Part 1 discussed the challenges of coding/decoding audio and video content, digital rights management, and human machine interfaces in an automotive infotainment system.
The advantages of integration: Using the infrastructure of the car
A number of mobile devices on the market today offer navigation, provide connectivity and mobile telephony, and play audio and video content. Some of these devices have automotive mounting kits that enable them to be temporarily docked and used in the car. However, the usability of these devices when docked in the vehicle is somewhat limited compared to a fully-functional integrated infotainment system. Some of the advantages of using an integrated infotainment platform in the car include the ability to support multiple large displays, take full advantage of the vehicle's audio system while connecting and controlling one or more portable devices, and obtain information from the car itself to increase the usefulness of the system.
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One example: Multiple large displays
Since handheld devices are optimized for portability, they typically have small displays to make them as compact, light and energy efficient as possible, and they generally do not have the capability to connect to a larger external display. A 4-inch display is suitable for a pocket-sized navigation device that is used outside of the car. However, when that same device is mounted on the dashboard it can be several feet from the driver's eyes, diminishing the readability of the display. If the dash itself does not accommodate the docking of a portable device, the device might be mounted in a location that distracts the driver. In some states and municipalities, laws have been put in place restricting or banning the use of suction-cup mechanisms to attach portable devices to the car windshields and dashboards.
Some automotive manufactures are building vehicles with built-in high-resolution displays in the dash and for passengers in the rear seat. A 2-DIN dashboard slot can accommodate at least a 7-inch WVGA (854 x 480 pixel) display. Much larger headrest and drop-down displays are available for mounting in the rear seat.
An integrated infotainment system not only has such larger screens available, it also has the advantage of being able to send content simultaneously to multiple displays. For example, parents in the front seat of the car could insert a DVD in the in-dash player, use the front display to control the DVD volume and playback on the rear screens, and also interact with a navigation interface in the front dash. The system could also support an "are we there yet" feature whereby information from the navigation system is mapped on one or more rear-seat displays.
Passengers could even plot routes to different destinations or enter points-of-interest while the driver focuses on following the directions for the existing route. This kind of multi-zone control and multi-screen display functionality is typically not available on portable navigation devices.