Snapp Automotive
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Snapp Automotive

The Three Challenges of Legacy Infotainment Systems

Last month, we rented a Taycan for a week to better understand what it is like to do long trips with an EV. In the process, we found that it struggles with the same three challenges around infotainment as a lot of other carmakers: connectivity, route planning, and complexity.

This article is a summary of a more detailed post published here.

The car we tested was a Taycan Cross Turismo 4S

Connectivity

We are used to having access to our favorite apps on all of our devices. The one exception to that is cars. Like most infotainment systems, the Porsche infotainment system is not designed around apps. You can use Spotify or Apple Music, but those seem to be added as an afterthought. It is still not possible to look up a route in Google Maps and send it to the car or use Google Maps as my main navigation system inside the vehicle.

The interior of the Taycan

Porsche does offer a companion app that does several things, like planning a route and sending it to the car. But like the rest of the system, it forces you to use the Porsche software. You can only plan a route in the Porsche app with the Porsche route planner and send it to the Porsche navigation system.

Route planning

The Taycan has a range of around 370–400km. A great route planner is crucial. The Porsche Charging Planner takes into account a ton of variables, such as charge level, temperature, traffic, and more. And because of that, it assumes it knows the best route and doesn’t make it easy to accept any changes. The problem is that in 9 out of 10 cases, it is definitely not the best route.

The search algorithm is not great

Planning a route does not only depend on technical variables like range and traffic. There are more ‘human’ aspects to consider that are impossible to get right every time. For example, things like planning a charge around lunchtime, using preferred roads, or when to stop for a toilet break. Therefore, instead of forcing a route, the system should facilitate a continuous conversation with the driver. The car should suggest a route but give alternatives, communicate clearly why it chose the route, and make it easy to adapt it to the driver’s needs and input. The Porsche, however, does not allow this conversation to happen. It suggests a route and is convinced it is perfect. If you want to change it, you are in bad luck.

The route planner almost caused us to run out of battery

Designing a good navigation system is incredibly difficult. Porsche is continually updating their software to improve route planning and navigation so hopefully, it will improve in the near future. In any case, it is better to have the option to choose which navigation system to use rather than be forced to use one developed by a carmaker.

Complexity

One reason it is so difficult to do seemingly simple tasks like changing the route is that the infotainment system is incredibly complex. There are 94 different system settings for the infotainment system, 26 different drive/comfort settings, and 25 different cluster display options.

The interior of the Taycan

The main reason for this is that Porsche wants to offer personalization to its customers. It relates a high level of personalization to luxury. Surely, there is a group of Porsche customers who are eager to explore all the 94 different infotainment settings, but probably most don’t. And even if that minority is important to Porsche, there is a limit to the level of customization.

Here is an example. We arrived at a hotel one late afternoon and plugged the car in to charge. The receptionist kindly asked if we could charge the car only at night as it is cheaper for them. It sounds like a simple thing to do but it required watching a 6-minute tutorial video and 11 different steps to figure this out.

Planning a charge is a complex process

In every other sector, luxury means taking away as many concerns and decisions as possible. For example, in an expensive hotel, the luxurious experience comes from the staff anticipating your needs. They don’t start asking a bunch of questions to personalize your stay upon arrival. How big do you want your towel to be? How many towels do you want? What color do you want your towel to be? Which soap would you like? How many?

Why does the car industry think differently about luxury compared to every other sector? The designers at Porsche should make these decisions for us!

Charging at night

Interestingly, there were cases where this happened. And those interactions were delightful!

For example, whenever an object is close to the car, the parking cameras turn on automatically. When going through a toll booth, or when parking, the car helps you out a little by anticipating that you need the cameras. When you accelerate, it disappears again. No user input is necessary.

The cameras turn on automatically when objects are near

Another example is that whenever you want to raise the ride height of the car, for example, for the dirt road that led to the hotel, it shows a notification asking if you want to do this every time at this location. You confirm this once, and the car will take care of it every single time in the future. Perfect!

The lift notification

There are few legacy carmakers that don’t struggle with these three challenges. They have also existed for years now and it is taking very long to come up with good solutions. In theory, carmakers can offer a system that is a lot better than something projected from your phone. Android Automotive will be key to this. Designing it from the ground up around apps and connectivity will be a huge improvement. Understanding that less really is more will take a bit more convincing.

This article is a summary of a more detailed post published here.

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Android Automotive OS infotainment systems

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Casper Kessels

Casper Kessels

Design Lead at Snapp Automotive — writer at theturnsignalblog.com

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