Cars, the new mobile platform frontier

In last ten years, we have witnessed an explosion in mobile phone and tablet technology. Today, you can choose a set of apps that will delight you while making your life better, happier and more productive. You can get all this for few hundred dollars, a price of a flagship phone.

At the same time, when you get into a vehicle, even a very recent model, you get surprised how poor is the Human-Machine Interaction (HMI) experience. It seems like a disconnect between designers, engineers, and the vehicles’ occupants. I am talking about menu selections with too many clicks, the placement and the size of the buttons, the screen layouts that are not serving the purpose. On a trivial, yet annoying side, in a recent auto show, we have noticed the dashboard console color scheme did not match the infotainment system.
I am an avid user of technologies like Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant; I listen to text-to-speech (TTS) on my phone all the time, yet, I hardly use the voice commands on my car. Cars cost much more than phones, anything less than excellent experience is inexcusable.

The key software players have noticed this gap: Google has released Android AUTO which has made it’s way to hundreds of brands. At the same time, Apple is trying to conquer the market with the CarPlay. BlackBerry QNX which is already in tens of millions of vehicles. These solutions are exploring the market, but there is much work to be done to achieve the delightful experience we all want.

At the time of the writing, Google is announcing the new Android-based OS for the cars. In addition to their own vehicles, Google Waymo is converting a fleet of Fiat Chrysler (FCA) Hybrid Pacifica vans to run their self-driving capability.

It is the right time for designers, software and hardware architects, developers and engineers to embrace the change that is coming and learn new skills in machine learning, vehicle mechanics, connectivity, telematics, GIS, explore the concepts of natural language processing (NLP), computer vision and emotional intelligence. It is time to learn new, more substantial skills. I would recommend online Udacity classes in Machine Learning, Computer Vision, Self-Driving Car, and Robotics.

Vehicles are the new frontier for the mobile technology. The possibilities are amazing, and opportunities are exciting.

About the author:

Uki is a veteran mobile developer architect and manager. He has also spent three years working on Android dashboard display vehicle control (CNHi, Fiat Industrial). Uki has recently accepted a position of Architect, Connected Car, FCA at Harman International, a Samsung company. Opinions are my own.