The next consumer electronics revolution is taking place in a device much larger than your smartphone or tablet — your car.
“We’re putting all our efforts toward making the gap between the experiences people have with consumer electronic devices and with entertainment in cars as small as possible,” says Francesco Miticocchio, manager of the infotainment division of Magneti Marelli, an international automotive systems and components supplier. “The automobile might seem to be in the stone age now, but the products we’re developing for 2012 and 2013 will have Internet browsers. And once you have a full Web browser, you can have almost anything: video content stored offline, Internet radio, news, rich content.”
If the car is moving, the head unit — the console between the passenger and driver seats — might display maps updated in real time. When the car’s stopped, a movie, email or a browser appears.
“When the focus is on the driver, it’s infotainment,” says Danny Shapiro, director of automotive marketing at Nvidia. “For the passengers’ entertainment I think we’ll see Android-based gaming experiences. You could have a central (Nvidia) Tegra processor serving multiple streams of video delivered wired or wirelessly to multiple displays in the car. Each person can select his or her own movie or game.”
The new Audi A6, A7 and A8, which use Tegra chips for video displays, give passengers a wireless connection for eight devices. Drivers get real-time traffic information and points-of-interest searches on the head unit while in motion and rich content while parked.
“Customers want to bring their own devices into the vehicle, not buy devices from the car maker,” says Anupam Malhotra, a senior strategist at Audi. “By having broadband in the vehicle for audio and in some cases video streaming, we can leverage that to create a flexible entertainment medium.”
For the electric roadster Tesla Motors will introduce in 2012, the Tegra chip powers two 17-inch touch screens that replace everything on the console. Roughly equivalent to two iPads lying horizontally, dynamic buttons on the touchpad give drivers temperature, navigation with full screen maps and audio controls. They can dial in Internet radio and online music. When parked, they can read email; when driving, Tesla plans to have text messages read aloud.
“It’s up to those of us in the industry to make this happen safely,” says Staci Palmer, general manager for automotive solutions at Intel, which has agreements with seven automakers and suppliers in Europe, America and China. “As soon as a car is Internet connected, the possibilities are limitless.”
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