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There's a large disconnect between smartphone apps and vehicle software

There's a growing debate surrounding whether automakers should still offer embedded infotainment systems, or if mobile apps and smartphones should take the helm.

Infotainment systems, which are offered by many different auto companies, are typically embedded in the dashboard and offer navigation, entertainment and phone services via a touchscreen. 

While auto navigation systems offer beautiful graphics and larger screens, they have their faults. For starters, they're very pricey. These systems run anywhere from $500 to $2,000.

In addition, a lot of these systems run on pre-made DVDs instead of the Internet. This means that they don't run real-time updates, and to have this software updated means a time-consuming trip to the dealership.

Mobile apps found on smartphones, on the other hand, are cheap (and sometimes even free) and offer the same services as these infotainment systems. What's more is that they're constantly being updated so the driver has the most relevant information while on the road. 

The problem is obvious. Automakers can't keep their infotainment systems updated fast enough, and on top of that, many drivers are complaining that the systems don't always work properly -- hence, another trip to the dealership. Mobile apps, on the other hand, receive fixes from developers and are sent directly to the smartphone users' device. 

This information begs the question: should automakers keep offering their own infotainment systems, or just let drivers use their smartphone apps on the dashboard display?

Automakers will tell you that the infotainment software from their respective companies is deeply integrated into the very functions of the vehicle. Where smartphone apps are designed to apply to many vehicles and events, automakers create their software as a specific partner to that particular vehicle. 

Also, if a driver forgets their phone, they always have the infotainment software available right in their vehicle.

Ford said it will allow developers to create apps that work with the MyFord Touch infotainment system, but won't hand over full control of the system to developers -- and it doesn't see smartphones to be a full replacement. 

Others outside of the auto industry will say that automakers should stick to making cars while companies like Apple and Google should take care of the navigation, entertainment and communications.  

There's a disconnect between the software in cars and the software on smartphones, and automakers will have to attempt to bridge this gap if they want their systems to be successful -- or hand the keys to the tech companies.

Source: The Detroit News

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By CaedenV on 7/18/2013 2:41:11 PM , Rating: 2
Cars have several technology hurtles that they face:
1) Other than those who lease, most people have cars much longer than they own electronics. Electronics are typically replaced every 2-5 years, while cars are closer to 8-10 years. The tech in a car is so far left behind in that time frame that it is worse than useless. In cases of maps, traffic, and new capabilities offered by new tech, these systems can even be a liability.
2) The location of these systems is ridiculous. Even reading a short text while on the road can be dangerous, and that is when your phone is up and you can have the road in your field of vision! Infotainment systems are typically in the center console, and typically even lower than the instrument panel. Even for quick-look graphical ques of where/when to turn this can be quite terrible. The nice thing about a portable GPS, or a phone, is that you can dock it right on the windshield, having all of your tools in very easy glancing distance. Putting infotainment displays on the instrument panel would be a big step up, but the real solution is having some sort of HUD overlay on the windshield itself.
3) Limited or no upgradeability! Yes, you can update your maps by getting a new DVD... but what else can be updated in these systems? What happens when next gen systems use online maps via a 2g or 3g network? Or even LTE? Is the technology going to be around for the life of the car? What if the map service provider upgrades their map system which causes the CPU in a 2-3 year old car to not be able to keep up? What if 3g is shut down some 5-6 years in the future in favor of a different cellular tech?
What about simple things like connectivity with devices? Are we going to be using Bluetooth 5-10 years from now? Are we going to be using USB on our phones in that time frame? Will Apple change their dock again? Maybe things stay the same... but there is simply no guarantee of that. Look at the changes we have seen in the last 10 years and tell me that we will not see even faster changes over the next 10.
4) Limited, expensive, or no support. A firmware update for the infotainment system messes up your environmental controls? Well, you may have to wait weeks or months to get it fixed. Is your car from an older model design... well no updates for you. Buy a lower end car with infotainment rather than a luxury vehicle? Well if you had paid more for the 'better' vehicle then you would still be getting support. Lets face it, these are CAR companies, not technology companies. Let's not force them to support things that they know very little about.

The Solutions:
1) Have a duel computer setup. Separate the Infotainment from the core components of the car. Leave things like climate control and other car specific features on one system, and then have a separate easily upgrade-able system available for the infotainment portion of the car (GPS, phone pairing, Maps, WiFi hotsopt, Audio/Video package, etc).
2) Separate the computer from the peripherals. Make the screen, touch, voice, speakers, etc. true peripherals rather than being an all-in-one unit. This allows the car to keep it's aesthetic, but can allow the actual computer to be upgraded.
3) Go 3rd party on in-car computers. Sure, have the government make strict guidelines about what an Infotainment system can or cannot do while driving, but there are tons of device manufacturers who can make a decent in-car system. Slap Android, or iOS, or even some sort of Windows on there and call it a day. Contract out for the OEM system provider, and highly suggest that customers only use their systems in the future, but let's keep it an open standard (I know... something that will never happen in a car). At the end of the day I trust the likes of Samsung or Nokia to make a good infotainment system over the likes of car manufacturers.

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