Posts tagged with "car"

2014′s Battle For Dashboard Supremacy

Carmakers have spent years and millions of dollars creating ever-more-advanced infotainment systems and, tragically, none holds a candle to the appeal of any current mobile operating systems. To most consumers, it seems blatantly obvious that the phone should simply handle all the heavy lifting. In 2014 that finally begins to become a reality across the industry, but the issue isn't as simple as it seems.

This week's announcement of Apple CarPlay is a good opportunity to learn more about the status of infotainment systems and how consumer electronics companies have been working with auto makers to achieve technical and safety-related standards.

Tim Stevens has an excellent overview at CNET covering CarPlay, MirrorLink, Ford's AppLink, and Google's Open Automotive Alliance. When thinking about SDKs for developers to build apps for the car, it's important to remember that there are safety implications, design challenges, and regulations to consider – which may be why Apple's initial announcement only includes a few third-party partners.

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CarPlay Demo In A Ferrari FF

Matt Brian of Engadget spoke with an Apple representative at the International Motor Show in Geneva about CarPlay, and he recorded a video of a CarPlay demo in a Ferrari FF coupe.

The video is interesting for several reasons. First, as with Volvo, CarPlay is (unsurprisingly) a feature of the onboard system, as Ferrari is keeping its existing infotainment system and letting drivers with an iPhone access CarPlay separately. There’s an “Apple CarPlay” physical button to load the Apple UI, which, when in the foreground, takes over other physical buttons’ functions – for instance, pressing the “Navi” button when in CarPlay mode will go directly to Apple Maps. The screen appears to be a resistive touch screen: there are no multitouch gestures or swipes in the demo, and horizontal/vertical navigation is always done with software arrows rather than regular scrolling; it’s not clear whether scrolling will be possible on other screens or if it’s a design decision by Apple.

Update: A demo by Volvo shows various instances of scrolling, which suggests Ferrari chose a different implementation of CarPlay navigation for their demo.

The demo shows Apple’s reliance on Siri, which speaks texts and other information (preventing the driver from being distracted by the screen), and it demonstrates how CarPlay looks into email, messages, and calendar appointments for addresses to use in Maps destinations.

Brian also asked about third-party app support: apps that will receive CarPlay integration through the App Store will be automatically transferred from an iPhone to CarPlay and show up on the CarPlay UI, although Apple hasn’t confirmed whether there will be an SDK for developers just yet.

There’s a lot of early details and information to be seen in Brian’s video, which you can watch here.

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Volvo Shows CarPlay Integration for XC90 SUV

In a press release (via setteBIT), Volvo has confirmed that CarPlay -- officially announced by Apple today -- will be coming to their new XC90 SUV this year, allowing drivers to use Volvo's on-board system and CarPlay simultaneously on a single, portrait-oriented screen.

“Apple’s clean and intuitive user interface is a perfect match with Volvo’s Scandinavian Design approach and our focus on fluid functionality,” says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars.

The first car to offer Apple CarPlay will be the all new XC90 SUV which will be introduced later in 2014, one of the most anticipated cars of recent years, replacing the original XC90, which redefined the SUV and became the best selling model in Volvo Cars' history.

In a video released today, Volvo shows how Apple's CarPlay will essentially become a feature of the existing on-board system, providing drivers with a way to invoke the CarPlay interface manually to show the grid of icons configured to work with an iPhone. As Volvo notes in the press release, this approach removes "the need to switch between a dedicated car and iPhone screen", and the video shows, for instance, how CarPlay can remain visible in the background while the driver adjusts the climate control through a separate overlay.

In the video, Volvo also demonstrates Siri integration in Messages, Apple Maps for navigation, and there's a brief appearance of the Spotify app for CarPlay. Various interactions are shown by Volvo, such as the possibility to read and send messages through voice or with large buttons in the middle of the screen, the possibility to scroll through multiple results for map search, and a Siri UI reminiscent of the facelift Apple's voice assistant received with iOS 7.

Last, Volvo shared a few technical details of their CarPlay implementation in the press release as well:

Apple CarPlay allows connection of the device to the car through a Lightning cable – with Wi-Fi coming in the near future. The connection is based on a streaming H.264 video feed that returns user input from the touchscreen. Apple CarPlay will be available in forthcoming Volvo models based on the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), starting with the all-new Volvo XC90 later in 2014.

You can watch Volvo's video on YouTube here.


