1 November 2022, London Marriott Hotel County Hall
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
There's no denying the appeal of Apple’s new Car Play technology, which integrates a driver’s iPhone or iPad with their car’s own entertainment and information systems. This allows access to many of the smart device’s functions (music, contacts, maps – even having messages read to you) via voice control, a dashboard-mounted touchscreen or buttons built into the steering wheel – so there’s no dangerous fumbling with the phone’s small screen while driving.
Unveiled at the Geneva Motor show in March, Car Play is expected to be commercially available later this year. But will this new technology be taken up by the business travel sector – and what are the potential benefits?
Savings are key
According to the Guild of Travel Management Companies (GTMC), car rental is on the rise – 2013 saw transactions up 8 per cent on the previous year – and as the UK economy continues on the road to recovery, this year could see further gains.
Costs, or potential savings, will be key if the business travel community is to embrace Car Play; and a new breed of car app – designed by travel technology companies, global distribution systems (GDSs) or travel management companies (TMCs) – could help centralise often-fragmented car hire data, building up a bigger picture of spend.
Rob Golledge, head of marketing communications at Amadeus UK and Ireland, says app developers could use tools such as Amadeus Web Services to access travel data via Amadeus, and combine that with other sources of information to deliver a more intelligent view of the traveller and the journey.
“This kind of app is not beyond the realms of possibility, especially for expense management systems, such as SAP, that integrate with Amadeus E-Travel Management,” he says.
Car hire costs, petrol spend, distances driven, GPS data and so on could be captured and compared with other modes of transport. Julie Oliver, managing director of Business Travel Direct (BTD), says: “Being able to centrally deploy an application to company smartphones that integrates with the company’s enterprise resource planning or expense management solution would bring benefit.
“Having an interface that allows you to add additional journey data at the start and end points, such as reason for the journey, would be essential for further analysis against the overall travel programme spend.”
Efficiencies may also result from greater productivity on the road. Golledge says: “Voice recognition software is improving all the time and in situations where using a keyboard is impossible or hazardous, virtual assistants, such as Siri [Apple’s voice control and dictation software on newer iPhones and iPads], could help travellers be more productive. Productivity and efficiency are high on the agenda, according to recent Amadeus research, with 21 per cent of 400 business travellers surveyed citing it as a top priority.”
Efficiency savings may also come in the form of more integrated notification systems. Simon McLean, managing director at Click Travel, says: “Travellers could receive travel alerts while driving, and be able to turn around from the airport, rather than making it all the way there to find their flight is cancelled.” Approvers on the road, meanwhile, would be able to easily and safely authorise travel requests while driving, he adds.
However, while Apple is widely touting the safety aspect of its Car Play, BTD’s Oliver believes anything that distracts the driver from the road ahead is “simply irresponsible”.
“Asking a driver to take their concentration away from the primary task of driving the vehicle cannot be recommended, no matter how simple the task,” she says.
Oliver also argues that car manufacturers spend millions on the ergonomics of vehicle controls for safe use, with some standards laid down by statutory regulations, and asks: has Apple has done the same?
The safety element comes down, in part, to ease of use. McLean bemoans the distracting fuss involved setting up current Bluetooth connectivity options between personal devices and cars. He believes Car Play would be “true plug and play”, and removing the need to pair Bluetooth devices would remove associated safety risks.
Yet one hurdle to a new wave of car hire apps could be the manufacturers themselves. The automobile industry has many different technology standards, so although currently the likes of Volvo, Honda and Mercedes-Benz will build certain models with Car Play (future “committed partners” include Ford, BMW and Nissan), others may opt for Google or Microsoft as their dashboard software partners.
This limited availability of Car Play, Oliver warns, limits a fleet buyer’s ability to negotiate deals across a broad range of manufacturers.
And Golledge adds that once car hire companies do start offering Car Play, it might be limited to the top-end executive models. “But Amadeus would work to enable agents to book add-ons in a similar way to how ‘special equipment’, such as satnav, can be booked today,” he says.
As well as car hire, there could be a case for taxis and minicabs integrating Car Play, with business travellers simply plugging in from the back seat to pay their fare, and even conducting video meetings on the go. This would be welcomed by travel managers if it offered a clearer picture of spend on taxis.
One trick Apple does have up its sleeve, though, is that Blackberry-owned QNX Software Systems’ technology powers Car Play, meaning potential compatibility with Blackberry devices, and a smoother road ahead in terms of Blackberry app development.
Whatever the device, Golledge believes any technology that can create a more connected future is welcome.
“As our recent From Chaos to Collaboration report outlines, when transport options are seen as an integrated whole, rather than individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle like it is today, it will deliver benefits,” he says.