While manufacturers have staff committed to developing the infotainment systems in our cars, we bypass all their hard work when we connect our smartphones.
Some manufacturers have noticed this and stopped fitting cars with GPS, as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto use the GPS system in the phone instead. What we are seeing, however, is a realisation cars need to be smarter, and more integrated into our lives and the things around us.
This story was first published in July 2019.
While these smartphone solutions project a solution to one screen in the car, they are not integrated as well as they could be by the automaker. Some exciting changes are coming that could have you forgetting about Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.
Every year the tech world converges on Las Vegas for announcements from all major players about that year's new products. In recent years the show has become flooded with automotive technology from all the big car makers, and also the vendors they work with.
HERE Technologies demonstrated the infotainment systems it's planning to roll out in the very near future. It isn’t concept, the system is production-ready, and will be in new cars in the coming years.
For Australians, a common start to the day is driving to work with a slight detour to grab coffee. The HERE infotainment system is fitted with apps, one of which allows you to navigate to the nearest coffee shop on your route, but also to place your order.
With an ETA communicated to the coffee shop and payment completed electronically, the shop could have your coffee ready when you arrive. Furthermore, the app is able to tell you if it's busy and whether parking will be available.
Taking parking integration one step further was a HERE demonstration showing a live reading of parking spaces in paid garages during a commute. While this is a simple function, it can save us so much time from entering shopping centres or parking stations which are already overflowing.
Having our cars connected to the internet opens a world of options, including software updates that mean the infotainment system wont go stale in coming years.
The infotainment world has recently expanded to the instrument panel and head up display. What seems to be missing, however, is a simple integration into the functions of the car. When the fuel light comes on, do you have quick access to navigate to the nearest petrol station?
Is the car providing a prompt to do that? It will. While this integration is simple, other examples of integration we’ve seen include a connection to our smartwatches and fitness trackers. With health data available, the car could play mellow tunes, adjust the air conditioner and warm the seats if it knows we’ve had a stressful day at work.
Speaking to our infotainment systems has become an option in cars for a number of years now and are becoming more advanced. Many manufacturers are looking to Amazon to use its Alexa voice assistant while others continue to develop their own. The benefit of using one from Amazon and Google is that it allows a deeper integration to the rest of our lives.
“Alexa, turn the air conditioner at home to 22 degrees” is something you could do on your drive home. “Alexa, preheat the oven to 220 degrees” because you’re bringing home a meal you need to save time on. Inside the car we will also use our voice more to change the air conditioner temperature using simple commands such as “Alexa, it’s cold in here”.
While many manufacturers will continue to work with OEMs to improve their infotainment systems and keep people using it instead of their smartphone integration, there are others which will look for deeper partnerships with Apple, Google and Amazon for their future systems.
Sometimes it takes a change such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to force car makers to take notice, similar to what Tesla triggered with electric vehicles, but I'm glad they did.