Apple’s “iOS in the Car” Renamed CarPlay, Coming This Year

CarPlay

CarPlay

Apple’s “iOS in the Car” initiative, first introduced at WWDC in June 2013, will launch as “CarPlay”, the company announced today in a press release. Premiering with an initial lineup of auto manufacturers that include Ferrari, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Motor Show this week, CarPlay will provide a dedicated interface for iOS features in the car, working with existing touch screens, buttons, knobs, and other physical controls to allow drivers to reply to messages, answer phone calls, listen to music, and more. CarPlay is an extension of iOS 7, and will work with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 5c through the Lightning connector. Read more




The iPad As A GPS Speedometer with Speed

Developed by High Caffeine Content, Speed is one of those apps that wouldn't have been possible -- or at least, nearly as enjoyable -- ten years ago. Built for simplicity, elegance, and extreme practicality, Speed is a GPS speedometer that uses the iPad's location data to tell you how fast you're traveling. It works with iPads that have GPS available, and it has been designed to take full advantage of the Retina display. With a combination of Google Maps and beautifully represented compass, speedometer, and tripmeter laid out against a lusty black leather texture, Speed won't replace all the functions of your car's dashboard, but it also offers a glimpse into the future of car interfaces.

I have always believed that, in the future, car manufacturers and designers would opt for more driver-friendly touch interfaces and displays. Whilst not fully there yet, Speed is a great example of what the basics of this concept may look like a few years from now. A large display, a good-looking interface and menus, touch controls, built-in GPS and data polled directly from Google Maps. More importantly, all packaged into a consumer product that also happens to run an app that looks like a minimal car dashboard. Several car makers have already experimented with modular setups to allow for iOS devices to become a central part of the automobile experience; Speed shows that, with modern technologies, even third-party developers can produce something functional and pleasant.

I actually gave Speed a try in my Polo, driving around Viterbo and up to San Martino al Cimino. Once I switched from mph to kmh (just touch the speedometer), the app started updating my location on the map as I was driving, and it started tracking my speed and trip length. The app is surprisingly fast at detecting changes in speed: I have noticed it takes less than 2 seconds to detect sudden braking or stop. The developers say Speed offers a "a near-accurate representation", and I can attest that's absolutely the case here. Even better, because of this slight delay, if you're keeping a constant speed it'll seem as if the app really knows how fast you're driving. The technology and implementation are quite impressive.

Some may deem Speed as a nice demo, but useless. While that's certainly the case if you're only looking for a full-time replacement for your car's dashboard -- and honestly, how can you expect an iPad to be 100% ready for that yet? -- I think the app is worth checking out for its elegance and solid feature set alone. There are even some settings to adjust to magnetic north, use analog/digital speedometers, and use a speed limiter. On a more practical level, these features and settings make for, say, a pretty sweet solution to monitor trip lengths or check just how fast the local bus driver is traveling. It'd be nice to see the app gaining richer data representations (average speed, mileage history, speed patterns) in a future update.

The opportunity for Post-PC devices to improve existing technologies and appliances is huge. Speed is one of the many examples, and a very well-built one. Get the app here, and check out a video below. Read more


Rent A Car From “Real People” Using An iPhone App

Getaround, a peer-to-peer car rental marketplace that allows you to rent a car in your neighborhood from "real people", is launching publicly today with an iPhone app available in the App Store for free. Just like popular service AirBnB allows you to find places to stay using an app on your iPhone, Getaround lets you rent cars by day or week from actual people who are also using the service, and not car rental services that force you to pick up a car in a single location. By integrating with Google Maps and thanks to full backing from a car insurance company, Getaround lets you immediately see on your phone which cars are available and where, who's renting them and for how long / at which rate they're available. Furthermore, the company has also started shipping the Getaround CarKit, a device that once installed on a car will allow to unlock it without a key, only using your iPhone and a virtual "key" interface that also shows the name of the person that has agreed to share his car.

This idea of renting cars using mobile apps and web interfaces is nothing new, but Getaround's implementation looks impressive: not only they're building a community to help you discover people that might share your common interests, Getaround actually helps you get a car with full insurance and a kit that doesn't need any key in your pockets. For those who decide to share their car (Getaround says most cars in the US stay sit idle for 22 hours a day on average), this service will help them earn some dollars each month, and even "review and rate" the person who took their car thanks to a full-featured community website.

