by Rene Ritchie, Daniel Rubino, Kevin Michaluk, Phil Nickinson
Infotainment -- that’s what the car manufacturers call the generally horribly designed stereos and tiny touchscreens -- is notoriously slow to keep up with current technologies. There’s a reason for that, of course. Cars aren’t cheap to design and test. They have to be vetted by safety organizations. It’s pretty much a losing proposition if you’re looking for a decent in-dash set in a mid-range car. Even high-end dash units are barely decent.
Things are slowly getting better though, with the major manufacturers getting bigger screens and better design into our everyday rides. (And if you haven’t seen the inside of a Tesla, Google it now. We’ll wait.)
The idea is to keep you from having to touch your phone at all - or even take your eyes off the road.
But things are really getting interesting when it comes to our phones in our cars. First off, the idea is to keep you from having to touch your phone at all - or even take your eyes off the road. Phones themselves continue to improve in the hands-free department. Newer phones have “always-listening” capability so you don’t have to touch them to trigger features like Siri or Google Now. Built-in Bluetooth is more affordable, and fast becoming standard on any new car.
And now we’re seeing infotainment systems leverage the apps on our phones. I took a tour of GM’s facilities back in the summer of 2011 where they demonstrated exactly this. Other car manufacturers are rolling out the same sort of thing now, too.
You have Pandora radio on your phone. There’s a corresponding Pandora app on your car’s infotainment unit. The car connects via Bluetooth and uses your phone’s data to pump the jams. But you use the car’s controls to change songs -- even give the thumbs up or thumbs down to better customize your playlists. That’s just one example. It’s ever-expanding.
And just like your phone, you’re able to add more apps to your car as they’re released.
This is still in its infancy, and outside of a few high-end models, it’s still going to be a bit slow to mature. But our kids are gonna love it.