For many who keep abreast of both the automotive and mobile industries, it’s clear to see that evolving technologies in both are becoming increasingly cohesive, but we’re yet to see a true implementation of mobile technology in cars beyond Bluetooth headsets and iPod/iPhone stereo integration.
Automotive audio specialists Harman flew us out to their R&D facility in Straubing, Munich, where we were shown a range new and yet unreleased technologies which demonstrate the potential future of in-car infotainment. One such example being the Connected Car.
Imagine that not only does the head unit of your car serve as a window to in-car control, information and entertainment, but effectively any device with internet access you bring into proximity. The BMW concept we were sat in featured the addition of an inbuilt web server tied in to the existing in-car system, complete with a custom made HTML5-based web interface.
Provided the user has an HTML5 friendly web browser such as the ones available on the iPad, numerous Android devices or the Blackberry Playbook, they can then access a purpose built control panel tied into the car’s systems. The developer of the system showed us just how much functionality this interface offers, without the need for proprietary files or extra hardware either car or device side.
Initially the demo shows how users could access music stored locally on the car’s HDD via the web interface, but simultaneously the web-based nature means that extra information surrounding the band or artist playing can also be pulled down to enhance the playback experience. As there’s an active internet connection, there are also context sensitive scenarios, such as being able to book gig tickets for the artist the user is currently listening too.
Their web-centric enhancements carry across to other services such as mapping, which can feature elements and telemetry provided by the car, whilst being able to asses when the next fuel stop should occur and where the next fuel station is, by searching on the net using services provided by the likes of Google.
Internet-enhanced elements aside, users can even potentially control local features from their connected device such as the air conditioning, heating, windows or effectively any electronic function within the car.
The applications are wholly scalable to the vehicle they’d be used in and the key advantage of using a standard like HTML5 is that a huge number of mobile devices now support it, meaning that they can all utilise this impressive functionality with minimal adaptation. There’s no confirmation that the technology will make its way to cars in this form, but it’s certainly not out of the question, partly thanks to the minimal alterations to existing models car manufacturers would have to perform.