In-Car Infotainment: Changing the Driving Experience

the possibilities of in-car infotainment systems

The automobile of today is digitally enhanced, navigation system ready and virtually self-driving. These advances lead the majority of drivers to expect the same engagement from their cars as they do from their smartphones. That’s why automakers from Fiat-Chrysler (UConnect) to Hyundai (BlueLink) are focused on and offer in-car infotainment systems that keep drivers and passengers engaged and connected on the road. Being entertained and communicating with whomever and whatever you want with a swipe of a finger or simply speaking a phrase is considered the standard by which all in-car infotainment (also called in-vehicle infotainment) is based, but the experience has been around a long, innovative time.

What is in-car infotainment?

In its simplest terms, a vehicle infotainment system is the hardware and technology that allow drivers and passengers to experience audio/visual in-car entertainment while inside a vehicle. Today we view it as hands-free calling, touch screens giving us access to different music interfaces, backseat displays with built in DVD players or wireless streaming capability, and voice recognition/commands. And yes, all of that is in-car infotainment for the 21st century, but the first true vehicle infotainment was offered over 80 years ago and has been steadily evolving ever since.

1930

William Lear teams up with Paul and Joseph Galvin to develop the first dashboard mono-radio for a car, calling it the “Motorola” for “motorized Victrola.” It was the 5T71 installed in a Studebaker–sold separately, of course. The cost? $130, which would be approximately $1788 today. Just to give a bit of context, the average car was selling for $540 at that time, or approximately $7426 in today’s dollars. That’s almost ¼ of the total cost of buying the car.

1933

The British Crossley Motors–not to be confused with the Crosley Turntable or Crosley automobile–becomes the first car to be equipped with a factory standard radio.

1956 and 1960

1956 Chrysler attempts turntables for in-car infotainment

1956 Chrysler Windsor

Chrysler contributes to in-car entertainment with offers of record players–actual turntables—in the automobile first in the 1956 model year. The limitations of not only playability, but the kind of music available (only Columbia Recording artists) saw the idea scrapped at the end of that year. Chrysler tried again, however, in 1960 this time with a different system. Again, the player kept skipping, as with the first model, and lasted until 1962.

1965

8-track tape stereos get installed into cars

Ford partners with Motorola to install eight-track tape players in their cars.

Early 1970s

Aftermarket car stereos take off, welcoming in the era of the Alpine, Blaupunkt, Kenwood and Pioneer brands.

1970s

cassette tape player becomes the new in-car infotainment

Vintage in-dash cassette tape player

Cassette players trump the eight-track with their smaller, writeable format–say hello to the mixtape.

1980s

The CD rears its head, signaling the beginning of the end for cassette players in general and showing a decrease in those for cars.

1985

Mercedes-Benz becomes the first company to install CD players at the factory

Mercedes-Benz comes off the line with the first factory installed in-dash CD player (Becker’s Mexico).

1986

Touchscreens make their way into the Buick Riviera, allowing drivers to change their radio stations by tapping their fingers rather than turning a knob or pushing buttons.

Early 1990s to the mid-2000s

More and more technology starts to be included in cars. Navigation systems become more the norm and satellite radio is introduced to expand listening options.

2007

In-car technology, Ford Sync, is introduced, enabling hands-free calling and voice-controlled music choice.

2010

the last OEM to include the in-dash cassette player as in-car infotainment

The Lexus SC430 becomes the last OEM to offer a cassette tape deck in the car.

2014

A Ferrari FF is the first car to fully integrate the Apple CarPlay app.

Brought to life thanks to human machine interface

In-car infotainment owes its existence to telematics and human machine interface (HMI). HMI systems combine software and hardware to bridge the human with automated programs. HMIs do this through specialized software or panels. It’s the connection that allows you and I to talk to and control those displays that make things happen in our cars.

The push for more in-vehicle infotainment devices is driving growth in the HMI sector, per the SandlerResearch.org Global Automotive Human Machine Interface (HMI) Market 2015-2019 report. Much of that expansion comes from the public’s ever growing desire for more connectivity on the road and an avid interest in accessing what infotainment has to offer.

OEM and aftermarket vehicle infotainment systems

The connected car is bringing forth an immersive experience like never before. We’ve come a long way from the mono-radio being the singular form of in-car infotainment. And just as back in the days when we wanted to either upgrade our older car with the newest, coolest removable CD player or splurge on a newer model with a top-of-the-line factory installed stereo system, we can experience this via two different types of devices–OEM and aftermarket.

