With the improvement in road infrastructure and increasing long distance travel—thus people spending longer hours in their cars—it 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 well—case 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 Bosch’s mySPIN, Apple’s CarPlay, Google’s Android Auto and Car Connectivity Consortium’s MirrorLink are emerging that make smartphone usage inside the car easy, safe and convenient.
Then, the car is today turning into a communication centre—seeking 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 directions—all 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 feature—access to storage networks to ensure a seamless experience and which minimise streaming disruptions due to network 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