The auto industry has something of a problem on its hands.
Mobile technology has progressed so rapidly in the past few years that people have come to expect, if not demand, the same access to entertainment, information, and communication when they’re on the road. Automakers—hardly a nimble group—have been struggling to catch up.
For good reason, too. Durability and safety requirements make it tricky to simply shove the latest mobile tech into the vehicle.
Because it takes about five years to develop a new model and consumers keep their cars for an average of 11 years, whatever was new when the automaker stuck it in the car is outdated long before the engine stops running.
“The car industry is focused on what it does well, traditional automotive styling and comfort and safety and performance,” says Derek Jenkins, director of design for California electric car startup, Lucid Motors. “The infotainment thing has just been a burden.”
Manufacturers have taken a two-pronged approach to cracking the problem. Companies like Tesla have introduced over-the-air software updates, so they can update cars already on the road. And the likes of General Motors have partnered with Apple and Android to create interfaces that mirror the appearance and contemporaneity of smartphones.
GM’s new Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle, for example, doesn’t even offer a built-in navigation system—drivers can instead pair their phone’s mapping app to the center screen. “Our target customer will say, ‘You’re not better than Waze, you’re not better than Pandora,’” says Bolt project manager Darin Gesse. “So we let them bring their own functionality.”
As more sophisticated driver assistance technologies reach the road, especially those that require access to the cloud, the possibilities for what a car can do and provide expand. For example, by connecting the vehicle infotainment system to real-time location data, and pegging it to your daily calendar and commute, your to-do lists, your learned behavior—and vendor partners like Amazon, Starbucks, and Open Table—car companies can provide a myriad of push marketing opportunities reminding you to buy yourself a latte or suggest a route that takes you by a new lunch spot you might like.
“There’s always this kind of debate that goes on—just because you can bring something into a car, does that mean you should?” says Bill Chergosky, advanced interior design director for Toyota. “As an industry as a whole, we are still in that stage of wonderment, and we’re, like, ‘More is better!’ And we’re just starting to reach that point now, where we’re taking a breath, stepping back, and saying, ‘Okay, what’s contextual, what’s important, what’s the best way to take the information available to you, and what’s the best way to show it to someone in a vehicle moving at a high rate of speed?’”
Read more of the original article at Wired.
This is the second installment in a four-part series on the future of the interior of the car, examining how life will change inside a space where so many people spend so many hours.