As the economy begins to pick-up in the US, most automobile manufacturers are asking a key question internally: what do we need to do to remain relevant, competitive, and even grow our influence?

Thankfully, the automobile industry as a whole may be one of the most observant in terms of evolving customer needs and digital technology trends. Everyone has long talked about how a seamless, intuitive experience across smartphones, tablets, and desktops has revolutionized how prospective car buyers make purchase decisions. And, over the last few years, most of the big automotive brands have creatively found ways to make this vision a reality. However, amidst all these new features and functionality, something feels missing.

What automotive brands are just beginning to realize is that the car itself is the most powerful digitally connected mobile device of them all.

We are on the precipice of another radical shift that will completely transform both the car ownership experience and strengthen the relationship that car owners have with automotive brands. Assuming that all cars will be connected to the Internet and have hundreds of sensors digitally sending data to automotive brands, here are some examples of how cars and car brands are going to get a whole lot smarter:

  • Car health monitoring in real-time: Early warning systems can alert consumers via text when something needs to be looked at.
  • Cars become socially networked: Systems can alert consumers when friends are nearby and make recommendations based on where they are going and what they want to do.
  • Your personal car portal: Based on sensor data streaming from a consumer’s car, they can view their personal car portal in the car, on mobile devices, or at a desktop. This personal car portal would include things like alerts, trip reports, driving trends, and performance summaries.

These observations lead us to believe that car manufacturers may benefit by going back to the root purpose of their business, to create a means of innovation to deal with a customer need. In addition, what we’re seeing is a broader definition of the B2C relationships—a more inclusive one, in fact.

We see a future where car conglomerates shift from traditional manufacturing roles to vast sources of information infrastructure. If we were to interpret automobiles as sensor-driven devices, car companies, by transitivity, are now able to monitor citywide traffic, interstate highways, and of course, individual vehicle diagnostics.

What this means is the opportunity to link citywide traffic information with urban planners to improve existing traffic flows and thus work to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, it uncovers the ability for state governments to partner with car manufacturers to provide commuting incentive programs during periods of high traffic. Finally, this particular device is another example of an integrated exchange of information for the world to study and apply to meet new arising user needs.

It’s no longer about car conglomerates and their consumers. We’re now talking about car brands and their complete matrix of users.