Every year technology becomes more of a force in the automotive space, and 2015 was a particularly prolific period. But as the three most significant developments of the past 12 months show, not all the changes were positive and some were downright disruptive. This trio of developments not only helped shape the past year in car tech, but will likely have ramifications into 2016 and beyond.
The same journalist drove Miller’s 2014 Jeep Cherokee on a St. Louis highway while the two hackers remotely played harmless tricks like cranking the stereo. But then the researches upped the ante and performed more dangerous intrusions such as disabling the transmission while a big rig bore down on the vehicle. The stunt prompted Fiat Chrysler to recall millions of its vehicles, and was followed by the introduction of a bill in the U.S. Senate designed to protect car buyers via a rating system based on a vehicle’s vulnerability to hacking, though it has not seen any action.
Several other high-profile hacks occurred within weeks, and the media attention and public concern caused automakers and suppliers to alter their connected car strategies—and hire some of the same researchers who caused the outcry—even though there hasn’t been one single case of hacking in the wild.
2. Tesla “Autopilot” Gets Oversoldreleased its Autopilot feature for the Model S via a software upgrade, some drivers didn’t get the message. This led to videos showing near-collisions from drivers who relied too much on the semiautonomous technology or did stupid and dangerous things such as shaving and eating breakfast while driving on the German autobahn and climbing into the back seat as a Model S barreled down a Dutch highway.
Lost in all the media hoopla is that Autopilot didn’t really add anything that other cars with semi-autonomous driving technology already have, except for an automatic lane-change feature. But it made clear that fully self-driving technology—or at least human drivers being prepared to handle letting go of the wheel—is still years away.
3. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Take OverApple CarPlay and Android Auto to finally appear in new vehicles—during which time some automakers expressed reservation about allowing the tech giants’ smartphone integration platforms into their dashboards and access to their data.
But when the two systems started to trickle into vehicles, they made a very compelling case for skipping automakers’ own infotainment systems with their kludgy interfaces and convoluted and sometimes costly connection schemes.
After having a Pioneer aftermarket head unit with CarPlay installed in one of my own vehicle and trying it in several new models from General Motors, I found that it sets a new standard for seamless automotive infotainment. In addition to largely superior music, phone, and messaging features, the Maps function is better than most built-in navigation systems since it uses the familiar pinch-to-zoom feature found on an iPhone (and that’s only now being implemented by automakers) and finds points of interest via a cloud-based search instead of a static onboard database. It also doesn’t require a separate data plan for the car, an OEM-specific gateway app that often requires registration, or both.
By doing away with such complexity and costs, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto could spell the death knell for OEM infotainment systems starting in 2016.
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