New tech rollouts ‘drive’ vehicle infotainment growth

07-08-2018 |   |  By Nnamdi Anyadike

The market for vehicle infotainment systems (VIs) is going from strength to strength with one study suggesting that the global market could hit $62 billion by 2025. The increasing adoption of smartphones - the most prominently used connectivity gateway of an infotainment system - is having a significant impact on the in-car infotainment market as is the development of features such as voice control; Bluetooth connectivity; real-time traffic updates; and navigation information. Head-up display, the fastest growing segment of the VI market, is expected to record a CAGR of 13.5% over the period to 2025.

In July, Acura, the luxury vehicle marque of Japanese automaker Honda, rolled out a new True Touch Interface (TTI) infotainment system. It is said to be a major improvement over Acura’s previous VI system, which was widely held to be less impressive than those from other luxury marques. TTI which doesn't employ a touchscreen has adopted a new approach to the user interface. A touchpad with three buttons and two zones controls a high-resolution screen that juts from the dashboard. It replaces the more distracting touchscreen setup that has to be within arm's reach and is usually located below a line-of-sight to the road.

Aside from the ‘eyes on the road’ configuration, the system uses ‘1:1 mapping’. This enables the user to drop a finger on the pad and land on a region of the touchscreen. The TTI has plenty of options for customisation. It also includes a voice-recognition feature, which is quite accurate across the various functions.

Also in July, Pioneer Electronics Asia Centre a leader in aftermarket car audio launched its new AVH-Z9150BT multimedia receiver. The system supports Wi-Fi Certified Miracast wireless mirroring for selected Android phones and it is the first receiver in Pioneer's lineup to support Apple CarPlay™ over wired USB and wireless.

The AVH-Z9150BT features a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen that is similar in appearance and feel to the premium screens found on flagship smartphones and tablets. The touchscreen supports multi-touch, which it is claimed is easier to operate with a new Graphical User Interface than its predecessor. Dual zone functionality enables drivers to play audio from two sources simultaneously.

Meanwhile, Toshiba Electronics Europe (Toshiba) has introduced a new series of Video Interface Bridge ICs designed for advanced in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) applications. Samples of the new Bridge ICs, which can support a number of different size connections, have been available since June.

It was the release in 2014 of Apple CarPlay, followed by Google’s Android Auto in 2015 that has proved to be a boon to VI development. Both systems offer faster navigation features than built-in models. CarPlay, which is available on all iPhone 5 and iOS 7.1 and can be retrofitted to most vehicles with aftermarket vehicle audio hardware, acts as a controller for an iPhone.

It provides access to Apple apps as well as third-party apps. Most of the CarPlay software runs on the connected iPhone and the CarPlay interface provides the audio and display connection to the car's infotainment system. CarPlay is controlled through the touch screen, rotary cursor dial, trackpad, or buttons on the instrument cluster and steering wheel.

Android Auto, developed by Google to mirror features from an Android device to a car's compatible in-dash information and entertainment head unit or to a dashcam, is a mobile app that supports both touchscreen and button-controlled head unit displays. A software development kit allows third parties to modify their apps to work with Android Auto.

It is expected that through Android auto, the mobile device will have access to several of the automobile's sensors and inputs, such as GPS. At ‘CES 2018’ in Las Vegas, Google confirmed that the Google Assistant would be coming to Android Auto later in the year. Hyundai was the first automobile manufacturer to offer Android Auto support.

But driver safety is a premium concern when designing VIs. And latest research from the US’ AAA Center for Driving Safety & Technology concludes that drivers who used Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were still visually and mentally distracted for 33 seconds. AAA spokesman Matthew Conde said, “A vehicle travelling at 25 mph can cover the length of three football fields in that amount of time, so the level of distraction is still unacceptably high.”

The study emphasises that while some motorists may assume that hands-free talking, texting, or navigation, is safe to use simply because it’s available, in fact no mobile or built-in infotainment system on the market today successfully prevents distracted driving.

AAA is working to encourage automakers, mobile technology developers and smartphone companies to collaborate in order to better leverage common design features and remove any barriers to the seamless operation of their systems. But above all, AAA stresses that for driver safety, certain functionalities need to be blocked altogether while the vehicle is in motion.


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By Nnamdi Anyadike

I have 30 years experience as a freelance business, economy and industry journalist, concentrating on the oil, gas and renewable energy, telecommunications and IT sectors. I have authored a number of well received in-depth market intelligence reports. And I have also spoken at conferences.

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