OEMs Still Haven’t Mastered the Dash

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Mercedes 2015 C Class

Car radios in new cars are still overly complex and Apple’s CarPlay  isn’t likely to fix that.

Some of the car makers are treating CarPlay as just another app on the radio screen, while keeping a tight grip over the overall user interface on their radios.

One reason  is “big data.”  Every time we tap on a connected radio screen it is broadcasting valuable information about us.  Even the fact that our windshield wipers are on, is usable data.  And the car companies don’t want to give up that data to Apple or a Google.

A second reason is that car makers want to retain their unique user interface.  The last thing a Mercedes-Benz executive wants is a generic dash that looks the same in a Kia and an S-Class.

That’s why Daimler told The Wall Street Journal last week it will not work in lock step with Apple.  “The customer should have the Mercedes experience from the moment he steps into the car,” said Daimler’s Kal Mos.

So CarPlay appears as a mere icon like any other app in Mercedes’ implementation.  It does so on a Volvo too.  And the total Volvo radio interface, apart from CarPlay is still cluttered and confusing, despite its roomy 9 inch tablet sized screen, said Strategy Analytics in a new report.

Only about half of consumers are satisfied with technology in their car, said a new Consumer Electronics Association study.

So the car companies, despite all the booth space at CES, have not YET figured out how to become successful consumer electronics companies.

CarPlay is Apple’s user interface for the car radio.  When an iPhone 5 series phone is connected to the radio, users see an interface much like that on their iPhone, only optimized for the car.  They also get use of a Siri activation button on the steering wheel so users might ask for a local coffee shop, select one on the radio screen and then receive directions to the shop.  Users may also hear text messages read aloud and respond to them by voice. And there’s a simple interface for Apple’s iTunes Radio.

CarPlay was shown in action for the first time at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this month.  Honda, Mercedes, Volvo and Ferrari displayed new radios with CarPlay and are expected to deliver vehicles with CarPlay by the end of the year, as is Hyundai.  About a dozen other car makers have also committed to offer CarPlay in the future.

Source:  The Wall Street Journal


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  1. I say, let the OEM manufacturers continue to stumble and leave hundreds of thousands to millions of unsatisfied customers out there roaming the streets only to walk in through on of our doors to find something they really want! I doubt the OEM suppliers will ever provide the end user with exactly what they want, after all, isn’t that what we 12volt retailers are here for?

  2. Complicated for whom and for how long? Is it confusing for everybody or just 80-year old ladies. Is it confusing for people too lazy to read the manual or invest the time to learn it?

    The car makers need to know who their target customers are and offer alternatives in those vehicles with broad reach, from simple radios to full multimedia systems with touch screens. The radios should not be tied to trim levels, but all types should be available at each trim level. The customer will decide what works best for them and that in turn will give the car companies precise information about what their customers needs and wants are.

  3. I suspect that the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft will want to become the tier one suppliers to the car makers. In that fashion they can control all of the user interface for each separate car brand. They will provide the hardware and software for next to nothing to the car makers in return for the “big data” to be collected from the “car, driver and passengers.

    It seems to me I have seen this business model somewhere before…

    Ray Windsor

  4. Tesla Motors is a Car Company and they have VERY MUCH figured out how to be a successful consumer electronics company!

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