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Monday, April 27, 2015

Infotainment: Successes and Challenges

In reviewing the 10 best car infotainment systems, AutoGuide gave high marks for Ford for its MyFord Touch system. Specifically, they praised the voice activation feature, saying that it “practically makes every function of the infotainment system accessible to you without having to take your hands off the steering wheel or your eyes off the road.”

Infotainment Systems are those little computer screens and buttons on the dashboard between the driver and passenger side of your car. Usually they provide electronic mapping and GPS direction information for drivers, along with offering connectivity to internet radio, mp3, and other entertainment features for everyone riding in the vehicle. This fusion of information and entertainment has led to the creation of the term “infotainment.”

Most automakers offer infotainment systems in their latest models. Each system, though having the same basic design, are none the less different from another. They offer different features and providing varying quality on different elements of the overall design of an infotainment system.
The value of MyFord Touch voice activation system is in the ease of use—the user doesn’t have touch anything or take his eyes off the road to use it. As a driver, this can be the most important feature to look for when evaluating infotainment systems.

Another example would be BMW’s iDrive system. The infotainment screen offers high-resolution visuals, 1280×480 pixels, along with 3D maps and sliding animations. The controls for the system are accessed through a small knob with surrounding buttons located by the gear shift for ease of use.
There are also challenges that many of these systems face, among them are slow response to user commands and system errors.

Looking at MyFord Touch again, although the voice activation feature is well regarded; it is also plagued with malfunctions and errors, leading to negative feedback and complaints from owners. Kia’s infotainment system, UVO, has also developed a reputation, according to AutoGuide, as “frustratingly slow to respond.”

Another problem for driver’s with these systems are interfaces that can be complicated and confusing for the driver.

Infiniti’s InTouch system; which is well regarded because of features that allow drivers to access email, social media, and Google apps; has a dual screen system where one display is controlled via a touch-screen, while the other is controlled via a knob. This has been cited as both confusing and distracting.

Likewise, Mazda’s Connect system, which has very positive marks for its interface that includes both a touch-screen and knob setup, unfortunately also it has complaints for some of its basic functions that have been cited as needlessly complicated in light of other automaker systems.

At GROM Audio, we are constantly looking at these details in infotainment systems.

The successes and challenges in those systems can also be reflected in our car audio kits. The ability to enhance driver information and entertainment services are a both new and constantly evolving form of technology. This is the case both in onboard infotainment systems or external hand-held device, made more accessible through GROM’s car kits.

GROM Audio is committed to continually studying this emerging technology to create car kits that offer the best and safest experience for our customers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Connected Car and How It will Change Our Future on the Road

In a recent Hollywood Action film, one of the movie’s heroes is attacked in his SUV by three phony police cars. Luckily, his truck was a highly advanced, armored super-vehicle. The SUV’s on-board computer gave him play-by-play damage updates as the bad guys tried to break into his vehicle and eliminate him. Soon, the hero was able to race away. As he did, the SUV’s computer began informing him about alarming changes in his physical, vital signs… like blood pressure.

With the bad guys right on its tail, the SUV’s computer became aware of a traffic jam from GPS data and informed the hero, who requested an alternate route. The computer told the hero where to go and soon he was able to not only evade oncoming traffic but also his deadly pursuers.

This scene isn’t only a sensational vision of a car’s connected potential, but the future of a typical car’s on-board connected services.

The term “connect car” is slowly moving into the public’s vocabulary. “Connected Car” can be defined as any vehicle that contains devices that connect to other devices within the vehicle’s system, networks, and services outside the car. This includes plug-in devices like mp3 players and smartphones. It also includes online services such as GPS navigation, traffic updates, and regional directories (local business information and so forth).

Envision your next vehicle not only providing mapping and navigation services, but also alerts on changing traffic conditions with alternate routes. Furthermore, consider your next vehicle alerting you to low fuel levels and providing suggestions for local gas stations, along with directions.
The coming generation of vehicles will also provide information about restaurants, stores, and services. Love road trips? Wouldn’t it be great to let your vehicle tell you the best places to get gas, grab lunch, or make sightseeing side-trips? These are also innovations that are being developed for future connected cars.

One can only speculate on advances to entertainment services or your car’s ability to interact with your smartphone or other handheld technologies, from Pandora to your own music library.
At GROM Audio, we are excited about all these future innovations and are constantly looking for ways for our car kits to contribute. Currently, GROM is working with Bluetooth technology to allow our customer’s cars to connect with their handheld devices wirelessly. GROM is also working to develop “hands-free” options, permitting users to safely use their handheld devices through voice activation and other safer options.

GROMAudio has been founded on the concept of the connected car and continually is seeking to be leaders in this area of car technology growth. Whatever Hollywood has envisioned for their heroes, GROM is also working to provide solutions and advantages for their customers