The automotive world is progressing at an incredible rate in every aspect. In more recent years we have seen the development of hybrid and electric cars, from Tesla’s Model S to the McLaren P1, whilst there has also been some notable movement in the entertainment department or more specifically, the infotainment department.
A considerable majority of manufacturers are pushing ever further into the world of in-car entertainment to make our experiences more enjoyable and interactive. Premium car makers Jaguar, for example, have decided to develop their own in-house infotainment system. BMW’s iDrive has also experienced vast improvements and recognition recently as it sweeps across the BMW range. It offers seamless use of amenities such as navigation, the audio system and it’s communication system. Touch pad input allows for another level of interaction with the car. Another interesting feature of iDrive is that it can be upgraded at a later date to include new features that would otherwise have needed to be an option when the car was ordered. Ford have also chosen to stick to their in-house system SYNC 2 which has seen many improvements such as an upgraded interpretive voice recognition system.
Not all manufacturers have opted to develop their own infotainment system however. It is after all a very costly, time intensive and potentially risky venture. Honda, for example, have turned to mobile operating system developer Google for their set up. It is essentially an Android tablet which allows for a range of gestures for a more intuitive experience. Dragging down from the top of the screen shows notifications, for example. Pressing and holding on the screen opens up a menu to add widgets to your home screen and you can even add new skins and change your wallpaper for a more personal feel. Honda do overlay their own theme, but just like Android phones it is possible to change back. Recent cars we have tested from Honda such as the Civic Tourer and CR-V have each used this technology and we have definitely seen huge improvements when using the interface. Accessing your contacts, choosing your song or navigating easily are some of the big improvements we have seen in the past year. The customisation element means that you can place key apps exactly where you want them.
The final main option buyers are given is Apple’s CarPlay interface. It is an iOS based system that ‘handshakes’ with your phone so you can easily access your iPhone’s data on the big screen including songs, navigation and contacts. The advantage of this is of course having everything on your phone without physically having to touch your handset whilst driving. A host of manufacturers are aiming to adopt CarPlay in the near future, the Ferrari FF was the first to have it built in and Mercedes, Volvo and others are not so far behind with their newest models.
The future of car infotainment is looking bright – the two heavyweights of the phone market have jumped on the bandwagon which will only lead to faster improvements and evolution. Ford and BMW’s systems are also in the fight as they continue to pump a huge amount of money into developing their interfaces. A war is brewing over the ethos of bringing a mobile giant onboard or tailoring your own software. Both has their pros and cons, but you can be sure that with the likes of Apple and Google stepping into the ring competition will be tough.