OEMs

You may recall in our article outlining telematics in which we discussed the original equipment manufacturer (OEM). In the car world, this means the automaker has installed whatever feature into the vehicle there at the factory. Here are two examples of OEM infotainment systems available now:

Fiat-Chrysler UConnect 8.4

FCA no. 1 in-car infotainment per Consumer Reports

Per Consumer Reports, this is the standout of the factory installed in-car infotainment systems. The touchscreen is user-friendly and successfully incorporates Bluetooth and voice recognition/commands capability along with traditional knobs and buttons.

Hyundai Blue Link

Hyundai offers top notch in-car infotainment

The Blue Link also brings together an easy to read and use touch screen and knob control. It is standard in all Hyundais that are model year 2015 and newer.

Aftermarket

Items that are aftermarket are those things that are installed and/or purchased for your vehicle post-sale–basically, non-OEM. There are a few ways you can connect these devices to your car–via Bluetooth, USB or replace your head unit with a brand new, high-tech infotainment device. Again, we’re sharing two of the top examples of aftermarket infotainment systems:

Pioneer Avic-8200NEX

This Pioneer unit is considered by many to trump the quality of today’s factory in-car infotainment system. Features include both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a way to switch between the two, a 7-inch touchscreen, CD and DVD playability, and everything an OEM infotainment system offers.

JBL Legend CP100

This simple, straightforward unit allows you to link your smartphone to your in-car infotainment via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It plays off of whatever smartphone apps you have as well as connects you to your vehicle’s parking cameras and steering wheel buttons.

Apple CarPlay & Android Auto

Apple CarPlay in action

These two platforms give you a dynamic in-car infotainment experience by allowing smartphone functionality across various car screens. Approximately 100 vehicle models support either one or both of these programs. However, older model cars cannot interface with them without an aftermarket infotainment unit.

Android Auto assists with navigating

But what exactly do these platforms offer? Apple CarPlay and Android Auto gain you access the same things for which you use your mobile device through your vehicle’s built-in display. Instead of taking your eyes off the road to plug in a phone number, go to a navigation app or bring up your music, you can use voice recognition/commands or interact with a display that is more eye level. This creates a safer ride.

Haptics and the effect on the human-to-car interaction

While we don’t spend as much time in our cars as we think we do–our automobiles are dormant 95% of the time–drivers have come to expect to be as engaged as they are in their homes. This has led to a much more expansive human-to-machine experience in our vehicles.

Got a road trip with the kids? A rear seat entertainment screen makes for a more relaxed ride. Want the ability to make and take mobile calls or browse your music safely? Voice recognition and infotainment systems that react to voice commands allow you to keep your hands on the wheels and eyes on the road while connecting with others or getting your jam on. New displays are becoming even safer with the addition of haptic feedback or haptics.

the space in which haptics live

To explain haptic feedback, imagine a typical touchscreen experience. You press your finger on the display, feel only smooth glass, see the button or key you touched light up or slide or simply hope it’s doing something. This means you have to get visual information, keeping your eyes on it, not the road, creating a safety hazard. But with haptics, you feel your display respond through a sense of pressure, vibrations or motion. By adding this technology to your infotainment system means your glance time–the measure by which you look away from the road–decreases.

Haptics go beyond infotainment systems to just about anything you, as a user and driver, can control in your car. For all of these in-car technology innovations, however, the effect of infotainment on the driving experience–good and bad–are leading to a great many conversations.

Changing the state of the driving experience

One of the clearest benefits of in-car infotainment is how it enhances the driving experience. Whether it’s the ability to be fully hands-off with voice recognition/commands or providing more salient vehicle information than was available before, smarter cars create better prepared drivers. Another is the way it keeps eyes on the road for a safer, more connected commute. The heads-up display (HUD) is available on more vehicles as standard, and not just in premium styles like BMW and Lexus. Most models have information projected on the windshield while some, like the 2016 Mini Cooper, offer a retractable screen that rises from the dash when the driver needs it. All of the options are crafted to allow for eye level interface that lowers glance time.

the world the connected car sees

There are some concerns over these immersive systems, however. Cyber-security and the possibility of having your car hacked while connected to your smartphone are a big issue. The software that allows the communication between your in-car infotainment system and mobile device leaves your vehicle open to remote attacks. Researchers at both George Mason and New York University discovered this anomaly and outlined potential security risks in some models.

Distracted driving is another worry that has arisen from the in-car infotainment explosion and connected cars, in general. While some believe the smarter automobiles actually cut down on driver error, others feel these innovations are akin to having a television set or entire computer at your fingertips as you motor down the highway. Per the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Fiddling with an in-car infotainment system can leave a driver distracted for as long as 27 seconds.” At 25 mph, that is the same as traveling the length of three football fields blindfolded. This is, of course, the worst case scenario, but it is something safety experts and carmakers are working together on as these units are designed.

