We look ahead at what might be available in the near future (and distant future). We see what innovations will shape the future of infotainment systems in cars and how we'll use them.
When Volkswagen announced that the Volkswagen Golf Mk7.5 would have a gesture-controlled infotainment system, we weren’t quite sure how it would work. Now that some clips have been revealed on just how it will work (pinching the air in front of the screen and swiping left and right with your hand to change volume, for example), we know what to expect. Naturally, we’re hoping that there will be more to this system than just changing volume and skipping tracks.
We expect that gesture control technology on infotainment systems will become mainstream in 2017 / 18, and it will also allow you to control features in your car other than the infotainment system. Imagine opening your sunroof by swishing your hand above your head, or lowering a window to the perfect height by just pointing at where you want it to open to.
Ignoring the fact that carmakers are working on ways for you to not hold on to the steering wheel, Mercedes were at CES showing off their new fitness concept that essentially turns your car in to a fitness wearable. As you hold on to the steering wheel, the car reads your heart rate and can keep data on file for you to access at a later date. This can be used to alert you if you’re feeling tired and need a rest, for example. If this technology expands, we expect it to take on other forms of health tracking, so there could be eye-tracking technology that can see where you’re looking on the road and alert you if it feels that there is something you wouldn’t see without a notification. This could be a perfect way to merge self-driving technology while the driver is in control of the vehicle.
Another one from Volkswagen is Amazon Alexa integration in its future cars. This would remove the need for the driver to look away from the road in order to do things in the car that would previously require the attention of the driver to be taken away from the road. With the voice recognition technology, you would be able to do things inside the car like change the temperature, set sat nav destinations, but you would also be able to interact with your mobile phone and even your home. If you have an internet-connected thermostat in your house, you would be able to turn on your heating before you arrive at home. As more and more companies choose to partner with Amazon to integrate their services and hardware with the technology, this feature will become increasingly useful for drivers.
Audi has partnered with NVIDIA and MobileEye in order to bring Artificial Intelligence to its piloted driving technology, but during the announcement they also said that the processing unit provided by NVIDIA would also be used in a second-generation version of the popular Virtual Cockpit that is optional (and standard) is come Audi vehicles.
The Virtual Cockpit 2.0 would be able to show the driver a lot more information in a clear and consistent format, but if we look at the Audi Q8 concept that was revealed at the North American International Auto Show 2017, we can see what might be a glimpse of the second-gen software.
Audi say that the next version will extend to the infotainment system and other screens in the car with an extended display that might even be one long display. When the car is turned on, a sweeping graphic will show off the fact that it is a much bigger experience than the original version.
We expect that the Virtual Cockpit 2.0 will integrate temperature and window controls in to the same system that currently allows Audi drivers with the technology to answer and make phone calls, use their sat nav and control their infotainment system.
Some carmakers are already toying with the idea of augmented reality with the introduction of holographic heads-up displays. This displays information for the driver on the windscreen using reflected displays. This keeps the drivers’ eyes on the road, but it’s likely to get better than the current offering in the next couple of years.
Thanks to miniature projectors hidden throughout the car, and cameras on the outside of the car, drivers will be able to get a full augmented reality experience. Imagine setting your sat nav to take you through a city you’ve never been to. Instead of having to peek down at your infotainment system every few minutes, there will be a line that appears to be outside the car and actually on the road. Merge this with eye-tracking technology that we mentioned earlier, and you’ll even be able to move your head and the line will stay in place on the road ahead.
Finally, looking far in to the future, when automated cars are the norm; we expect that infotainment systems will become larger and focus heavily on video content in order to entertain passengers and the driver. They won’t have to pay attention to the road anymore thanks to the software piloting the car, so they’ll be able to binge watch the latest TV show on Netflix as they’re chauffeur driven to their next meeting by their self driving vehicle.