15 Aug 23

What shall be the three components of the 'best' infotainment system?

Connected technologies are expanding the borders of safety, comfort, and efficiency for vehicles, and one core component of connectivity is, no doubt, infotainment systems. The complex technology has been going through a thorough development process over the years but not solely in the hands of car manufacturers; instead, third-party providers. Hakan Keskin, Product Technical Program Manager at Google, reviews infotainment systems and what critical components they must have to provide the best safety and comfort while boosting competitive advantage. 

What is an infotainment system?

"An infotainment system is a comprehensive in-vehicle multimedia platform that integrates information and entertainment services seamlessly", describes Hakan. To him, it is especially essential to accelerate the development of infotainment systems as they provide crucial competitive advantages to OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) over their competitors:

"Nowadays, it's almost impossible to find people willing to buy a car without integration with their phones, such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, as it has become a minimum requirement. Today we have different kinds of infotainment systems. OEM infotainment systems are designed and manufactured by the car manufacturer and are typically integrated into the car's dashboard. Other than the car manufacturer, third parties provide aftermarket infotainment systems. These systems can be installed in any car but may have some integration issues. The baseline of infotainment systems are smartphone-based, such as Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, which provide infotainment features. These systems typically connect to the car's display and speakers and can be used to control music playback, navigation, and other functions." 

What are the critical benefits of smart and electric vehicles?  

The advanced features of infotainment systems are the breaking point in the competition between OEMs, says Hakan. "Infotainment systems will play a pivotal role in OEM competition. Integration with the car's hardware and seamless data flow between the vehicle and the infotainment system will be a crucial competitive advantage." 

And what are these benefits? An infotainment system can give drivers important information about their surroundings and the vehicle's status. For example, an infotainment system can display the car's battery level, range, and charging status. It can also show the car's current speed, revolutions per minute (RPM), and other performance data. This information can be helpful for drivers to stay informed about the car's condition and make informed decisions about driving. 

What has changed in the last five years? 

It has been a long process for infotainment systems to emerge as a feature in smartphones and then become the partially or fully-integrated information and navigation system of most vehicles. The infotainment system has developed significantly in hardware and software qualities, says Hakan, and provides even more features and services thanks to the advancement in connected technologies. He lists the most important developments below: 

  • Larger and higher-resolution displays: Infotainment displays have gotten significantly larger and higher-resolution, making it easier to see and interact with the system, especially while driving.
  • Stronger processors: Infotainment systems are now powered by more powerful processors, which allows them to run more complex apps and features, such as 3D navigation, gesture control, and over-the-air updates.
  • Over-the-Air Updates (OTA): Many modern infotainment systems now support OTA software updates, allowing the addition of new features without requiring a visit to the dealership.
  • Better voice control: Voice control has become much better in recent years as infotainment systems now understand more complex commands and are less likely to misunderstand. This makes it easier to control the system without taking your hands off the wheel and supports safe driving.
  • Better connectivity: Infotainment systems now offer a wider range of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB. This allows drivers to connect their smartphones, tablets, and other devices to the system.
  • More integrated apps: Infotainment systems offer a more comprehensive range of integrated apps, including navigation, music, and weather. This makes accessing the information and services you need while driving easier.
  • More connected car features: Infotainment systems now offer connected car features, such as emergency calling and roadside assistance. These features provide helpful information during driving and help keep drivers safe.

Why OEMs are struggling to develop their infotainment system? 

To Hakan, the pace of technological development and the complexity that emerges through it is too much for most OEMs. 

"The new generation of cars, especially electric vehicles (EVs), should be built with software that enables seamless integration with every car component while ensuring robust security measures. However, many OEMs were not adequately prepared and are still facing challenges."

There are many reasons why it so so hard to build a new generation of infotainment systems, he says, and lists the following three items as the biggest challenges:

  • Technological complexity: Infotainment systems are sophisticated technology that requires integration with various hardware and software components within the vehicle. Creating a seamless user experience while managing multiple functionalities, such as navigation, multimedia, connectivity, voice recognition, and safety features, demands significant engineering expertise.
  • Rapid technological advancements: The technology landscape constantly evolves, and OEMs must keep up with the latest advances to provide cutting-edge infotainment systems. This involves frequent updates, evolving standards, and compatibility issues with new devices and software.
  • Security Concerns: As infotainment systems become more connected to the internet and smartphones, they become potential targets for cybersecurity threats. OEMs need to invest significant resources in ensuring robust security measures to protect user data and prevent unauthorized access to the vehicle's systems.

What specifications must the best infotainment system have today?

To gain the upper hand in the infotainment battleground, Hakan lists three components to achieve the 'best infotainment system':

  • Integration with the car's components, ensuring seamless connectivity and functionality.
  • Good voice control: The voice control should be accurate and responsive so drivers can control the system without taking their hands off the wheel—the responsiveness of the touch display and quick response times for every driver query.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) updates maturity and frequency, allowing continuous improvements and feature enhancements.

"I believe that the key to winning the race lies in securing superior voice control technology, similar to Google Assistant's version for cars and security for cyberattacks while protecting the privacy of the car owners", says Hakan. 

The main image is courtest of Shutterstock, 2236069151. The in-article photo shows Hakan Keskin, Product Technical Program Manager at Google. The comments in the article represent the expert's views. 

Authored by: Mufit Yilmaz Gokmen