“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Infotainment In, Entertainment Out

Lately, it seems I have been talking a lot about the environment as well as the rising cost of gasoline. Well, hybrids and green cars are already old news. Some of ‘em are even beginning to be phased out and replaced with new models. I’ve been thinking that we already have problems of our own, what with all the typhoons and earthquakes that continue to plague our country. So… I’m on to less serious topics, some that can make us really look forward to car models that will come out probably in the next year or so.

So here it is. It has been in the news for some time now that Ford already made a deal with Microsoft to provide some of its vehicles with a Sync system, one that makes use of voice-activated technologies to control communication and entertainment features. Recently, Hyundai-Kia also followed suit and made the same deal. Last Tuesday, the company announced the deal it made with Microsoft to develop a revolutionary automotive software that will make all other entertainment systems obsolete, even the new ones. This is set to be introduced to the market in two years time.

The details of the said venture are not that clear but this I was able to gather. Some of the features of the proposed venture are:
  • An infotainment system that provides voice controlled connectivity between mobile devices and car stereo systems
  • A more user-friendly entertainment system capable of playing various digital formats
  • A system that has PC-functions such as the ability to accept software upgrades and add-ons
Furthermore, it was revealed by South Korea’s presidential Blue House that: Microsoft and Hyundai Motor Group will invest $113 million and $166 million, respectively, in the `Automotive IT Innovation Center' they will set up jointly.

In an article in
domain-b.com, it was stated that:

With both Ford and Hyundai as customers, Microsoft's software could potentially be put into more than eight million vehicles worldwide each year.

Its competitors include OnStar from General Motors, Johnson Controls and QNX Software Systems from Harman International.

Systems based on Microsoft Automotive are available in Fiat Group vehicles in Europe and South America, as well as in 12 Ford models in North America.

Windows Automotive will first appear in Hyundai vehicles in North America in 2010, said Martin Thall, general manager of Microsoft's automotive business unit. Subsequent versions will give drivers voice control over navigation systems and video entertainment, in addition to cellphones and digital music players.

The market for car-based information and data systems is expected to grow sharply in coming years, and automakers such as BMW AG and Chrysler LLC have projects in the works to bring regular iInternet access to vehicles.

This venture will mark a very interesting point in car entertainment history. And the good thing about this is, probably in a few years to come this technology will be available on most, if not all, cars. With all the problems we have, it is a good thing we can turn to automakers to surprise us at least with this kind of news. The downside is, there may be a slight increase in vehicle price tags. But with entertainment systems like those, I wouldn’t mind buying me one of those Hyundais that will come out in 2010. I wonder what they will come up with next? Voice-controlled driving? Auto-pilot? Remote driving? Or maybe self-inflating tires like the ones seen in Die Another Day? Either one will be pretty much interesting. At least we have some things to look forward to because it seems oil deregulation laws are very far from the minds of our legislators.