Gartner explores how connected car tech can help reduce Covid-19 spread

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How can connected car technologies help against the spread of Covid-19? Analyst firm Gartner has argued in its latest note that vehicle manufacturers can focus their efforts on hygiene and maintaining social distancing.

CIOs at automotive companies ‘should work with internal and external technology partners to incorporate technologies that help lessen the risk of the Covid-19 infection to car occupants,’ the company said.

The four primary areas of focus are cabin disinfection, cabin air purification, human machine interfaces, and more general connected car functionalities.

For the former, ultraviolet lights in car cabins can be used to disinfect frequently touched surfaces, Gartner noted. Plastic and glass surfaces can be replaced by anti-microbial equivalents, while a car’s climate control can heat up the cabin for extended periods to reduce the risk of contamination. Many Asian countries have in-car plasma air purifiers as standard, meaning such technology is ready for global adoption.

Much as Amazon Alexa and other voice assistants have been tweaked to help with coronavirus-related queries – SVP Tom Taylor told GeekWire last month that there had been a ‘huge increase’ in home-based voice commands – Gartner argued the same can occur in the car. An effective voice assistant can help reduce contact with cabin surfaces, as well as detect early symptoms.

In terms of wider functionalities, Gartner also recommended automated door locks and stopping and starting the engine through mobile apps, again lessening the amount of tactile contact with a vehicle. Contactless payments for wider use cases should also be considered, the company added.

“The new normal set by Covid-19 will clearly influence how people travel,” said Pedro Pacheco, Gartner senior research director. “The fear of infection is starting to drive some travellers away from public transport placing a greater emphasis on private cars and shared mobility services.

“However, even within these, individuals want reassurance against contagion and several technologies are being put in place in response to that need,” Pacheco added.

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