Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The summer road trip of 2017 — Part I

Lynn Gayowski
Lynn Gayowski
Summer is the season for many things — ice cream, outdoor festivals, heat waves, more ice cream, and perhaps best of all, hitting the open road. 2017 is around the corner, and between now and then, automakers will introduce a bevy of new features that will make for a safer and more enjoyable summer road trip. In this two-part series, we’ll take a look at how these technologies will help transform your summer road trip.

Tunes for the road
A road trip without a soundtrack is a road trip I want no part of. I think we can all agree that a Britney Spears playlist is compulsory. Music has always been intimately connected to the driving experience (see the Highway Hi-Fi Phonograph below for proof) and it’ll be even more integrated in the cars of 2017 with fewer limits. 

The media sources that you depend on today — local drives, USB storage devices, smartphones, cloud services — will work seamlessly with your vehicle, allowing you and your passengers to enjoy any genre from any source. Conventionally constrained to your center stack, music meta-data will permeate all the screens of your car, even the instrument cluster.

And for the backseat DJs, they’ll be able to use apps on their mobile devices to control the music playing in the car, which just might make the oft-repeated passenger phrase “Can you skip to the next song? I don’t like this one,” obsolete. Of course, to minimize distraction, the driver will always maintain cabin-wide control of what’s playing, and how loud it’s playing. 

The context-aware cockpit
The road trip of years past was plotted on a paper map and required a navigator in the passenger seat; today’s passengers are relieved of these duties as navigation and route plotting have gone digital. But even with that convenience, having to divert your eyes from the road to the center stack can be a nuisance. The dashboard of 2017 will offer greater convenience with a driver centric-display that could blend navigation and digital cluster information all on one screen. These vehicles will be "context aware" and display different information depending on the environment. For instance, surround-view cameras could detect pedestrians or cyclists and provide a minimalist on-screen alert to minimize driver distraction. Similarly, the system may disable certain functionality when the driver is about to navigate a hairpin turn. If the vehicle “knows” there’s a challenge ahead related to road condition, visibility, local speed limits, traffic, or topographical information, it could display the appropriate context-relevant information to the driver. 

Staying mobile
By 2017, you’ll probably have a new smartphone and, regardless of the platform, it’ll be able to communicate with your car. Projection mode technologies will be commonplace and render your phone’s display and services onto your car’s center stack (one example is QNX-powered Audi’s MMI mobile media application framework). This integration will no doubt get even more advanced in the coming years, and with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto connectivity protocols taking form, your favorite apps will be as at home on your dash as they are in your hand. 

Your phone will also be able to control and monitor your car in new ways via the much-discussed, but sometimes nebulous, cloud. For instance, let’s say you find yourself at a behemoth rest stop and can’t remember the location of your car after indulging in the roadside cuisine. Your phone’s “key fob” app could tell you exactly where your car is — it could even let you check your oil and washer fluid remotely to see if your car is in shape to make it on the next of your leg of your trip. 

How is in-car technology playing a role in your current summer road trip? How do you want it to improve your future road trips? What’s your favorite road trip destination? (My personal favorite is Washington, DC
) Stay tuned here for Part II, and to our QNX_Auto Twitter account and Facebook page for weekly discussions on what 2017 has in store for your road trip.


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