Comparing the various components of cars to websites’ structure and environment can indeed be relevant to some extent. The road can be compared to the internet highway on which a website is driving. Doesn’t your vehicle’s engine appear to be the content management system (CMS) you use? And the automotive designer – the web designer you call on from time to time?
That comparison being relevant, another interesting fact to point out is that both cars and websites have been at the forefront of the second and third Industrial Revolutions, leading the manufacturing and service industries respectively. And, therefore, reshaping the economy by generating huge knock-on effects and creating tons of new jobs. Would roadworks and oil-related activities have emerged without the automotive industry? Would social networks and apps exist without the internet?
And curiously enough it looks now as if web development and cars will be facing analogous challenges.
Cars: What features could be integrated in order to make the car experience more than a driving experience?
Websites: How to integrate relevant external applications in your website without hardcoding them?
Cars: It seems that the number of road traffic accidents reached a minimum threshold in most developed countries: how can we use technology in order to decrease this threshold even more?
Websites: The recent ransomware viruses have put major security breaches in our browsers and operating systems under the spotlight: how can we deal with them more efficiently?
Cars: Driving is a unique experience but what about sitting in the driving seat without actually having to drive? Tech companies including Google, Tesla, Microsoft and, more recently, Apple are now highly involved in self-driving technology.
>See also: Is telematics the future of car insurance?
Websites: Web development still requires specific skills and long-term training, is there any chance we will be one day able to build our website on our own, without any assistance?
Customisation is not an option
There is no need for an endless historical account about the web and automotive evolution. However, it is worth highlighting that both products, cars and websites, were very poorly customised at the beginning. Henry Ford, the father of the conveyor belt, was pretty clear about it: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”
And websites started similarly as initially they were plain HTML pages.
With time though car owners became very demanding in terms of personalization. The 60’s were characterized by higher competition and consumption for the automotive industry. It fostered manufacturers to make their products stand out and, therefore, develop a competitive advantage by focusing on style, comfort, colors, etc. Cars were not only becoming a must-have but also a status symbol.
Websites followed a similar expansion. Over the years, developing an online presence turned out to be essential for businesses. Nevertheless, thanks to new customization possibilities, they could now work on the user experience. To have a visitor reaching your website is great, but making him stay is even better, right?
Later on, with the launching of Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento or Joomla, users were offered the possibility to benefit from pre-made templates and extensions. It has never been easier for non-technical people to build their websites as hard coding is no longer required!
Empowerment thanks to data management
In the early 2000’s, the car manufacturing industry understood how it could make good use of data in order to improve the driving experience. Satellites provided geolocation features and traffic information that drivers could use to reach their destinations in the fastest way. Not to forget sensors analyzing the environment and helping to park and preventing accidents.
Later, with connected cars, the amount of data used expanded substantially, unleashing new possibilities like tracking your car as well as controlling it remotely, monitoring the car’s status and detecting problems in real-time, etc.
Within the same decade, tech giants realised how game-changing it would be for the web industry to provide users with a website traffic data set. Let’s take Google Analytics as an example.
It was launched in 2005 and it gave website owners the opportunity to track their visitors and evaluate, for instance, the number of pages visited, the bounce rate for each page, and the impact of A/B testing.
These pieces of information are now crucial for businesses to assess their user-friendliness and spot the customer pain points within the conversion funnel and make the relevant changes.
Open source extending the scope of possibilities
Open source refers to software for which the original source code is made freely available and it can be modified by programmers for further improvement. The tech industry showed great interest for the concept right at the start with the launch of open source CMS in the early 2000’s.
By way of illustration, Drupal, which started functioning in 2001 and WordPress, which was released in 2003 are two popular content management systems that both rely on open source.
By making the source code of their design themes and extensions available, web developing communities can avoid starting from scratch whenever they are to create new features. They can build on top of current functionalities in order to adjust following their needs and then release the updated version in open-source libraries. So that everyone can enjoy it.
As a consequence, the number of customization possibilities is simply unbeatable. Wix, a closed-source website builder has no more than a few hundreds of templates to offer. Conversely, WordPress, the most popular CMS has gathered more than 51,000 plugins and 4,000 themes.
Moreover, it appears to be that the automotive sector took inspiration from the software industry. Manufacturers, such as Ford, General Motors, Fiat, Chrysler and BMW, are now coming up with open-source initiatives. But how can it apply to vehicles?
>See also: The new age of loyalty in the digital world
As suggested in the introduction, a mechanic can be assimilated to a web developer to some extent. The only difference would consist of building and maintaining cars, and not websites.
By accessing all the manufacturing details of every car component made by competitors, the mechanic would be able to build on top of it to improve any component that he believes it deserves to be improved.
In the medium run, this could have a huge impact on the industry:
• At a time during which self-driving technology and clean energy cars are being tested, open source could give a huge boost in the R&D and innovation processes,
• Moreover, it could open up the industry to a considerable number of new market protagonists all aiming to build more energy-efficient and user-friendly vehicles.
Using artificial intelligence for a 100% hassle-free and secure experience
Artificial intelligence-powered cars are under the spotlight. Tesla, Google and others have been successfully testing self-driving cars for a few years. Though legislation still has to adapt before such vehicles can be commercialised, it is now only a matter of time before the driving experience undergoes a massive change.
Once the destination is set, a driver can just lay down and relax, using the free time for something else: reading a newspaper, checking his Twitter feed, making phone calls, have a nap, etc. Driving time becomes spare time. This will also be a huge security improvement. Remember: an AI neither gets drunk nor tired, its environment analysis will always be fully reliable.
Witnessing this particular aspect of the automotive industry evolution turned out to be a huge inspiration for web businesses. The belief is that AI can profoundly transform user experience, making it possible for a kid to build and maintain a website.
Natural language processing (NLP), which refers to text understanding, for instance, allowed Wiredelta, a tech hub based in Copenhagen, to build a CMS-based website building chatbot. Its role consists of assisting users in:
• General web-related questions: What is SEO? How can I improve my website’s SEO?
• Administration issues: How do I add a page? Can I backdate a post?
• Design problematics: Can you suggest me a good template for a real estate website?
• Plugins inquiries: Suggest me a good booking plugin.
On the long run, such virtual assistants would be able to do:
• Handle voice recognition for a typing-free experience
• Manage image recognition in order to help users pick a design theme that matches their preference
• Download any functionality and activate it on the spot
• Deal with security breaches in a more efficient way with constant scanning and updates. Without the user having even to ask for it
The web development industry is definitely hitting a trend with artificial intelligence. As more tech breakthroughs will come up, industry-experts will soon be able to go deeper into sophistication. And in any case it looks like cars will always be showing industries the way.
Sourced by Paul Krishnan, content marketer at Wiredelta
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