Trending: Car Infotainment Systems

Let’s face it: mobile devices are a way of life. So is spending a large part of your wakeful hours in your car. People want and need to stay connected on the roadways, yet doing so by looking down to key in a phone number or type a text or check an email presents a HUGE safety risk to everyone on the road. That’s why automakers will continue to develop car infotainment systems that balance connectivity and safety.

Car Buyer Priorities

More and more people are moving into cities. With the twists and turns and construction and traffic, urban dwellers are increasingly calling for better satellite navigation systems.

Those facing long or particularly horrendous commutes also want to make better use of their driving time and/or distract themselves from the stop-and-go nightmare outside…making integrated communication and entertainment systems another top priority. Car buyers want access to email, social media platforms, their personal music playlists and the host of apps they’ve already downloaded to the iPhone or Android available in their cars. And to prevent access from taking their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel, interfaces must be easy to use and preferably hands-free and heads-up.

And if all technology can safely tell drivers where to go and that they were tagged in a friend’s Facebook photo, it should be able to tell them when their cars need maintenance. In other words, more advanced diagnostics and safety features are also important to new car buyers.

Automaker Responses

Of course, car makers want to give car buyers what they want. The problem they are running into is that the technology that drivers and passengers use outside of the cars evolves much more quickly than in-car integration. Still, car manufacturers are doing their best to develop in-vehicle infotainment systems that allow seamless integration with mobile devices (and the pace of mobile device upgrades). That means that when looking for a new car, you can expect to find:

  • Satellite navigation systems from the navigation experts

Historically, built-in navigation systems have lagged behind after-market systems from Tom Tom and Garmin, prompting some automakers to solicit the help of navigation experts to design their built-in systems.

  • Enhanced Bluetooth integration (via SAP)

SIM Access Profile (SAP) allows for a more powerful radio signal between your phone and the car, ultimately providing better reception—to make/receive phone calls and to connect to the Internet.

  • Cloud-based music library

Although many current infotainment systems allow you to plug in your mobile device to access your music playlist, the next step is to store your entire audio collection in the cloud, making it accessible independent of the actual mobile device. (Just think of all the cables, cords and charges you won’t need for road trips anymore!)

  • Internet connectivity for driver and passengers

If a mobile device can connect to the Internet, why not an automobile? But built-in Internet connectivity will not just benefit those near the console and dash. Infotainment systems will serve (and some already do) as Wifi hotspots, allowing passengers in rear seats access on their mobile devices as well.

The coming trends in in-vehicle infotainment are actually already on the scene…the problem is that most hi-tech features are either only available or becoming available in cars at higher price points (think Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi…and some other European manufacturers that you just don’t see often in the U.S.). However, American manufacturers, most notably Ford, are continuing to refine touch-screen driving infotainment systems to better compete with foreign automakers. While MyFordTouch has received some less-than-glowing reviews, Ford’s commitment to the system and coming changes look promising.

In the meantime, more economically-minded car buyers who want advanced connectivity and advanced safety features, after-market solutions may be the way to go.