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Automotive Infotainment Systems: Changing Consumer Expectations
Infotainment may seem like the latest buzzword in the automotive industry, but it has always played a key role in the selling of cars, in one way or another. Infotainment refers to systems in automobiles that deliver entertainment and information content.
From the introduction of car radios in the 1930’s, upgrading to record players, to cassette tapes, then to CD players and onto the wireless smartphone technology of today, we’ve come a long way in the last 80 years! And that’s just the start. With the complexity of the new infotainment systems being introduced by different automotive manufacturers and the new roles these will create in the industry, it really does feel like in-car technology is finally where it’s supposed to be.
Ten years ago, the average car owner would have gazed upon a dashboard that had an AM/FM radio, and if you were lucky, a CD player. What a difference a decade makes! There is an expectation amongst consumers that in-car technology should match the technology that they carry around in their pockets. The case has been made that the automotive industry has regularly fallen behind the technology that we all take for granted in our day to day lives, but the new infotainment systems available show that this is no longer the case.
Touchscreens are now a normal, expected part of everyday technology, from smart phones to tablets, and they are finally becoming a reality within the automotive industry. Whilst they do still seem to be catching up with the times, carmakers are starting to replace analogue dials and controls with touchscreen displays that are following in the footsteps of more high-tech satellite navigation systems.
Connectivity is also a huge part of infotainment systems. It has already become a fairly standard offering that phones can be connected to cars to make and receive calls, but the new technology can connect to all parts of your phone. Increasingly, consumers want to carry everything in one device; music is often stored on smartphones instead of separate MP3 players, so the ability to play music by wirelessly connecting your phone is becoming expected as standard.
It is also becoming more usual to be able to connect with the apps on your phone and even control your car remotely using it. For example, by putting the heat on before you get in when it’s snowy, or pre-cooling a car in the summer by remotely activating the air conditioning.
Bentley Leads the Way
The newly launched Bentley Flying Spur has an innovative new infotainment system, in the form of a rear seat entertainment suite and a bespoke handheld touchscreen remote. One standout feature is the inclusion of a built-in laptop attached to the rear seat which can be pulled out to work on.
Other notable features include 10-inch screens for rear seat passengers, wireless headphones, individual USB, HDMI, SD and DVD slots for each screen, plus WiFi provided by an inserted SIM card. There’s also 64GB of storage space for documents and data, so you really can work on the move.
Back to the Future
So what will infotainment systems look like in the future? Whilst they may not boast time-travelling functionality like the DeLorean, voice recognition may well become important as cars become more automated. One of the questions is whether the infotainment available should be a reflection of your existing smartphone or tablet, or instead, a place where information is stored in its own right.
Keeping this technology up to date will also be imperative. It’s all well and good have up to the minute tech when you buy your car, but it’s not great if it’s out of date after only three years. We’re used to regularly upgrading the operating systems on our smartphones, and also upgrading the handsets themselves, so automobile manufacturers will have to keep this in mind when designing new systems and ensure they have enough skilled in house personnel to cope with future demand.
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