After talking about easily upgradable OEM sound systems for years, Harman is starting to realize that goal.
Harman launched “hot-swappable” in car technology in January, and now we are getting more specifics. The technology centers around a domain controller that can be swapped for newer versions. The domain controller powers the infotainment screens, heads up displays, the instrument panel and more, reports MotorTrend.
A new Harman controller will be released every 18 months, said MotorTrend. This will be combined with over-the-air software updates every quarter.
The controller is a small, square box that includes basically a computer and Bluetooth and WiFi antennas. It connects by a 96-pin connector with ethernet. So when a new feature becomes available, there’s a plug and play option for an updated controller.
This all falls under Harman’s Ready Upgrade program announced at CES 2023.
TheDrive explains it in aftermarket unfriendly terms:
“Previously, the aftermarket has offered clumsy hacks to add technologies [huh?] like Bluetooth, WiFi, or CarPlay to older cars that don’t have the hardware. Instead, with the Ready Upgrade architecture, as new hardware and technologies hit the market, they could be baked into the new revision domain controller which would drop right into existing cars. It would also allow for speed upgrades which would enable the use of more demanding apps which could overwhelm older hardware.”
Ferrari has already committed to using the technology. But it remains to be seen if other automakers will join up. Many car makers see infotainment as one of the few automobile differentiators so they may want their own solution. Also, they may not be keen to offer a technology that encourages consumers to hold onto their cars longer.
Additionally, while the controller may be easily swapped, touch screens and other components may not be so easily upgraded, said TheDrive.