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!