of an accident.

Car office and autonomous driving

ndependently of the initial reaction to adding communication capabilities to the car (outside emergencies) let’s dive deeper into this Tesla move. First, we need to take into consideration that autonomous driving (in conjunction with the innovations in electric vehicles) is one of the main pillars of Tesla’s value proposition. Autonomous driving promises a future of freedom, freedom from having our senses tied to the road whilst driving. This kind of driving would turn the car into something more like a Taxi, a train or a plane, transportation methods on which we see people working on a regular basis. In this way, adding communication capabilities feels more like a natural evolution that would allow to create an office on wheels.

This idea of autonomous cars integrated in the enterprise UC system is quite interesting. A concept that might actually have deep implications in the way some people work and how efficiently time is used. At the beginning of this article we mentioned the amount of time spent in travel between office and home, this is something most of us can empathize with. Nevertheless, for those jobs that rely heavily on visiting customers, delivery of goods, field workers that have to travel to onsite locations; this is a potentially disruptive way of working, making it much more efficient. Besides, it is usual that the car is provided by the enterprise itself so it is normal that it becomes a part of the UC architecture as well as another endpoint.

5G and beyond

All these innovations in the vehicle capabilities have been evolving with the telephony network. With the continuous adoption of 5G and the increment of bandwidth and reduction of latencies, it is expected that innovations in terms of security, communication capabilities C-V2x (cellular vehicle-to-everything) and infotainment arise.

In this scenario, technological advances will be dependent on the legislation in place. Besides, initially, these new technologies will be accessible to a minority of users; Tesla, Volvo, Mercedes are high end vehicles and these mentioned innovations are included in the higher end lines of those manufacturers. Nevertheless, as technology matures and becomes cheaper it is expected that those innovations drip down to more accessible models becoming a mainstream capability.

In conclusion, the future is connected, 5G allows for more devices online and communicating with other devices. In this trend, the car seems to become another communication element. All the innovations in this sector will create new use cases around security, privacy and interconnection between different devices, something that both manufacturers and service providers can leverage into to create new value propositions.

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