During CE Week last week, a panel of automotive tech experts said a super simple-to-use OEM car radio with apps is still 3 years away for most new car buyers.
Right now “the simple step of having to pull out the phone and plug it in can hinder listening,” said Pandora’s Geoff Snyder. He sees widespread Bluetooth pairing as helping, but the biggest step forward in simplicity will come from embedded 4G systems in cars.
Apps in cars need to be as simple to use as AM/FM radio, said Aha Radio’s Chia-Lin Simmons. “You need to be able to do it from a steering wheel column. It has to be identical to using AM or FM.”
One sticking point towards simplicity is that each car maker wants to be able to use its unique app-radio system as a selling point. So the car makers are not quickly adopting a single standard for radio technology that would speed up advancements.
Car makers see their radio systems as being “as personal to them as their engine,” said TuneIn’s Carl Rohling. So the market is heading to “a lot of fragmentation….Each time I think there’s a standard, I’m surprised that there’s not many OEM’s rushing to adopt it,” he added.
In the ideal car radio, you turn on your car and the apps start buffering so you are ready to go. (This is already available in Tesla vehicles).
This simple connected radio will happen because A) the price of 4G service will drop, and B) newer radios will have better ability to buffer a signal, Rohling told us after the seminar.
Eventually, many of us will subscribe to a cheaper separate data plan for the car. “There will be a mobile plans and a separate plan for the car,” said Rohling. The wireless carriers will be thrilled to be able to sell millions of these separate plans at lower rates than today.
“That’s not going to happen today or tomorrow, but a big change in the last 6 to 9 months is that Sprint, Verizon and AT&T are really getting involved in Telematics,” he added.
From the car maker’s point of view, BMW’s Eric Sargent, said its goal is to give the customer a choice in the apps he wants. “Navigation is becoming as personalized as music. The consumer wants to make a choice about what apps they want to use.”
The panel at CE Week, called “The Future of Radio in the Car,” also included Jake Sigal of Livio and was moderated by Roger Lanctot of Strategy Analytics. It was part of a half day of Connected Car seminars hosted by Wired writer Doug Newcomb.
In the meantime, Lanctot told us, car companies will continue to use smartphone apps, led by Pandora to sell their cars. And consumers will ask for Pandora integration from a phone when purchasing a new car as a “check off item.”