About this Guide

The driving revolution has begun! Emerging megatrends in PWC's market model of the automotive industry’s transformation highlight how climate change, air quality awareness, and technological innovations in the vehicle are combining with new consumer expectations for smarter, personalized, and health-first driving experiences.

In this guide, we explain how new forms of personalized environmental data and insights enable automotive leaders to create safer and more enjoyable driving experiences - strengthening brand trust, building consumer loyalty, and creating new revenue channels for automotive leaders.

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Our current modes of transport do not protect drivers or passengers from breathing environmental hazards in the air around them, and without actively preventing in-cabin contamination, air pollutants can rapidly accumulate within vehicles. 

 

We Spend a Lot of Time on the Road

 

An average person spends around 3-4 years of their life on the road, either driving or as a passenger.  Further, most people are exposed to higher levels of pollution on the road than anywhere else. In addition to the serious long-term health effects of unmanaged and prolonged air pollution exposure, air pollution can also cause serious health impacts in the short term. For example, a 14-day average PM2.5 exposure of 7.07 μg/m3 or higher has been linked to an estimated 4-5% increase in asthma symptom occurrence.

 

Air pollution exposure is also known to impact cognition and decision-making, with especially serious consequences for those required to be alert and aware while driving: one study examining air quality’s impact on decision making in 596 chess games found a 10 μg/m3 increase in indoor PM2.5 concentration increased player error probability by 26.3%.

 

Air Quality In-Cabin Can Often be Worse than the Outdoors

 

Experts say that in some scenarios, like when we’re stuck directly behind a truck or another polluting vehicle during rush hour traffic, in-cabin pollution can be 9-12 times higher than outdoor pollution levels. Research into average pollution exposure over a 96-hour period found that professional drivers in London were exposed to four times the amount of black carbon pollution while driving than at home - 4.1 µg/m³. 

 

This amount was also a third higher than the measurements recorded at one of London’s busiest roads (3.1 µg/m³). The study also found that as drivers moved across London, black carbon pollution inside the vehicle often exceeded 100 µg/m³ - much higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended exposure safety limits for 24-hour periods (15 μg/m3 for PM2.5 and 45 μg/m3 for PM10).

 

The Links Between Seasonal Allergy, Sneezing & Driving 

Person Sneezing

Air pollution isn’t the only environmental breathing hazard impacting drivers and passengers on the road. Seasonal allergy symptoms while driving can also be dangerous: For example, sneezing has been directly linked to millions of road traffic accidents and is a common risk factor for drivers with extreme sensitivities.

 

Research revealed 1 in 4 UK drivers suffer from seasonal allergies and 25% of this group believe their ability to drive is negatively impacted by allergic symptoms. 

The FDA also warns that some antihistamines - found in many over-the-counter seasonal allergy medications -  can cause drowsiness, and recommend particular caution to be taken when driving a vehicle due to potential temporary impairment of reaction times, coordination, concentration, and vision.

 

360° Environmental Intelligence for Automotive Operations

Research conducted before COVID-19 already highlighted the importance of safety to drivers above other factors. Post pandemic, ‘safety’ has taken on a new layer of meaning as focus shifts more to unpredictable and invisible health threats around us:

  • 91% of consumers feel indoor air quality is highly important for managing COVID-19.

  • The air quality control system market is experiencing huge growth, projected to reach over $144 billion by 2026.

  • BreezoMeter found Google News search results for ‘air pollution' increased by roughly 6719% from 2016 to 2020, reaching almost 8 million articles. (N.B  Numbers may vary per user based on Google’s search results settings and geographical location).

 

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Increasingly common extreme weather events such as wildfires are also drawing new attention to environmental hazards and the threat they pose to public health and safety: 

  1. In 2021, WHO updated their air quality guidelines to reflect new evidence to highlight air pollution is more dangerous than originally thought. Pollutants commonly associated with vehicle emissions saw major maximum recommended level reductions. Annual PM2.5 was halved from 10 μg/m3 to 5 μg/m3, while annual NO2 level was cut from 40 μg/m3 to 10 μg/m3.

  2. Wildfires are getting worse, burning larger and more frequently. In 2021, by October California alone suffered over 7000 wildfires, burning nearly 2 million acres, rendering many roads inaccessible, and causing major evacuations and traffic congestion.

Air pollution sensors inside the cabin are a great approach to enhancing vehicle air quality monitoring. However, a sensor-only approach for in-cabin air quality safety management also comes with a range of limitations.

