Imagine a car that is always connected to the internet, has an embedded SIM card and an operating system will be updated over-the-air. British car company MG (Morris Garages) Motor, now owned by top Chinese automaker SAIC, has announced just with the Hector which wants to be India’s first connected car.
“A truly connected car is one that we are offering in the MG Hector, which has an embedded SIM card and connectivity with the entire environment around it,” Gaurav Gupta, Chief Commercial Officer, MG Motor India, told indianexpress.com. Although a number of cars these days have smartphone connectivity, Gupta claims the MG Hector is India’s first “true” connected mobility vehicle as it does not mirror your phone like with other cars.
A connected car like the Hector SUV has an embedded SIM and communicates on its own with the cloud and the service provider. “Other cars don’t do that.”
Like with a Tesla car, the Hector has a huge touchscreen dashboard, a vertical 10.4-inch head unit with an Android-based iSmart interface which can be operated using either touch or voice. This console allows users to access and control a lot of features, including vehicle status, the sunroof, emergency calls and so on. MG Motor has a tied-up with Saavn which is the default streaming music service on the car, while maps and navigation with real-time updates are powered by TomTom. Weather app Accuweather also comes pre-loaded.
The MG Hector can be controlled through an AI-based voice-assistant. Made by Nuance, the voice-assistant has been localised for India and the wake word “Hello MG” lets you control navigation, air conditioner and much more through your voice.
However, Gupta says the key thing is the machine to machine (M2M) industrial SIM soldered into the car. This solution has been made by Unlimit, a company owned by Anil Ambani, in partnership with Cisco and Airtel. The iSmart system is communicating on Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPV6), which makes it 5G-ready.
Gupta said the Hector won’t need a workshop visit for a software update or to install new apps or features as these can be done over the air instantly. The iSmart technology has been developed by MG Motor’s parent company SAIC with other partners and has been fully customised keeping local regulations in mind.
The car also offers an emergency call feature that connects to a 24/7 Pulse Hub in case of an accident. This also helps trace the car in case it is stolen.
“We are now offering a very small part of what the car is capable of. But as and when the regulations become open, we will be able to provide more services in this car,” Gupta added. India has limitations on what all features can be offered on an industrial SIM.
“So today, for example, we have got music, vehicle navigation and weather apps. In the future, we are looking at even moving payment options to the car,” he said, adding how this will help a driver order food from the car itself, for instance. He said more apps are being developed and even announced a grant to encourage developers to make apps for its iSmart system. Gupta added that all user data will be safe on Microsoft Azure.
Gupta predicted that more connected cars are on the anvil. “Today, we cannot live without a smartphone. Similarly, how can you live without a smart car in the future?”
However, details on the Hector are still sketchy. Experts believe the MG Hector will cost between Rs 17- 20 lakh when sales start in June.