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7 Facts, Figures and Exciting Stories about the Things that Move Us

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/03/2016 Tom Ayling
HAPPY © g-stockstudio via Getty Images HAPPY

Turning the keys in the ignition and hearing our cars come roaring to life (sorry Prius owners, you're missing out) carries with it a promise. Your car promises to get you to work on time. It promises to keep your children safe in the back seat. Your personal vehicle even promises to play your favorite tunes so you can jam out on your way to work, and wind down on your way home.
Today there's a new promise hitting the market: the promise of connectivity. This promise means your phone can stay in your pocket, and your eyes can stay on the road.
Whether it's a Bluetooth connection to your phone, or an entirely independent LTE car data connection, a trip to the car dealership now involves high-tech demos that might seem more at home at a Best Buy.

1. The Average Car on the Road is Getting Older

It's not just new cars getting the tech treatment. The average car in the United States is 11.6 years old according to the US Department of Transportation. Russian auto research firm AUTOSTAT reports their national average at 11.8 years. And, if you fancy driving on the wrong side of the road (I jest), the average UK vehicle is 7.7 years old.
Around the world, the cars traveling our highways are staying on the road longer. As a result, the after-market auto industry is alive and well, with plenty of customers looking to perform plastic surgery on their aging vehicles.

2. Connected Cars: The Biggest Automotive Transformation since Ford's Mass-Production

BMW Group CEO Norbert Reithofer: "Connecting Cars to the Internet will Change the Auto Industry More than the Shift to Electric and Hybrid".
The single biggest transformation hitting the automotive industry, at least if you ask BMW, is the transition from "dumb cars" to "smarter cars". The Bosch D Jetronic, the first chipset to make it into a production vehicle (the 1968 VW Type 3 to be exact) was hailed as magical when it came to the market 48 years ago.
Today, the cloud is making its way to the cars we drive. This connected world, where our cars have become smarter than we are, leaves the door open for endless possibilities. The most exciting of which is autonomous driving.
An "App Store" for Your Car: The car is becoming its own operating system and tech platform. Even older vehicles are getting in on the action. Engadget published an article on "Automatic", one of the pioneers in helping older cars become smarter. Their Bluetooth adapter provides vehicle owners with real-time maintenance, gas consumption and mechanical data.
It'll even help you find your car in a parking lot. Seriously, I lose my parking space way too often and Automatic's adapter is an excellent compromise for technologists like me who are desperately resisting the urge to buy a fancy new high-tech car that I probably can't afford.
Apple's CarPlay: IPhone users can take advantage of Apple's CarPlay system for the ultimate in car / phone synchronization. Text messages are displayed on your vehicle's multi-functional display, and your favorite apps on your phone can be controlled with multi-touch on CarPlay compatible head units. For the Cupertino tech giant, CarPlay is more like a down payment to mac fans on the rumors that Apple is developing their own autonomous vehicle platform.
Android Auto: Google, never one to be left in the dust, actually has their own "Google Self-Driving Car Project". Prototypes have already hit the streets of Mountain View and include modified Lexus SUV's. In response to Apple's launch of CarPlay, the Android team pushed out Android Auto, which some reviews hail as an improvement over CarPlay's system that limits the use of third-party applications.

3. Vehicles are a Form of Self-Expression

The technology in a car can be exciting, but the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) differences on the outside of our favorite cars, no matter their age, can be seriously eye-catching. According to NBC News, Gen Y car buyers demand the ability to customize their cars, especially new ones. BMW has picked up on the trend and now streamlines a made-to-order product catalogue at their dealerships, with delivery of their dream car to their driveway in 2-6 weeks.
Customization is a Status Symbol: Customizing a customer's ride isn't limited to the car itself. Custom license plates have become an international hit. UK's top personalized car registration company, CarReg, recently reported that when number plates with "16" became available to EU car owners, they processed more than £1,000,000 in orders in just 20 minutes!
In the United States, the state of Virginia comes in as the vainest, with more than 10% of custom plates ordered in the US registered to VA residents. In total, 9.3 million customized license plates were on America's roads in 2007 according to USA Today.

4. Turning $400 into America's Best Custom Car

We can't really do the discussion around custom cars justice without at least mentioning the winner of the 2014 Detroit Autorama's coveted "Ridler Award". It all started with a mechanic in Canada, JF Launier, who spent $400 on a beat up 1964 Buick Rivera.
The restoration and customizations took more than 22,000 hours of work and $300,000 in custom parts. This story went viral last year when Barcroft TV decided to do a YouTube special on the exquisite car, named "Rivision".

5. Eastern Europe and North America: Connected Car Buying Parity in 2020

While restoring older cars is exciting, the future belongs to the connected car. In 2016, approximately 18 million internet-connected cars are expected to reach the driveways of new car buyers. The more interesting projection, pulled from the same Business Insider report, is that in 2020 there will be a nearly equal number of connected cars in both the United States and Eastern Europe.
For automotive manufacturers, this adds new pressure to create models that appeal to a diverse, international audience. Thankfully, the technology already supports multiple languages, so the winners of the global car market will need to focus on creating designs and features that appeal across oceans.

6. Used Car Markets Continue to Grow with New Certainty

As new car production climbs to even greater heights, the used-car market will become an even more exciting space. Part of the challenge for used-car buyers has always been getting a clear picture on the maintenance and financial picture for the cars they're considering.
New cars are heavily reviewed and the mechanical reliability of a new vehicle is made more certain by the warranties offered through the car manufacturer.
Certified Pre-Owned offers similar benefits at the dealership, but car buyers end up paying for that luxury. For private auto sales, HPI Checks are becoming the new norm. Higher Purchase Investigations provide peace of mind from a third-party provider of vehicle history, including whether or not there's an existing lien or credit obligation attached to the used vehicle.

7. Connected Cars, Custom Rides and the Exciting World of Car Ownership

There's little doubt that cars will continue to be the preferred mode of transportation for years to come. Public transportation isn't catching on with affluent customers, and the addition of connected cars into the market make personal vehicles even more productive and safe.
The added internet connection will allow car manufacturers to innovate in an entirely new sector, with the help of the world's largest tech firms. Although, the tech firms themselves could supplant the traditional auto manufacturers by creating their own self-driving vehicles.
The automotive industry is an exciting place; growing ever more global and innovative. It leaves one wondering, what's next?

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