Sifting through almost countless CES 2017 press releases, my curiosity was piqued by an interesting claim that seemed contrary to what I would have estimated to be the status quo. The release suggests that the in-car infotainment market is seeing a slow decline in factory-installed GPS navigation systems. It seems this trend is favouring smartphonebased app navigation. I would have guessed that with increased sophistication, improved user functionality and reductions in manufacturing costs, the opposite would have been the case. But according to Ford Motor Co. (more specifically), not so, and the company is listening.
After demonstrating its next-gen autonomous driving technology at CES 2017 Ford followed up with its latest thinking in in-car connectivity. With the in-app navigation trend in mind, Ford has developed a system allowing drivers to project the phone screen’s display on to the vehicle’s infotainment system. While MirrorLink may be effectively defunct and AppRadio continues – arguably lessened – the newer CarPlay, Android Auto and Kenwood’s ‘Air Mirroring’ via Wi-Fi – Alpine has a similar offering here – promise similar functionality to Ford’s own system.
“The take rate on navigation systems has been dropping considerably in recent years. Drivers have found it easier to enter their destination address on their phones, and rely on smartphones even if they are more distracting. Smartphones are so convenient,” said Ron Montoya, consumer advice editor at Edmunds, “I can see why people would not want to get navigation.”
Ford displayed its ‘Ford Fusion Hybrid’ research vehicle which featured a number of technologies such as self-driving hardware and software and integration with Amazon’s Alexa, which can control functions such as unlock doors, remote-start the car, order items online from the car and more.
In addition, an app developed in conjunction with Sygic is the means by which the infotainment system is able to display the smartphone’s screen. (Of course more sophisticated HUDs are the natural progression). This feature provides clear and large navigation information which, by preventing the distracting referencing to the phone and looking away from the road, results in a safer driving experience. According to Colin Bird, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive, about two-thirds of new car buyers who own a smartphone use it for navigation at least once a month. Consequently, embedded navigation buyer numbers have remained static and the factory navigation options – which can be priced from $500 to over triple that – have been taken up mainly in the luxury sector.
“The main draw of smartphone navigation apps, such as Google Maps and Apple Maps, is convenience” Bird said, “They provide realtime traffic information, can be accessed outside of the car and are usually free. The one downside is distraction with drivers looking at their phone while driving to read directions, which Ford addresses with the functionality of projecting the app in the car.”
Google’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay also allow drivers to use navigation apps on the vehicle screen, but users are limited to those proprietary apps without consideration for independent aftermarket options.
My iPhone 6s is loaded with the excellent Navigon app, among a couple of others, so here’s hoping that the Ford system trickles into its own vehicles soon and is soon after adopted by other automakers far and wide…