Opening up new vistas on the road

Updated: Aug 2 2014, 07:46am hrs
With the improvement in road infrastructure and increasing long distance travelthus people spending longer hours in their carsit is natural to see growth in in-car infotainment systems. Now, high-end in-car infotainment systems are not limited to high-end cars, they are being introduced in entry and mid segments as wellcase in point the soon-to-be-launched Tata Zest, which gets a voice-command system. This bodes well for the industry and the users. But what is driving all this

First, smartphone sales are predicted to reach 100 million units in India by 2018. And users are increasingly expecting all the features of a smartphone to be available in the car for ease of operability. Customers want to use their smartphones and connect to other devices from anywhere and everywhere, including inside the car. Hence, new technologies like Boschs mySPIN, Apples CarPlay, Googles Android Auto and Car Connectivity Consortiums MirrorLink are emerging that make smartphone usage inside the car easy, safe and convenient.

Then, the car is today turning into a communication centreseeking to connect to each other as well as to other systems (Internet of Things). Access to the cloud means an ever-expanding choice of applications and services in addition to other capabilities like direct communication with other vehicles, roadside infrastructure services, etc. Service providers that deliver on-demand streaming media will extend their customer subscription experience. Applications such as real-time traffic and weather updates, internet radio, emergency/crash assistance are now common in most high-end cars. Localisation of internet data and location-based services will be a differentiator between products.

The connected car will open up new experiences in travel and features such as the ability to make hotel and dining reservations, get reviews about local attractions, get directionsall these will be served as personalised information based on profiled interests. With these advances in personalisation, we will see a greater drive for increased security of data, authentication of requests, and big-data analytics. From a hardware perspective, enhanced screens with touch and glasses-free 3D are starting to be introduced into cars. This brings us to another featureaccess to storage networks to ensure a seamless experience and which minimise streaming disruptions due tonetwork congestion.

A big challenge for such smartphone connectivity solutions will be to support multiple smartphone platforms. Earlier controlled by knobs, the trend is now towards a graphical touchscreen user interface. The interface is becoming larger; more screens are being put in vehicles. This way, drivers will be able to change to different modes without exiting their current screen. Cars have started featuring more displays in addition to the centre console and back seats controls. Dual-screen displays, where on the same screen a passenger and a driver view different things simultaneously, are remarkable.

Infotainment systems with features described above will also need access to more power so as to function effectively. In modern cars, the ECU, ABS, ESP and other high-end functionalities all consume a fair share of power.

The Cadillac User Experience (CUE) blends first-of-its-kind technology with intelligent design, bringing the intuitive control of smartphones and tablets safely to the road. With a clean design, natural voice-recognition and responsive touchscreen, CUE creates an experience that is as simple to use as it is advanced. There are few common threads that can be drawn through the biggest trends seen in car infotainment products.

Today, connectivity is the hot topic of interest for Indian users. In the future, we would all use and rely on our vehicles to make our lives safer, more comfortable and simpler.

By Sri Krishnan

(With inputs from Ashwin Shetty, senior manager, and Kishore PK, technical expert, Robert Bosch)

The author is vice-president, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions