New cars have been adding a large number of infotainment controls across the steering wheel and front dashboard. Ford has even included a large number of voice commands under the Sync system to the driver control system. These integrated systems have limited the ability to support new and updated infotainment and navigation functions from the automotive aftermarket.
A problem with the OEM systems is they become obsolete quickly, such as the 2009 to 2012 vehicles that have 30-pin iPhone connectors built in that are no longer compatible with the new model devices. To combat this situation, the automotive aftermarket has been designing new systems that can interface with existing controls -- including voice control systems -- for these vehicles.
An example that was shown at CES 2014 is the Pioneer Automotive NEX connected AV receiver systems. These feature a new user interface controlling a combination of on-board features with connected services from the driver's smart phone as the primary Internet connectivity. The product line currently has five NEX models, four navigation and one audio/video receiver. As is typical of these replacement systems, they have to fit into the dashboard console of the existing OEM unit, and thus they feature an enhanced UI, and large touch panel displays such as a 7-inch capacitive screen on a navigation system.
These new receivers from Pioneer feature advanced functions such as AppRadio® Mode, AVICSYNC Networked Navigation, iDatalink® Maestro™ support, MirrorLink® compatibility, Siri® Eyes Free mode, expanded Bluetooth®1 capabilities, Pandora®, SiriusXM-Ready™, HD Radio™ Technology, FLAC file playback, dual camera input, and additional connector support.
Pioneer states, "By leveraging the connectivity of the smartphone, we are able to augment and update many of the built-in features with dynamic cloud-based content." As an example, the AppRadio Mode provides both Apple and Android users the ability to access and operate many of the phone's automotive appropriate apps directly from the car's navigation receiver's large touchscreen display when connected.
These systems are quite advanced on the computing side -- most feature dual core processors, 1GB RAM, 8GB or 16GB of NVRAM and typically an Android or Linux OS. These units have connectivity with USB, HDMI, MHL and Bluetooth. These allow for direct connectivity of the smartphone to the vehicle, and support options to also power and charge the phone so it doesnot go dead during use.
In addition to fitting into the existing dashboards and connecting to the steering wheel and voice controls, the systems area is designed to support the ever-changing distracted driver's rules. This is a grey area for new cars, as some states are considering not allowing "grandfathered" vehicles to be sold unless retrofitted to meet current guidelines.
This includes dual zone control of the AV, which allows video to play in the back, but audio only in front. This is for recently passed laws banning no-full-motion video in the front of the vehicle. The aftermarket systems also support navigation that can only have an address input when the vehicle is stopped. The devices can be updated as the black box regulations expand to include the collection of stats for the driving experience, TPM, engine state, and other performance dynamics that are currently collected through the OBDII port and being reported to the smart phone via Bluetooth.
All in all, the aftermarket AV and navigation systems are now back to being an option even for voice-controlled systems, which allows the cars to keep up with phone and connected technologies.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on EBN's sister publication EE Times.