The look of tomorrow

in-car infotainment in tomorrow's connected car

The connected car is here, growing stronger, and in-car infotainment systems are part of that. Whether OEM or aftermarket, these innovations are creating a more immersive driving experience and making the human-to-machine interaction safer and more dynamic. Standard models are beginning to offer this technology as part of their package and only time will tell if it helps drivers stay more focused on the road or not.

 

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m-Government: The Path from Electronic to Mobile

the bridge from e to m-Government

You access any number of government processes via the internet these days. From eFiling taxes to renewing car registration, electronic government or eGovernment is streamlining some of the most time-consuming public transactions. But this paperless solution only succeeds for those people who can get to a computer. What about those who can’t? This is where mobile government or m-Government comes in.

Embarking on the new frontier of m-Government

We are a mobile society. 1.9 billion people or approximately 25 percent of the world’s population own a smartphone or tablet or both. That number is expected to climb to 70 percent by 2020. This steep increase is due to several reasons. The first and most obvious is the desire and ability to stay connected with whomever, whenever. Mobile devices have become economic tools for many as well, allowing them to pay bills, purchase items and check balances on the go. It’s also easier to purchase a cellphone than a computer for many people. But what also makes mobile so appealing is the convenience and ability to conduct business or manage your affairs anytime anywhere. These mobile devices are a global way of connecting and their use is growing. With that comes the expectation of apps that make life easier and more efficient. The ability to create anytime access to eGovernment service is part of what has led to m-Government.

Committed to government app development

the potential information shared through m-Government

Creating apps that allow you to access the public sector is increasing. Governments are discovering that presenting an easier way to engage with their constituents makes it better for the users. It also ensures transparency between public agencies and residents. That encouragement for more open and honest communication and availability of government services comes not only from private citizens, but from lawmakers. Two examples of this are the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the federal government run General Services Administration (GSA).

UAE rewarding government innovation

The UAE is in its 4th cycle of presenting the Best M-Government Services Awards. These were created by Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2013 in order to reward those agencies best embracing m-Government. His vision of “making government available and accessible to the public 24/7 and 365 days a year” prompted the competition that kicks off in late October and announces winners at the World Government Summit in February. The contest is open to app developers worldwide to promote creating a more connected, efficient system for the public sector in the process.

GSA and the road to mobile government

The GSA is a massive resource for U.S. federal agencies and the military. It provides real estate that houses different offices, manages the nation’s fleet of public vehicles and serves as liaison between public-private partnership. One of its goals is to establish an easily accessible m-Government, which it does through its Technology division and the Mobile Program Management Office (Mobile PMO). The Mobile PMO offers m-Government based tools to assist federal agencies in presenting smarter public service to citizens. The division pursues this expansion on a national level. It supports different ways of applying mobile technology and even provides assistance to federal agencies in testing and creating their apps.

As part of this digital initiative, the agency has established 18F, which is an office within the GSA’s Technology Transformation Service. The name is a play on where the GSA is located–18 & F Street NW in Washington, D.C. Its purpose is to help “other federal agencies build, buy, and share efficient and easy-to-use digital services.” While its focus isn’t just mobile, 18F provides API key assistance to its clients. API stands for “application programming interfaces.” Basically, this is a way for different apps to communicate. API keys then then make it possible for apps to connect with your account without a password. This is an integral gateway to m-Government services. When government offices use API keys, they are then able to unlock a way to interface with a website’s information on different platforms, including mobile.

Unique opportunity for road and vehicle safety apps

Through the work of Sheikh bin Rashid of the UAE, the Mobile PMO of the GSA and others, the world is evolving its eGovernment service to include a more readily accessible experience via mobile technologies. Consequently, some of the most beneficial m-Government apps are those that support road and vehicle safety. Due to the transient nature of cars, the public sector has seen these as a natural connection to offering easy ways to access road and vehicle information. These are created to alleviate congestion, and make your drive/ride safer and easier. Here are four examples of global based transportation apps:

Hong Kong–promoting inclusion, information sharing and culture

m-Government communication in Hong Kong

The state of Hong Kong offers a rather extensive list of publicly supported apps that address a variety of m-Government needs. These range from providing new, non-native residents with information that makes navigating Chinese society easier to highlighting the life and achievements of martial arts legend, Bruce Lee. Among the transport apps are those that focus on three of the most important ground travel issues in Hong Kong–mass transit, parking for private cars, and traffic updates. Hong Kong streets are notoriously congested and these apps are alleviating the issues the city faces.

