Five leading car audio suppliers spoke out at the Town Hall meeting at KnowledgeFest on Saturday night claiming the aftermarket will survive the challenges ahead.
They gave a clear vision of the future of electronics, and how the aftermarket can maintain a role in it.
Jeff Fay of Harman said soon there will be little distinction between a car electronics product and a home or portable product. We will simply use voice control over everything. “When we walk into the kitchen, we’ll say, ‘make me a cup of coffee’ and when we get into the car, we’ll say, ‘set the temperature to 72 degrees.’ It’s going to be mind boggling.”
“When I’m brushing teeth Waze tells me there’s traffic and hurry up to make it to work on time.”
He reminded the audience that car audio was slow to embrace the iPod because it wasn’t a car stereo product and said we can’t afford to miss the next technology shift.
And the next shift is what he described as concierge voice control over everything (basically Amazon Alexa or Siri or Google Now). Others call it the Internet of Things or IoT.
But he made clear that issuing commands to Alexa from the couch will be different from doing so in the car and all of us, from retailers to suppliers, should look to innovate in this area.
Many of the panelists at the Town Hall meeting reminded the industry to keep a focus on the “product” that has carried car audio for years–sound quality.
In autonomous cars, entertainment will be more necessary than ever as drivers can turn their attention from the road to other tasks.
Manville Smith of JL Audio said, “It will be awesome. The more driving becomes passive, the more people will be looking for engagement. If you are not actively driving the car, you are going to want to be entertained.”
He added, “I don’t think most people out there have ever experienced that amazing sound that can be achieved in a car. What are we doing to get them that experience? It used to be a kid with a truck would show another kid…” He suggested retailers get involved in local concerts and invite people to listen to their demo car.
The Town Hall panel also included Brett Riggs of AAMP Global, Mark Rutledge of ADS, Bryan Schmitt of Mobile Solutions, and moderator Chris Cook of MEA, which sponsors KnowledgeFest.
Panelists suggested offering free Bluetooth clinics where anyone can come in to to the shop to have his or her phone paired, even it’s just with a factory radio.
We will reveal some of the other suggestions in a separate story.
But for now, the panelists were upbeat about the future of car audio and new driver safety.
Riggs said of new vehicle to vehicle, V2V, communication and vehicle to infrastructure ( traffic lights), V2I products, “I guarantee you we will adapt V2V and V2I into older vehicles.” And he said, “We will adapt and grow and we will be read for the future. I guarantee that this industry will continue…” Others on the panel made similar statements.
Rutledge said the car companies are collaborating with tech companies in order to keep up with technology and aftermarket suppliers should also collaborate with each other to stay ahead of the curve.
Schmitt stressed making car systems sound amazing. “What we do has to be great. It’s got to be great every time…all the staff has to have the same work quality. This is really important.”