Automakers grapple with how to connect cars and phones

Consumer Reports

As the Connected Car Expo kicks off in Los Angeles, it's clear that automakers and tech companies are struggling with how to integrate today's mobile lifestyle into the driving environment in a safe, effective way. (See our 2013 LA Auto Show coverage.)

With people changing smart phones about every 18 months and changing cars every three to five years at most, CNet's Editor-at-Large Brian Cooley says we need a "virtual transmission" to mesh the two product lifecycles.

That concept can take the form of technology that's embedded in the car (such as GM's OnStar system), tech tethered to the car through a smart phone (as we're seeing in many of today's infotainment systems), or a blend of the two. Cooley points to Apple's partnership with 12 automakers to provide an "Apple in the dash" presentation, which will have the look and feel of the company's iOS as one direction that things could be going. Although automaker’s are starting to deploy Siri voice controls, no production cars yet come from the factory with an Apple display.

Tops on automakers' list of concerns for continued mobile computing integration is distracted driving. Charles Koch of Honda said, "Bringing new apps into the car opens you up to a culture of things that may not be appropriate during driving." Alan Ewing of the Car Connectivity Consortium agrees that developing apps for the dash "requires more art than science." (Visit our guide to distracted driving.)

Phil Abrams of GM points out that the infotainment systems the industry is working on are "part of the solution" in getting smart phones out of drivers' hands, by providing driver-friendly interfaces that ensure drivers get the information and entertainment they want "through a controlled, researched solution."

Learn how consumers are reacting to today’s systems in our infotainment system survey.

Rik Paul



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