The number of connected cars on the roads is increasing, but not as fast as expected. It is still incredible to think that cars can communicate not only with one another but also with traffic infrastructure acquiring information pertinent for safe and efficient driving such as road and weather conditions, optimized fuel consumption, and the like. However, is that all we want from a car? With limitless connectivity and practically autonomous driverless technology, passengers (and drivers now turned passengers) will have more time and need for entertainment, interaction, and conversation.
That means personalizing the driving experience is crucial in the age of an ever-diminishing need for a human driver. This is where IoT comes into play. By tirelessly collecting data, your connected car will be able to distinguish between different drivers as soon as they sit. Aside from preset music stations, temperature, and seat adjustments, the connected car can also deliver navigation tailored to the driver, with the system getting “smarter” as it learns preferences.
So let’s examine how the infotainment feature will shape the way we look at the dashboard in our connected cars.
A “connected” car refers to any infotainment in-dash system that can send and receive updated information wirelessly via the internet. These systems usually have touch screens and offer voice control, but they vary widely in terms of capabilities and support for smartphone apps. Each automaker offers its own system, and there are often several different infotainment systems within a single car line.
In the past, the primary differentiator between infotainment systems has been whether the car has its own built-in cellular connection or relies on the driver’s smartphone to connect to the internet. However, as updated mapping and other software in the car have become more important, more automakers are including what they call “wireless modems” (meaning a cellular data connection). Many analysts predict that most new cars will be connected within the next two years.
Connected cars with built-in wireless connections can take advantage of options such as starting or unlocking the vehicle from anywhere, tracking teenage drivers and enabling anti-theft features, such as remotely stopping a stolen car.
Connected car systems no longer automatically include onboard navigation systems. With free smartphone-based navigation programs, which are continually updated, companies like Mitsubishi have moved away from such expensive options, instead allowing new owners to display navigation information from their phones on the car’s in-dash display.
Nevertheless, built-in navigation systems can work even when there’s no cellular coverage. And higher-resolution built-in nav systems are necessary for future semiautonomous and fully autonomous driving features, so smartphone apps will not completely replace such services.
While drivers can use a few selected smartphone apps, like Pandora, in most infotainment systems, all-in-one apps like Apple’s CarPlay are now more popular. CarPlay mirrors a preselected group of apps in a series of screens designed for easy legibility and use on a connected car’s LCD screen. CarPlay apps include maps, music, and messaging programs.
Do you have a busy day ahead but just want to check your diary? The calendar app gives you a quick view of the day ahead. You can ask for directions or dial in for your meeting using the car’s speakers and microphones.
CarPlay works with iPhone 5 or later models, and a Lightning cable is recommended so that the phone’s power doesn’t run out. Also, for safety purposes, the phone’s screen remains locked while it’s plugged into the car. Moreover, SEAT has released Apple’s CarPlay allowing drivers access to their apps through the steering wheel, built-in touchscreen and voice recognition.
Do you drive an Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, or Ford? There are more than 600 car models that work with Apple CarPlay.
Android Auto is Google’s answer to CarPlay and boasts many of the same features, such as navigation and voice control, as well as a wider array of apps, all of which are available on the dashboard screen when an Android phone is connected. Android Auto also now offers the wildly popular Waze live traffic and navigation program.
Need to know where you can recharge your electric vehicle (EV)? Google Assistant on Android Auto will find the nearest public charging station for you. And since there are over 6,000 public charging stations in Canada, getting to your destination safely will be no problem.
Like Apple’s CarPlay, Android Auto is now available in scores of vehicles. Most cars with connected in-dash systems are now compatible with both. Google’s software is subject to the same restrictions as Apple’s when it comes to controlling aspects of the car, but it tends to be faster for navigation.
Voice recognition isn’t new to cars; it’s been in navigation systems for years. And today, you can even access Apple’s Siri or Google Assistant through a connected smartphone. But in those cases, voice commands are limited. They can’t be used to start a car or open its windows remotely. Siri can’t even change the radio station.
Amazon’s Alexa, on the other hand, is intended — via specific commands or “skills” — to interact with thousands of connected devices. It can turn on lights, open door locks or order pizza. And now it’s being used to connect living rooms to cars.
Automakers are. In most implementations, Alexa skills are strictly one-way — from the home to the car — and piggyback on existing car apps. In other words, calling out Alexa triggers the phone’s app, so options are limited to a subset of what’s available on the phone. You can ask Alexa to flash the car’s lights, for example, but for other instructions, such as starting the car remotely, you also have to enter a spoken PIN.
Panasonic revealed it was working with Amazon on natively embedding Alexa in connected cars. although it won’t just be limited to basic questions about the weather. The voice-recognition software could also be used to adjust the interior car environment, for example, heating, radio, navigation, and more. In addition, the same technology could be used to alter the home environment while the user is on his or her way home. With Alexa in the car, a driver might decide to turn on the air conditioning at his or her house while driving home. Phone calls, text messaging, and writing emails could also all be done via voice control, ensuring that the driver’s hands remain firmly on the steering wheel.
No discussion about infotainment features in a connected car dashboard is complete without mentioning Tesla. It epitomizes personalization. Although Tesla is one of many electric vehicles (EVs) available in Canada, it is not a standard dash-connected car. Its connected car features are managed with a tablet that allows you to control almost every aspect of the vehicle.
The infotainment system of every Tesla model has either a horizontal or vertical display, but the interface for all models is identical. Besides providing vehicle-specific information, most of the tablet screen displays a map that shows where you are. What infotainment features do the tablet display? When the car is stationary, the driver sees general vehicle information such as whether your car is in the park, the current charge, and the vehicle model. The map shows not only the current location but also the current time and temperature.
When the Tesla moves, the tablet left panel changes to show a bird’s eye view of the car. Other features include a digital speedometer with the car’s current speed and speed limit. A black bar beneath the current speed indicates current energy usage. From the display, you can literally manage every aspect of the car and your comfort, including autopilot, the lights, windows, climate control, locking and unlocking, WiFi, Bluetooth and the dashcam.
The Tesla infotainment system also includes easter eggs, which provide some fun to the vehicle ownership and driving experience. You can rename your car, or in Santa mode, snow will fall around your vehicle on the infotainment panel. When you feel a bit nostalgic, you can even enable Camp Mode. After ten minutes of inactivity, the infotainment screen will change to a video of a log campfire.
As automotive technology moves forward, so do we. Come to our repair shop in Hamilton today and be sure that we will take excellent care of your car!