Apps, The Future Of Car Infotainment Systems

The reach of gadgets and devices isn’t restricted to smartphones and laptops anymore, but it has also found its way into car infotainment systems. This new, and not much explored vista, has been facilitated by the use of apps, internet, and faster processors. Now, car manufacturers are keen to cash in on this front to make sure that driving takes a turn for a better experience.

Car infotainment systems have been on the rise in the last few years, but it was essentially closed to developers. Only a dozen or so of in house apps had made their way into the dashboard of cars. But this changed radically, when Ford and GM announced at CES 2013 that their SDKs and APIs would be thrown open to the developer community. This ushers in a whole new potential in terms of the number of apps, as more and more apps would be developed to make use of the hardware offered by the car.

There is a stark difference in the way the two companies have opened their doors to developers. Ford leaves the onus of bringing the smartphone to the car by the drivers, while GM is creating a framework for running apps in their infotainment system. There are pros and cons to both approaches – Users won’t have to invest in a new smartphone or tablet along with a new SIM card and data plan with Ford’s approach. Also, its AppLink system is already in place and it will be easy to integrate new apps in the existing system. GM’s framework is more deeply integrated with the car and does not necessitate the driver to own a smartphone or tablet.

Of the two approaches, the favour tilts heavily towards Ford. There is a huge gap between the time when a car is actually designed and the time it hits the road. In this age where technology is moving so rapid that even a few months might cause a product to go obsolete, the GM approach might make the infotainment system underpowered by the time the car comes into production. Also, there would not be any need of a separate smartphone just for the car.

There have been ample number of times when I have personally used Google Maps on my smartphone to find the way to an unknown location while travelling. Navigation and GPS would be the utmost used feature in a car. Instead of having a separate device for the phone, I propose a system where car specific apps can be downloaded to the phone and the device (phone or tablet)┬ácan be docked to the car. This way, once you’re in the car, you can enjoy music from your car loudspeakers right from your phone. There might be an app for getting the information from the sensors attached to the car. This information can be passed to your smartphone from the docking station and can be displayed. There is definitely no need of a different device altogether. We are moving towards an age where all our devices are meant to be integrated.

Developers are surely excited by these new prospects. Ford reports that more than 1000 developers have already signed up to gain access to their SDK since its launch a week ago and there is high and sustained traffic to their developer website. It will be interesting to know what new apps developers will think of with this new environment. There are already Android and iOS apps that have voice navigation and search, something that is essential while driving.

These infotainment devices might not find their way into the Indian markets soon. Only high end luxury cars will hope to see these devices integrated with them. Till then, with so many people possessing smartphones in India, there is ample scope for using smartphones as a standalone device while driving, mostly for navigation and search. So what if we can’t know the outside temperature or the wind speed, as long as we get to our destination using Google Maps, Indians are hardly concerned about the extra luxury features.

What do you have to say about this?

Image Courtesy | Autoguide

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