TechCrunch reports a statement from co-founder Jessica Scorpio:

Getaround gives people more choices, going far beyond traditional rentals to provide more local and affordable alternatives. We’ve also found that our members like the “community building” aspect, where Getaround connects them with people who share similar values and interests. As an added benefit, we help people protect the environment by sharing resources, taking unneeded cars off the road and reducing traffic and auto emissions through better planning.

Users can sign up to Getaround for free, and the whole service is completely free to use unless you consider the 40% commission they're taking off a successful rental. Getaround is rolling out today in the US starting with San Francisco, San Diego and other cities where "the most demand is", though they have already announced they obviously plan to move outside the US in the future and offer mobile apps on other platforms.


Review: Driver Feedback App Evaluates Your Driving Performances

Following recent news of Apple building a crowdsourced traffic service to launch in the next few years, it'll be interesting to see whether competitors and third-party developers will start playing around with more car-oriented and traffic-based services for iOS devices. Insurance company State Farm -- which I had never heard of before, but it turns out they're pretty huge in the United States -- released a new iPhone app a few days ago that's aimed at monitoring your driving performances and giving you a score based on various factors like braking, acceleration and cornering. The concept is really simple: the worse you drive (severe acceleration or braking, for example), the lower score you get at the end of the test. How does the app keep track of all this? Again, simple: it uses a mix of Google Maps, iPhone accelerometer and GPS data to see where you're going, and how you're driving. I took the app for a spin tonight to see whether or not it would really work with the awful road that connects San Martino al Cimino to my town, Viterbo.

The app starts up with a screen that asks you to create a new user profile, although everything stays locally and it's not sent to State Farm's servers. You can create as many profiles as you want for all members of your family who drive and would like to try Driver Feedback. Once a profile is ready, the app will also ask you to place the iPhone on a flat surface in your car but not on the dashboard, so you won't be distracted and the iPhone's accelerometer can work properly to register brakes and stops. Tonight I decided to drive a little faster than I usually do (75 km/h on average instead of the usual 60 km/h on the aforementioned terrible road) to see if Driver Feedback could really give me a bad score once I arrived at my destination. Once you're ready to go, all you have to do in Driver Feedback is wait for a sound effect (a countdown related to the iPhone being placed on a flat surface, luckily I have one in my VW Polo) and start driving.

It usually takes me less than 10 minutes to drive from San Martino to Viterbo. As I decided to drive relatively worse tonight (of course, without putting anyone to risk) to evaluate the app's functionalities, I didn't consider that it was raining, badly. So it turned out to be a pretty awful 7-minute car trip that I honestly won't repeat ever again. And the app did notice after I was done: I got a 50/100 score with multiple severe acceleration and braking points, and lots of suggestions to improve my driving in the future. Driver Feedback can even keep a log of all your trips and it allows you to check out data points on a Google Map, too. In the Alerts tab, the app explains what you did wrong and why you should improve your driving style, whilst the main screen offers an option to share scores via email or text. The UI is minimal, and elegant.

From what I've seen so far, Driver Feedback is a well-realized product that might really help you fine-tune the way you drive. I'd like to see more factors being considered in the future (such as traffic, or weather conditions), but as it stands now State Farm's Driver Feedback is a cool app for drivers, and a useful product to remind everyone that good driving can save gas, and lives. Go download the app here. Read more


Pioneer AppRadio To Bring Apps And Deep iOS Integration To The Car

A new Pioneer car audio system is set to feature its own app system that also ties in with iOS devices and put it all on a very stylish iPad-eque front panel. The official FCC filing and a leak to CrunchGear reveals the Pioneer AppRadio, with a 6.1” display and an iOS-style home button in the center, will be loaded with specialised apps from Pandora Radio and iHeartRadio to GPS mapping software and traditional AM/FM radio.

In what is surely a sign of the times, Pioneer will not be including any optical drive in the device, opting instead for USB, RCA and S-Video inputs. CrunchGear contends in its report that the audio system will likely talk to iPhones and iPods through the USB interface for music as well as contacts and even some apps. The device also doesn’t have any internet access on its own and will likely rely on smartphones such as an iPhone to provide mobile connectivity for some of the internet apps such as Pandora.

To avoid problems surrounding distracted driving, the Pioneer AppRadio will also come with a steering wheel-mounted remote control as an option. Based on the FCC filing and the rumor, the AppRadio is believed to be “about ready” but no specific release date or pricing is yet known.

[Via Electronista]