ConnectNeXT : Smart car ecosystem for Tata Vehicles

How can you improve customer's information experience of the car?
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart
ConnectNeXT is a infotainment and telematics platform developed by Tata Motors Research with my team. It allows users to interact more immersively with the car, provide actionable data insights, and stay connected with the brand. The work involved design, development, and testing of six android apps. These apps allow users to control the infotainment system, troubleshoot common vehicle problems, improve driving with data, get assistance in case of an emergency, and share music inside that car.

The major Apps I worked on were:
  1. Drive Next
  2. Juke Car
  3. Smart Vehicle Manuals
  4. ConnectNeXt
  5. Emergency Assist
  6. Remote Control App
Photo of therapy map Reviews of the Smart Manual App I worked on :)


This is 2014, Vehicle infotainment systems are getting computation heavy. The customer demands more connection and driving needs to be data-informed (driven). The competition has some derived solutions in the market. We needed to respond by building our own telematics solutions based on regional customer habits. I was involved as a Lead from PAT (Performance Attributed and Targeting) side in the project when the dev and design already had some ideas and had some prototypes being tested. PAT is a group that is responsible for customer experience and works with Design on new products. Tata Motors follows a mix organization structure adopted from JLR and essentially Ford.
My task was to rethink and improve the project – ConnectNeXt, from a user-centric point of view. It is one of those projects, you are on the team and have to fight for the user. Then not be lured by the cool technology that could possibly take too much attention while driving. Not making an App need attention was the task. Android auto was still very new in the market at that time.


I worked with many design and dev teams (across 3 companies) in my role for the project. We studied the designed screen and flows. We did reviews of iconography, typography, and information architecture. Nitpicking things and presenting the user’s point was the goal. There were experiments to make apps that would adjust the visuals to the time of the day. The interaction points in the app were designed to be operated in a road filled with potholes.
We simulated this condition using a torture track. This helped us move critical/decision points outside the primary interface area. We researched about in-vehicle safety. Safety is at the top while using such apps in vehicles. With some benchmarking data, our user studies, and simulations, we designed some rough guidelines for vehicle-based apps on TML platform. The idea was to have a central/mother-ship app that auto-configures based on the vehicle it is connected.

The app would suggest possible compatible apps from the ecosystem. Then, it configures them. This is the connectNeXt app. About 150+ use cases were to be designed, implemented, and tested. Once the interface layer of these apps was sorted as a system, we moved on scoping the feature matrix. The entire operation was based on the Smartlink protocol stack, and hence we worked with a lot of connection, re-connection, and disconnection use cases over Bluetooth and/or USB. All these apps are now in the play store. 🤓

Below I present briefly the apps and the use cases they cater to.

DriveNeXt: Helping users drive better

DriveNeXt app gives driving behavior analysis and suggests improvements. It runs algorithms tuned by Tata Motors Driving Team. The App presents users with insights into their driving habits. They can choose to drive for improved mileage or performance. Users are explained possible action points they can include that could get them a better outcome.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart DriveNeXt: Helping users drive better

JukeCar: In-car Music Sharing

JukeCar is a music sharing app to make collaborative playlists when many people travel together in a car. Indian customers love to listen to music on long or group journeys. With means of carrying music becoming more mobile, it became difficult play requests by each passenger from their phones. The users had to disconnect bluetooth and reconnect it again to a different device or switch cables. This app tried to solve this issue by allowing a device connected to the Infotainment accept music as streams from other device over WiFi.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart JukeCar: In-car Music Sharing

Smart Guides: Smarter automotive manuals

Smart Guides is a life saver if you are looking for information about the car and do not have the manual at hand. In automotive industry, the car manuals are getting more complex due to the amount of new things that are possible with cars. It is also common for people to not carry them. Even if they have it, the amount of information is too much to process. So, we worked on a smart manual app that lets user to not only search the car manual but also give a place to store important information about the car like car chassis number, insurance and driving license number for quick reference. This app becomes an important touch-point for prospective customers to know about the car before visiting the showrooms.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Smart Guides: Smarter automotive manuals

ConnectNeXt: The mother-ship app

ConnectNeXt allows the user to configure the Tata App ecosystem with her car. The App has been designed by our team to make the process of configuring as easy as possible. The App talks to a couple of ECUs in the car via the infotainment and identifies the car variant. Based on this identification, it shows the user the apps that she can use. The users can install and configure other apps using this mother app.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart ConnectNeXt: The mother-ship app

Emergency Assist: The help when you need it

Emergency Assist is a safety app that detects crashes via crash sensors and sends SOS messages to emergency contacts. The app allows users to configure the contacts and help the family track the car. The user can optionally trigger an emergency too.
Another unique feature of the app is to make the phone act as a beacon. The app emits audio and light beeps to find a car in an emergency. This could be useful during search and rescue operation.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Emergency Assist: The help when you need it

Remote Control : So you can sit back and relax

This app caters to another unique Indian use case. How can I change the cooling levels from the rear seats? Or how can I operate the infotainment unit without disturbing the driver? These use cases are especially important in chauffeur driven cars. Remote control app allows users to control the audio and cooling system from the phone. These two were the most commonly requested changes a users asks the driver to perform.
Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Photo of morphological chart Remote Control : So you can sit back and relax


This was one of the things, I am kind of proud of. A lot of things come to light when thinking as the process. The API calls, UI layers, car data, user privacy, variable in a car, no internet, failure cases, and finally edge cases. I learned things like JIRA, App Ecosystem, CAN Tools, Vehicle Diagnostics, Vehicle safety, process maps, and doing projects with a lot of different stakeholders. The testing part of the project was fun.

Initially, we were all communicating by logging bugs in JIRA. I did not even know people by their faces, just by their JIRA user names. But later, It was getting difficult to explain some very typical use cases. So, we decided on doing extensive all day collaboration drives with stakeholders. I used to drive in Pune and neighboring cities. We were logging data and simulating events, with the app developer and infotainment developers sitting in the car. They were initially scared of sitting in a camouflaged car. But, we were fixing more than 20+ bugs a day. I won an award for my work with the project too.

I further learned how to manage project timelines and plan them well. It taught me the value you get when you work in a multidisciplinary team.

How it affected the company

I feel, it laid the foundations of what ConnectneXt is today. The company position transformed from being competitive in the market to become market leaders. The best part was all the tech and design was in-house and the company can virtually do anything the customer needs without sticking to the excel-sheet approach of many suppliers.
Made by Rohit using Tachyons, Vuejs, and some "Pipas con café". Check out the Colophon to know more.