The choice of car has long been defined by its design, performance and technical specifications, but since customers now expect to access and interact with their digital lives from anywhere, this is changing. There is an increasing focus on in-car entertainment and connectivity among almost all car manufacturers.
The evolution of digital in-vehicle environments has long been lagging when compared to other digital product groups. Due to long product cycles within the car industry in general, digital interfaces demanding up-to-date software and powerful hardware suffer in particular. A common result of this is that brand new cars, with their meticulously designed interiors, are delivered with third-party infotainment modules that do not integrate well with the rest of the environment. Most systems are also struggling with slow, unresponsive screens, complicated user interfaces and limited functionality.
How come obsolete and unattractive digital experiences are so widely accepted instead of raising demands for state of the art systems that are crafted with as much love as for the rest of the car?
2013 Lotus Esprit with an estimated retail price of around $175.000… and its got a PINK infotainment system! (Geneva Intl. Motor Show 2011)
Potential for embedded systems
Over the last years, manufacturers providing infotainment systems to the big car brands have seen themselves being run over by the vast amount of high-quality apps for in-car use available on tablets and smartphones. Since we are used to smooth and responsive mobile interfaces with access to the Internet at all time, we also expect this from our in-car system. When these systems don’t live up to our requirements and expectations, mobile devices many times become the better choice. However, this is changing. The process of integrating high quality screens and modern interfaces to the in-car environment may be slow, but is happening.
One major advantage of embedded systems is that they can be tailored to fit the rather unique context that a driver is in. Apart from driving, the driver has to deal with traffic jams, young demanding back-seat passengers, finding the right way, answering the phone and many other disruptive events. A built-in system can make use of information gathered from the car’s numerous sensors and systems. Together with a carefully designed user interface that has been fully integrated with the rest of the interior experience, it can aid the driver in stressful situations while still operating in the periphery. This allows for a safer interaction and less disruptiveness while driving, which are strong selling points for today’s customers when comparing with portable alternatives.
The revolution is imminent
The car vendor market is in the middle of a paradigm shift. Safety and consumable consumption have long been the most important factors for buyers comparing different vehicles. However, since a high level of safety and low consumption have become standard across most new cars, customers are shifting their attention to the digital in-car offer. The car industry has not yet fully entered into our digital lifestyle, but is well on its way. The market for OEM connected car system shipments is predicted to grow from 8.22 million in 2012 to 39.5 million in 2016 (ABI Research), which clearly demonstrates that demand is high.
The design of infotainment systems has looked almost the same for a very long time. Top-down menu structures, high focus on features and technical specifications and low focus on usability and user experience. Car manufacturers are now realising the importance of the two latter. A well-designed, easy to use infotainment system that fits with the rest of the interior will be the differentiator between a good and a bad in-car driving experience, and ultimately stand as the tipping point for many car buyers when selecting which car to buy. The question is who will seize the opportunity to chock the market with something completely innovative, and profoundly change the approach for how infotainment systems are made.
We have researched the in car industry to get a better understanding of the market, its key stakeholders and existing systems. The information is gathered and analysed in a report of digital trends from the car industry. Please feel free to contact us if you want to learn more!
Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies, or CEATEC, is Asia’s biggest annual IT and electronics exhibition and is hosted in Chiba in the northern part of Tokyo. We went there to check out the latest gadgetry trends.
This being Japan, the exhibition was full of detailed technology specs and people queueing for hours eager to try out the new products. There was a clear overall focus on smart homes and connected consumer products. It feels like the market has tried to promote smart homes many times over the last decade without succeeding, but now, with mature cloud services and portable devices in every person’s hand, it feels right on time.
Internet of things
All of the big Japanese electronics manufacturers were represented at the fair, showcasing their approach to the Internet of things with labels like ” the Smart home” and “Smart innovation”. In their presentations, they show how all types of home appliances, ranging from ovens and refrigerators to cars and security cameras, can communicate with each other via the cloud and be controlled by portable devices.
NTT DoCoMo, one of the leading mobile operators in Japan, had joined forces with NEC, Panasonic and Sony to showcase how their smartphones can be used to control microwaves, air-conditioning, TVs and other home electronic appliances. Panasonic went even further showing bathroom scales, rice cookers and a blood pressure-measuring device, all connected to the cloud.
Following the power shortages in Japan after the March 2011 earthquake with the subsequent nuclear crisis, there was also a major focus on power-saving information technologies. Toshiba and Mitsubishi, among others, displayed power-saving home electronics and solutions that are linked with solar power equipment for consumers and companies to effectively control their power consumption. On the bigger scale, Fujitsu demonstrated an energy management solution aiming at making social infrastructure smart, as well as unified cloud management of electric power data for a more efficient energy consumption.
Nippon Electric Glass showed demos of their ultra-thin glass that can offer a similar color vibrancy brought by glossy screens with the minimal reflections of matte screens. The glass is currently used as sensor covers inside cameras, but their intention is to expand into the smartphone and tablet market.
Car navigation with augmented reality
Pioneer showcased their new in-car infotainment system CyberNavi. The system’s main perk is the roof-mounted heads-up display displaying navigation information in the driver’s line of sight. Although the intention is great (placing relevant information where it belongs) and that it gives the feeling of being in the middle of Need for Speed, it is hard to see how this system will not interfere with driving safety.
84 inch 4K TV from Sony
Sony demonstrated their new 84 inch LCD panel, XBR-84X900, capable of showing 4K images. This means that the TV has a resolution of 3840x2160, which is close to four times of Full HD. Pre-order now for the humble price-tag of $25,000!
Tosy is a company developing personal robots and hi-tech toys. Two of the more interesting robots that they demonstrated were mRobo, a dancing robot with a built-in speaker that you can use when partying with your friends, and sketRobo, a robot using face recognition and motion detection to create life-like portraits or teach children how to draw.