From Bluetooth connectivity to third-party apps, voice control to navigation technology, modern infotainment systems are loaded with features.
Unfortunately not all of them are beneficial to the driver or easy to use. Going forward, in-car technology will have to get more responsive and intuitive to keep up with consumer demand.
Form Follows Function
“I think the next big thing is making it work,” said Tim Philippo, product strategy and cross car line manager at Jaguar Land Rover. He said what’s key going forward is “making a really good user experience,” one that’s cohesive and seamless, which is something that automakers have largely failed to deliver.
In the smartphone age where practically everyone is connected at all times, infotainment technology has really taken hold in our collective conscience. It’s also become a major purchase consideration for many drivers, particularly young ones.
However, it’s no secret that automakers have largely missed the mark by a country mile when it comes to the implementation of connectivity technology. MyFord Touch is top of mind. In fact this single feature torpedoed the blue-oval brand’s quality rankings for years, though they’re hardly the only automaker with such issues.
But why has in-car infotainment technology been so disappointing? “Development times in the automotive industry are so much longer than consumer electronics,” said Philippo. It has to be tested and then tested again to ensure it’s safe and built to last for a decade or more.
“An automobile has to be able to start in International Falls, Minnesota at minus 40 degrees,” Philippo added. It also has to withstand sweltering summer heat in places like Dallas, Texas. For reasons like these, “We have to provide hardware that is incredibly robust,” he said. Will a Samsung Galaxy phone survive rigors like these? Can an iPad withstand the vibration and constant pounding a bumpy road serves up?
But there’s another reason why infotainment technology has historically been so underwhelming. “In the past they had to make sure it was right and ready,” said Philippo. This is because once a vehicle exited the assembly line it was done; there was really no way to change or improve its equipment.
Fortunately with pervasive connectivity, over-the-air updates have become almost commonplace, giving drivers access to technology that’s more reliable, secure and feature laden. Because of this capability Philippo said, “You’re going to see us move a lot faster.”
Too Much is Never Enough
The sky may be the limit when it comes to what infotainment systems will be able to do but not everyone wants to have their head in the clouds. Philippo said, “We will say ‘no’ to bad technology.” Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
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Obviously something like a Morse code texting app or the ability to edit spreadsheets while driving is inappropriate. “If it’s not providing a good user experience we will abandon it quickly,” said Philippo. Focusing on what really adds value “is where the future of technology lies.”
Room For Embedded Experiences
Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay are leading the charge of next-generation infotainment technology, promising feature-rich experiences that are easy to use. But Philippo isn’t necessarily a big fan of these technologies. He said he thinks the actual experiences are not going to live up to customer expectations.
While Google and Apple seem poised to take over the dashboard Philippo said, “There’s still room for embedded navigation and embedded infotainment in vehicles.” The example he gave was going for a short drive. If a motorist is just zipping around the block they may not want to bother plugging their phone into the car’s infotainment system. If they want to listen to music or see traffic on a map, embedded solutions are right there to help.
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