UAE–putting their vision to practice

m-Government comes alive in the UAE

As one of the leaders pursuing and promoting m-Government practices around the world, the UAE is a strong mobile presence at home, and road and vehicle safety is part of it. The 2015 winner of the University award for the Best of M-Government Services was its own NYU Abu Dhabi for Road Watch, a traffic app. The Federation struggles with a high vehicle fatality rate and it shows in the number of road and auto safety apps it makes available. These cover everything from finding parking spaces to calling up a taxi to making it easy to add money to your Nol Card–a multimodal electronic ticketing card–and Salik tag–the device mounted on the windshield to gain access to the electronic road toll system. The UAE is devoted to a more connected, transparent government and it is constantly developing and encouraging the creation of new apps to support that goal.

United Kingdom and the pursuit of safer roads

m-Government example for the U.K.

The Government of U.K. offers 57 transportation-based mobile apps out of 404 total. Public transit is a large part of the country, which is the focus of most of these–timetables, routes and so forth. There are also a sizable number of downloadables that offer information on areas or roads that have a high collision rate as well as updating on accidents that may be holding up traffic. Vehicle fatalities have increased in the country and this focus reflects the desire to address the situation.

The U.S. takes m-Government federal, state and local

U.S. take on m-Government

U.S. government mobile apps are available at the federal, state and local level. As with the other countries engaged in m-Government, the goal with all of the apps is to streamline processes for residents. It is why certain organizations were created, such as GSA’s Mobile PMO and 18F departments.

To that end, individual states have an information technology advocate in The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). This non-profit organization represents all of the state chief information officers in the United States. It keeps abreast of information technology innovations and how those can best be used to support and challenge the CIOs to push the digital envelope in their home states. Part of its mission is to support and encourage mobile app development across different regions to create a more transparent and seamless process for citizens. Road and automobile apps are a large part of that, especially given the latest report on U.S. traffic fatalities released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the government’s desire to work with autonomous vehicle makers in response.

Whether it’s looking for a nearby alternative fuel station throughout the country (Alternative Fueling Station Locator) or practicing for your commercial driver license test in Wisconsin (WI DMV Commercial Driver License Practice Test), traffic/vehicle-based apps are geared toward arming residents with information that will help them safely navigate the nation’s highways. The range of traffic-based transportation apps are vast in the U.S. and often work in coordination with private companies, especially those at the municipal level.

Open government data for app development

Apps like Citymapper by Citymapper, Ltd. help you navigate and stay up to date with the mass transit systems throughout some of the world’s most complex cities. Hong Kong’s One Click by SAHK teaches social skills to children with developmental disabilities. Both are examples of public-private partnerships in government mobile app development.

Citymapper, Ltd. is a privately owned app development company that works with government agencies to gain access to infrastructure and public transportation information. The Citymapper app covers 40 cities around the world and communicates with users in 12 languages. SAHK’S One Click is available in English, Simplified and Traditional Chinese. It is listed on the Government of Hong Kong mobile apps area under “For Students of Special Educational Needs” and is part of its m-Government directory. These, like many other mobile device interfaces, exist thanks to governments opening up their data to private companies for app development.

This farming out of development helps diversify and expand the public information presented to residents in the most efficient way. The business of government is not in creating digital interfaces, just as tech companies aren’t expected to know everything about enacting policy. By the two partnering, each one gains the benefits of the other’s expertise to develop and offer more user friendly, beneficial information sharing to citizens. This linkage promotes continued app development across a variety of needs, which is the direction the entire world is moving.

The future state of Government 2020

layering on m-Government

Deloitte University Press presents an extensive look at the future of government on its Explore the Future of Government 2020 website. It evaluates future growth across two categories–Drivers and Trends–and how the two combine. Deloitte explains the difference between the two in this way: Drivers are factors “that change the context in which government operates;” Trends are “shifts that result from the drivers of change.” The information presented gives a detailed look at the unique ways these work together to create a different landscape in the next few years. This also includes the area of Transportation and the pivotal role digital and mobile play in the services and systems government offers the public.

A constantly shifting digital landscape

2020 is just a few years away and lawmakers are already realizing mobile’s potential for reaching its citizens and streamlining their lives. M-Government isn’t meant to replace but to link with eGovernment. It’s no longer a question of whether mobile applications will be embraced by public agencies, but how quickly they can be created to address the constantly changing needs of the people they serve.

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