Does your vehicle need a screen?
Written by Clark M., October 2019
You’re zipping down the road in a new car with too many buttons and switches to manage when suddenly you hit a bump. A finger slips and accidentally clips a knob. Instantly, your private karaoke session of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is ruined. You’re stuck there, sitting at a dead stop in sudden traffic, trying to remember which piece of plastic on your steering wheel puts the audio back to Bluetooth/AUX. You fumble for a moment. You finally get it, but by the time you’re at ‘Scaramouche, Scaramouche, can you do the Fandango?’ the vibe is gone. You’re left there stuck bumper-to-bumper, staring at a navigation screen you never use, in a new car that you didn’t exactly want, on financing terms you don’t quite agree with, wondering how you’ve reached this point in your life.
My name is Clark Meyer Jr. and I handle connected services engineering at Canoo. It’s my personal belief that the user experience described above is not only a poor one but also what vehicle users have come to expect.
Fixing this user experience is our team’s sole purpose here at Canoo. We’ve developed a user-centric, modern vision for how an individual can and should control important functions of their car using something they are incredibly familiar with — their smartphone. Our vision is a radically simple app-based solution for interfacing with a vehicle, driving a vehicle, sharing a vehicle, locating a vehicle, getting insurance for a vehicle, maintaining a vehicle and more.
Canoo is attempting to generate a shift in an industry where the innovation needle hasn’t moved significantly in nearly a century. It is our intent to raise the bar by engineering an entirely new in-vehicle experience built around the modern driver. We hope that others will follow suit as we kick-start a huge leap forward in personal vehicle user experiences.
To execute on this vision and get us all closer to a simpler, more seamless in-car experience, one thing is clear: migration of the traditional in-car infotainment experience to the end user’s personal mobile device is key.
Building on what you already love
Aside from the fact that your phone is faster and easier to develop for, will have more updates throughout its lifetime, and has a much more user-friendly interface, the most important reason we must move infotainment to the mobile device is that you are already well-versed in how your device works.
You know how to play music on your phone; you know how to browse the web on your phone; and you know how to navigate to your favorite restaurant on your phone. You already have preferences on streaming apps, email clients, and methods for communicating with friends and family. Our goal at Canoo is not to interfere with your favorite applications and rituals; rather, we seek to augment the things you already love with a brand-new suite of services designed specifically for an all-new type of vehicle subscription.
A thought exercise: try to remember what a screen looked like in a car from 2005. You are probably conjuring up images of black text on a tiny green LCD screen as the letters of your favorite song (playing from your favorite CD) slowly scroll by.
Now leap forward and think about a screen in a car from 2010. Perhaps you reminisce, though not fondly, of a small and inaccurate resistive touch screen. You know the type — with a piece of rubbery film over the top that picks up scratches from your nails. It just will not let you tap that damn ‘BT’ icon no matter which finger you use.
Finally, flash forward to 2019. Things have improved but are still not quite as good as they could be. In this final scenario, you stare at a behemoth 15” display and proclaim ‘I am the infotainment ruler of the world!’ as you poke and prod an enormous piece of glass that will soon be out of date, too.
Now think about smartphones during that same period of time and how quickly they progressed. Shift gears again and imagine the future of smartphones. Wild and unimaginable features will have been introduced. In this time frame, somehow, your phone might have transformed into a simple sci-fi piece of transparent glass or a pair of AR goggles. The lovely thing about this scenario is that, if they run a similar underlying OS, both AR goggles and a transparent piece of glass will still work with Canoo.
This is the whole point of our creation and it makes our product uniquely and perpetually modern (or at least more modern for a longer period). Simply bring a device that you are comfortable with.
Shifting from infotainment to entertainment
In an autonomous future, we posit that in-vehicle entertainment will be more desired than in-vehicle information.
How often do you really look at the trip meter, odometer, and in-vehicle compass? How often would you look at these if your vehicle drove itself? This information is important but does not need to be front and center. Hiding these details has allowed us to remove the auxiliary display that shows them, in turn freeing up space and allowing us to rethink how a vehicle layout should look. This is how we turned each canoo into a serene mobile device theater, where you bring your own screen.
Your vehicle information is of course still available if you desire to see it, but for the most part it stays out of your way while you conduct your own custom orchestra of internet, video, and music. The journey is truly all about how you get there; with Canoo you can get there however you like.
The road ahead
As we carry on here at Canoo, we will continue to strive for differential innovation. Sometimes that will include adding a feature or functionality, such as drive-by-wire steering (more on that another time); in this case, the innovation comes in the form of addition by subtraction, as well as adapting to modern consumer preferences and usage patterns. Anything that lends itself to a better in-car experience is what we’re all about, especially when it can occur by removing extra bits and pieces that are a hindrance to affordability.
In an industry that traditionally tends to add, increase, enlarge and over-complicate, we’ll continue to push the envelope by practicing minimalism wherever possible and keeping the canoo as simple and user-friendly as possible.
In closing, one last journey, a scenario to look forward to:
It’s 2021. You’re cruising down Venice Boulevard en route to the boardwalk in the back of a canoo. It’s 7pm and just getting dark. “We’re gonna rock down to Electric Avenue” crisply bumps from somewhere inside, but it’s too hard to tell. The interior is so seamless; it feels like Eddy Grant’s voice is all around you. You glance through the cat window and see a soft gold reflection in the street. You look straight up and see through the glass roof where the reflection was coming from — a big beautiful sign with gold Edison bulbs that reads “V E N I C E”. With one tap on your phone you switch the audio to your headphones, exit the vehicle, and wonder to yourself why it wasn’t always this way.