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Driver steers, car thinks

Automobile manufacturers are integrating smartphones into their onboard computer. Voice control and localised apps open up almost unlimited possibilities in the car – not least for advertising.

Beat Hochuli

“Hello phone, I’m starving! Where can I find a really good Italian restaurant in this area?” – “Hello, there isn’t one just around the corner – but I can guide you to Osteria della Mamma. There are no traffic jams on the way there.” – “OK, I know where that is. There’s no need to guide me. But you could read out my latest e-mails in the meantime.”


Car makers succumb to advances

If things were to go the way smartphone and car manufacturers imagine it, such intimate conversations between a driver and the on-board computer would soon become part of everyday automotive life. Following the rather amateurish creations of the past few years, Apple, with the iOS-controlled CarPlay, and Google, with the Android-based Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), are now getting really serious. The two IT giants both have the same thing in mind – they want to integrate their smartphone platforms as closely as possible into infotainment and even into the car manufacturers’ operating systems. They, in turn, have now dropped their previous reticence towards the advances from Silicon Valley.



Young drivers, in particular, want the same look and feel and the same practical apps in their vehicle as on their smartphone.

In the car is on the phone

The reason for this is as clear as it is simple: Mercedes, Toyota, Peugeot, GM and co. have invested huge sums of money in developing their own hardware/software consoles over the past few years and, in doing so, have moved away from their customers. This is because their clientele, particularly the younger members, is now made up primarily of iPhone and Android fans. And they want one thing in particular from their cars – the same look and feel and the same practical apps that they have learned to value as smartphone users.

"Intelligent voice assistants will fulfil a driver’s almost every wish via the hands free function"

Hands free – above all

With the new alliances, the doors to the nice, new automotive world have also opened for highly innovative app developers. Intelligent voice assistants, such as Siri from Apple and Cortana from Microsoft – yes, even Windows aims to find a place on the instrument panel via smartphones –, will fulfil a driver’s almost every wish via the hands free function. Only the operation via touchscreen, which is intended for all platforms, is likely to still lead to discussions when it comes to traffic safety. For now – because it can already be anticipated that in the course of development, everything will be handled with the help of the voice assistant, from selecting music to navigation and traffic reports, local info services and service apps of every imaginable kind.


Cars with cars and advertising according to size of your wallet

The best part of the story is that cars networked with smartphones can also communicate with one another. For example, if the sensors register black ice, they can warn the cars behind. Integrating smartphones into cars opens up lucrative and highly specific possibilities, including for for advertising. Those who are looking for something while driving want a solution as quickly as possible and are far less sensitive to prices. In addition, the make of car provides information on the size of one’s wallet..

Beat Hochuli

The author is a freelance ICT journalist. He observes the world of technology from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, where he has lived for several years.