In recent years the extent to which ‘apps’ are used and can be found, has extended way beyond the screens of the latest Smartphone’s we all seem to own. Now, we see a huge variety of devices that have apps, from iPads to Smart Watches.
Up until recently cars, which continue to develop at a super fast rate technologically, remained in the dark somewhat in terms of app use. However, new gadgets on display at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where all the latest tech trends are set each year, showed how motor gadgetry is about to change dramatically for good.
For example, German car manufacturer Audi showed off a ‘Smart Display’ prototype, which has been designed to work like an in-car tablet, which allows passengers to pass the device round one another to change the entertainment and utilise climate control. The prototype also has a 4G LTE modem built in, meaning that passengers can quickly browse the internet using this unique car tablet.
Although the Smart Display is a prototype, Audi revealed other devices that were much closer to being released to market. Their next-generation HMI interface, an evolved version of the company’s in-car navigation and entertainment system now uses a Google-style search that looks through a huge internet and car-based database to find directions to a certain location.
There is also the dashboard from the newly designed Audi TT that sees the SatNav system removed altogether, instead being replaced by a combined LCD device containing all media and navigation controls, which are located in the vehicles instrument gauge. The impressive LCD transforms and changes shape depending on whether it was being used to browse music or the navigation system.
One of the most important announcements for automobile technology has been the revelation that Google will partner a number of manufacturers to get Android into their vehicles. Audi, Honda and GM are also set to start the implementation of the OS over the coming years. In fact McLaren have already used an adapted version of the OS for its IRIS navigation system in its 12C supercar.
The involvement of the Android means that cars could suddenly gain access to a large number of applications in the next few years, with developers expected to build these new apps specifically for cars.
There is also the possibility that the opposite of in-car smartphones and tablets will gain momentum, with customised apps helping to make your mobile an extension of your motor.
Over at BMW, they have developed an iPhone app for its i3 electric vehicle, which shows the user features like charge status, but can even allow drivers to remotely turn on the air conditioning for the car.
Encouraged by Apple’s iOS in-car initiative, a wider range of car manufacturers are expected to bring out apps alongside their cars, which will be down to the explosion of built-in 3G and 4G connections to more affordable cars.
Mobile data is currently the reserve of the high-end car manufacturers, but it is expected that brands like Ford will begin to offer it within their range of vehicles.
It is anticipated that within the next 10 years our smartphone and vehicle will also share a much closer relationship. What is harder to predict is how the concept of ‘connected’ cars will sit with motorists.
Having a data connection in our mobile phones has dramatically changed how we all now communicate, so maybe the same technology in cars will transform how we get about from A to B too.
The BMW i3 is the iPad of the automotive world but the first time you sit down and touch the accelerator, the i3 will start to make sense as it combines the innovations of the navigation systems with the extremely smart drivetrain.
So how does the i3 affect the driving experience? To start with, the car keys only need to be in your pocket for the vehicle to start. Then, as there are no gears, the drive and reverse are selected using a large apostrophe-shaped mode selector that sits on the side of the steering wheel. When starting the engine, the car remains completely silent, with only a futuristic sort of sound being played out from the car’s dashboard that signals the vehicle is up and running.
Sitting in front of the driver is a huge 6.5 inch screen that indicates speed, acceleration and battery regeneration, plus little things like the title of the musical track that is currently being played.
Next to this is a bigger landscape navigation and entertainment screen, which is located between the driver and passenger, and so becomes the main focal point for all the things i3 can operate, such as music, directions and power indicators.
The entire i3 car has been built with eco-friendly designs in mind, with the seats for example, using textiles that are made from recycled polyester and even the plastics that are used also being recycled.
BMW have even used coach-style doors, meaning that the entire side of the car opens up making it easier for motorists to get family in and out of the vehicle.
Included with every i3 is a BMW-made iOS app, which can be remotely connected to your car and there is a 3G SIM, ensuring the car is always web connected so can link immediately to a mobile phone.
Both the car and the app have been designed to work together, so for example if you are unable to complete a journey in the i3, the car can send public transport links and GPS foot-maps to your Smartphone. The application can even provide a colour picture of your own i3 to your iPhone screen.
The use of apps is extending into all sorts of things we now use everyday, so it was only a matter of time before cars got their turn. The limits are endless as technology evolves and our vehicles will soon be more even more of an extension of our personalities.