GM, armed with its own SDK, is courting software developers to write unique automotive apps for its cars. Ford is offering its SDK for developers to write smartphone apps to be used in Ford cars.
Beyond the software platform API, to which developers can write apps to the automotive infotainment platform, automakers are now finding a new wrinkle in the In-Vehicle Infotainment apps platform -- namely, how to deal with human-machine interface (HMI) software on their infotainment platforms.
In addition to the switches, knobs, and buttons that automakers use in the current head unit, car OEMs now must handle new HMI such as speech, multi-touch, and gesture. As smartphones apps get integrated into the IVI platform, carmakers need to figure out how to tailor smartphone apps to auto HMI, run smartphone apps from the head unit, and control the head unit with automotive HMI.
Where the IHS analyst believes the biggest innovation might take place, however, is IVI apps, with the emergence of unique car-centric apps that can ultimately help differentiate OEMs' cars. Describing them as "unknown future apps," Juliussen told us that car OEMs will be banking on that opportunity.
To succeed with apps that run on IVI systems, carmakers will need an app store for downloads and future upgrades, said the analyst. He noted "a deployment strategy is wide open -- for OEMs or third-party developers."
Juliussen pointed out, of course, that the automotive industry has yet to resolve one key question: Do we need IVI apps if smartphones already have thousands of auto-related apps?
Juliussen answered with a resounding yes.
Existing smartphone apps include navigation software, traffic info, location-based services, Internet radio and digital music storage, communication apps (texting and email), social networking, telematics apps (remote control, vehicle location,) and entertainment.
While such smartphone apps will be welcome in any in-vehicle system, Juliussen explained, "Key in-vehicle apps [independent of smartphones] are also needed to provide a user interface that focuses the driver's hands and mental power on driving tasks... Some IVI apps use auto data for advanced functionality and needs to be built-in into an IVI system."
Asked exactly what sort of car-centric apps he's expecting, Juliussen said apps that can explain onboard diagnostics data, for example, would be great. When a check-engine light goes on, the driver wants an app that explains what's going on with the engine and what to do about it.
Future of auto applications.
(Source: IHS Automotive)
While the majority of smartphone apps, of course, can be used in the car, with apps integration software between head unit and smartphone, Juliussen believes that there will be persistent concerns over "driver distraction issues." Cars, he feels, need an auto HMI better than what a smartphone can provide.
Further, he warns: "Laws that limit driver distraction from mobile devices will grow."
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times