The ubiquitous nature of technology and the frenetic pace at which it evolves becomes dramatically obvious when products with a traditionally longer lifecycle embrace electronics and software traditionally only available in computers. The flooding of technology into these consumer products can be seen everywhere, with TV sets becoming closer and closer to computers with Internet connection and multiple apps that go well beyond the original intention of the base product, or cars with multiple, software-powered, onboard systems such as Navigation, Audio, Phone and Voice command, just to name a few.
This increased affordability of computing power and ubiquitous connectivity brings a whole new world of possibilities to enhance the traditional concept of certain consumer products, it has also had a number of downsides. Some products have seen their life cycle accelerated and a TV set that not so long ago had its lifecycle measured in decades, is now reduced to a few years. The adoption of advanced operating systems to power day to day consumer products accelerates obsolescence of these bringing it closer to that of computers.
Cars, for obvious reasons, are a different story. Long lasting products by nature, and with manufacturers integrating more and more technology (both hardware and software) onto them, a situation is created in which the (expensive) technology onboard vehicles, such as GPS Navigation, gets quickly outdated, with very few options for upgrading the hardware part of it. These systems soon pale when compared to the much more affordable, and easily upgradable features available in smartphones for a fraction of the cost.
Moves like iOS in the car, announced as a yet-to-be-implemented feature in iOS 7, can be game changing by going far beyond just providing a pretty interface for your iPhone when shown on your onboard screen. They can go as far as transplacing the complete onboard technology of vehicles into a smartphone, by basically getting all the software to run remotely in you
r handheld device, rather than in the onboard processors.
First of all, the obsolescence is over. All your car will provide is a screen, and that is the only thing that can get obsolete. The Navigation software available on iOS (despite the Apple maps fiasco) is on par with any onboard GPS system, and comes for free. No in car GPS hardware required, no more slow processors that can only run simple maps, no
more costly upgrades to onboard maps. Online maps permanently updated, real time traffic information and all the necessary hardware packed in your smartphone, which you can upgrade as frequently as you wish.
Audio is another key application brought by iOS in the car, creating a specific interface for managing your audio library while on the move, together with the phone interface.
Siri is King
In my humble opinion this is the moment that Siri has been waiting for. Interacting with onboard technology in cars has been, and still is, a big safety concern. Whilst all manufacturers have invested obscene sums in creating intuitive interfaces (BMW’s iDrive, Lexus’ Remote Touch or Audi’s MMI as an example), they still require attention from the driver. Of course most of the premium brands have implemented voice command systems, but in most cases require learning or following very specific instructions with accuracy being low enough not to be a full alternative to the physical interaction.
But here comes Siri, with the ability to understand natural language and take dozens of different instructions without the need for the driver to learn how to enumerate them.
Basing your car electronics in a naturally connected device brings new possibilities by being able to make use of Siri’s current (and possibly future) capabilities like finding restaurants, petrol stations around the current location, finding movies to watch and maybe booking hotel rooms in the future.
If Apple opens iOS in the car to developers, I bet we will be seeing cars giving away most of their onboard technology transplacing it to apps implemented in iOS which will manage most of the car functions, with Siri as the main way of interacting with your vehicle systems, from your Navigation, Climate control, Audio, Video and even car adjustments to be managed easily by interacting with apps in your Smartphone while talking to Siri.
Not a bad move, and one that would increase customer loyalty once a long lasting good like your car is tied to a particular Smartphone platform, on top of possibly transforming the way we understand technology onboard vehicles. And bring a second life to them.
It’s no secret that apps have changed the way we consume content and software, and expressions like “I have an app for that” are now part of our daily lexicon. Little by little, the appmania has been overflowing SmartPhones and Tablets. TVs where the next conquered territory, and now it seems that cars, and more specifically, on board infotainment systems are the next frontier.
Key players in the industry like Denso, QNX, Magneti Marelli and the traditional car manufacturers are already working in their respective strategies for bringing apps to your car. While most of the current trends are around driving performance and self-diagnostics, extending the features currently available on most infotainment systems, some brands are already introducing very popular general purpose apps. Read Lexus here, and the recently launched latest version of their on board system, Enform, which includes some interesting apps available on board the car. Things like buying movie tickets or booking a table at your destination are now possible, even through the cars voice commands. Even checking in your destination on Facebook is now something you can do behind the steering wheel.
This probably opens a new question behind the technology on which these on board infotainment systems are based. Will we see Android or iOS based in car navigation systems?. It would definitely be very exciting as this would mean instant availability of thousands, if not millions, of apps right to be installed in your car. Interesting potential advantage for Android as some of the current platforms are already based on Linux, which could mean easier integration of Android-based apps onboard.
Some time ago I was walking at night and a car passed by. It was quite dark so I could not distinguish it properly, but its rear lights looked to me like a mixture between a new Jaguar XJ and a Rolls Royce Phantom. Weird. I did some research on the Internet with no results so I let it go. But the other day I was riding back home and saw this car again parked. So I stopped to take a look at the brand. Mitsuoka. Funny, I had never heard of them, so back to the internet to find more about it.
It happens to be a firm based in Toyama which has been since 1968 pursuing a particular philosophy. They get standard Japanese cars, like your tiny Nissan Micra and make it look unique resembling the old school of British cars. And although some of their models have a somehow odd appearance, others are quite appealing.
Jaguar Mark II
The Jaguar Mark II is probably one of the most elegant saloons ever built by the British industry. Produced between 1959 and 1967 its influence still can be seen in the latest Jaguar S Types, but nothing close to the elegance and grandeur of the original. Or maybe yes?.
Take a look at the Mitsuoka ViewT. The front really resembles the original, classy, elegant, with that beautiful grill and a the voluptuous curves very much like the original back in the late fifties. Look at the headlamps and the stripes across the bonnet. What you will never guess is the platform used for this, the guys at Mitsuoka have delivered this beauty using the platform of a Nissan Micra, with the same engines and interior. This ensures you can enjoy the reliability and durability of a mass production, modern engineered car but with a very sophisticated and distinguished look. Cute?.
Now that you have seen what these guys can do with a Nissan Micra, maybe you are a bit more excited about the idea when it comes to the MX5. See the result. Looks pretty close to a Morgan Plus 8, but features exactly everything that you love about the MX5. Light, responsive, fun to drive, while maintaining, the two hood options, including the 12 seconds-fast hard top of the original.
The interior is exactly the one of the MX5 but with nice touches like some wood inserts and leather making it a bit more classy. They call it Himiko and is the perfect look of the 30’s on a 2011 Mazda MX5.
There are other models in the range, like the Rolls Royce looking Galue (the first Mitsuoka I saw that night in Singapore) and the beefy Orochi, but I must admit that when I saw the Himiko I really felt in love with it. Unique 1930’s look with everything you would expect from a 21st century roadster. Difficult to resist!.