To overcome these limitations, automotive OEMs are now looking to complement existing sensors, or replace them altogether, with comprehensive alternatives like cloud-based environmental intelligence:

 

The Benefits

  • Multiple Pollutant Tracking: Enables multiple pollutant monitoring at once.

  • Multiple Environmental Hazard Reporting: Can monitor multiple pollutants + other environmental hazards such as wildfires & pollen.

  • Little Maintenance Needed: Cloud-based, meaning it is automatically updated & doesn’t require maintenance.

  • Street-level Reporting: Health Focused Environmental Intelligence provides information at the street level (up to 16.5KM) - both at the driver’s location and beyond.

  • Predictive Power: Health-Focused Environmental Intelligence gives the power of prediction, meaning a user can take proactive decisions to avoid hazards while en route, rather than taking action only after the cabin has become polluted.

  • Actionable Insights: Health-Focused Environmental Intelligence offers proactive - potentially life-saving - health insights and alerts out of the box. The process of creating intelligent control & translating information for driver use is straightforward.

  • Heatmaps & Analytics: Health-Focused Intelligence offers analytics and engaging features such as heatmaps out of the box - these features can easily be leveraged for HMI screens and driver companion apps.

  • Easy to Connect: As a cloud-based solution, automotive makers find it easy to build and connect additional solutions to Health-Focused Environmental Intelligence, powering constant improvement for the future.

Guide to Evaluating an Air Quality Data Provider

The entry of personalized and health-focused environmental intelligence is powering driving experience innovation in the automotive sector. In the future, far more focus will revolve around enhancing these digital experiences and increasing revenue opportunities for automotive makers:

 

Cleaner Route Planning
Offering healthier journey options based on active monitoring of airborne environmental hazards along the entire length of the planned route and dynamically rerouting travel based on live changes in environmental conditions.

 

Smarter In-cabin Management

Proactively protecting the driver and passenger from air pollution, pollen, wildfire smoke, and other environmental hazards reaching dangerous levels inside the cabin by leveraging intelligent insights to engage vehicle air ventilation and purification based on dynamic outdoor air quality.

 

Driver Engagement Through Companion Apps & HMIs

Environmental intelligence can be used to engage users across different platforms, before, during, and after a drive. Comprehensive and personalized environmental analytics and insights, including data visualizations, empower users to stay on top of their changing environment & their own personal exposure.


Driving Experiences Optimized For Comfort

Automotive leaders can leverage environmental intelligence for improving driving optimization - simultaneously considering the environmental impact on passenger comfort while integrating intelligent controls into the driving experience.

Automotive industry leaders have started to integrate smart environmental monitoring and health-focused insights to protect and engage audiences before, during, and after a drive:

 

  • By integrating location-based environmental intelligence, Volvo delivers real-time air quality updates to enable Volvo motorists to minimize toxic air exposure, decide when to open/close windows, find safer routes, and compare outdoor and indoor air quality to confirm the efficiency of the in-cabin air cleaner.
  • Tata Motors empowers driver decision-making and enables smarter in-cabin pollution management through the automation of windows, AC, and ventilation, driven by BreezoMeter’s environmental intelligence.

  • Hella’s Air Shield combines pollution sensor information with outdoor environmental intelligence, updated in real-time, to detail air quality along the entire travel route and engage vehicle air ventilation as needed. 

Volvo Improves In-Cabin Air Quality with Environmental Data

 

Health awareness and personalization are set to become increasingly important factors for differentiation between vehicle manufacturers. Automotive leaders should take note and consider how they intend to meet the growing consumer demand for smarter driving experiences in a world where air quality, environmental, and health awareness are paramount.


Here are some tips from us:


Put Your Customers First

Consider how your experience could move beyond ‘standard’ protection to deliver far more customized protective solutions from a health perspective. Brands emphasizing driver and passenger health can boost engagement and earn customer loyalty by presenting the complete environmental picture and delivering personalized insights.


Future-proof your Automotive Strategy through Digital Experience

How will you engage your drivers beyond ‘driving’ and ‘the car’? The more personalized the experience, the more users are inclined to trust and stay loyal to your brand, embrace new offerings, and adopt daily use habits.


Plan New Routes for Monetization

Consider how new digital touchpoints in the driving experience could generate new revenue streams: These could include premium subscription packages for different aspects of the environmental picture or levels of personalized analytics. 

 

Consider Your Integration Partners Carefully

Location-based and timely environmental monitoring is a complex business requiring a multitude of data sources, sophisticated AI analysis, accuracy-validation, and robust infrastructure.  As there is a direct correlation between poor air quality and health impact, it’s crucial to understand the methods behind the data you choose to integrate and to request evidence of accuracy validation models and example POCs.

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