Vehicles are becoming our second home nowadays. The time spent especially in passenger cars has also increased considerably. Therefore the customer expectations have increased exponentially when it comes to In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) Systems. In the early 1980s, FM/AM was only used in cars to listen to music. Later the IVI saw a huge evolution started with CD drives or the Compact Discs to the current Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
A vehicle infotainment system is a combination of hardware and software that delivers information and entertainment to a car’s driver and passengers. It does so via audio/video (A/V) interfaces and control elements, like touch screen displays, button panels and voice commands, etc. Advanced infotainment systems enable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, live media streaming and smart technology for mobile integration. Components and functionality vary, depending on specification.
Why this has evolved in a big way?
There’s been a paradigm shift in car manufacture; from mechanical ingenuity to software quality, execution and integration. Demand for systems that offer in-car comfort, entertainment and convenience—such as on-demand music, smart navigation and hands-free call options—has risen sharply in the past few years. And it’s no coincidence that this shift coincides with the meteoric rise of the smartphone and all the services we’ve become accustomed to accessing at the tap of a screen.
If a car or a model is getting upgraded, the vehicle manufacturers try to tweak the exterior part and some internal features. The advanced IVI helps the manufacturers to redesign the dashboard of the car with less investment and at the time by giving a fresh look comparing to its predecessor.
With so many advancements in technology, infotainment systems in cars nowadays have become advanced. With connected car techs like geo-fencing, smart navigation systems, voice-activated commands, Over-The-Air (OTA) updates and much more, infotainment systems are now more focused to make the drives secure as well as pleasurable. Touch screens in cars are ubiquitous today, although the beginnings were quite difficult and coarse. Now 7″ to 12″ touchscreens have become common in most cars nowadays. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also seen in most of the systems.
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This evolution means in-car streaming is on the rise, with individuals connecting to streaming services via their smartphones, through their smartphone network or the car’s eSIM or WiFi hotspot. Now there are a lot of developments are underway, for an instance, globally the telecom majors are developing solutions to roll out in-car video streaming. This may distract the drivers and raise concerns about safety, but at the same time, the connected car sensor technology will be able to detect distracted drivers and pedestrians and will also be able to connect with other vehicles on the road through vehicle-to-vehicle communication to improve levels of safety.
Car manufacturers are also providing their artificial intelligence (AI) software as part of an in-vehicle infotainment system. This can serve as a virtual personal assistant and can respond to voice commands and proactively guide drivers in collaborating with its navigation system to their desired destination. Also, like Alexa and Google Home, you can even control your vehicle from your home or restaurant or office, unlocking car doors, starting the engine, and adjusting the temperature and making the car ready for your next journey.
Another recent development in the infotainment system is the SmartLink+ by Skoda. This system enables connection between the car and the mobile device. In this way, information from the phone screen can be displayed on the in-car infotainment monitor. This enables comfortable use of mobile applications, phone navigation or Internet radio playback while driving.
In addition, SmartLink+ is compatible with the Apple Car Play interface, Google Android Auto and MirorLink. SmartLink+ allows you to easily control your smartphone’s functions via the Infotainment system’s screen. The solution is very helpful e.g. for music lovers because it allows enjoying wide access to music in the so-called streaming apps like Saavan and Spotify. Connecting a smartphone is very easy. This is made possible by two USB ports, so the SmartLink+ function can also be used by a passenger.
SmartLink + also includes the SmartGate function. It allows you to connect your smartphone to your car via Wi-Fi to access various data such as fuel consumption monitoring, driving dynamics or service information.
Enhancing the safety
Infotainment systems, therefore, allow you to control not only entertainment functions but are also “management centres” for the whole car. A few systems that are already available in the market and few are under development are paired with the central helpline centre, which allows you to call for help (manually or automatically) in an emergency. Thus, the user can feel extremely safe in the vehicle, all the time being able to call for help.
Before I end, I would like to say, with the speed and the direction that the IVI is moving indicates that in the nearest future there may be a lot of changes in the scope of infotainment systems. At the same time, more sophistication and overloading the interior with touchscreens and the level of commitment required to operate them can distract the driver too much, which can pose a potential danger on the road. Before integrating many systems into the touch systems vehicle manufacturers should think about how touchscreen operation affects the safety and comfort of driving.
The intention is not to remove touchscreens but to retrofit them with physical buttons that will be used to control e.g. air conditioning or driving characteristics of the car. The ability to handle many of the vehicle’s functions by voice would be a great solution to the current problems with touchscreens that distract the driver while driving. Instead of looking for switches in the system menu, the driver would simply say: 'Increase the temperature of the air conditioning by 2 degrees and increase the airflow' – instead of breaking away from driving and causing potential danger in traffic. To design a future-proof IVI system, OEMs need to understand what type of technology is coming to the fore and how customer demands are changing. There is no end to innovation and we are sure that in the coming years we are going to witness unimaginable innovations that will be rolled out. The innovative IVI systems are going to be the key differentiator in the B and C segment cars.