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Automotive Infotainment Suppliers get Connected

If the CES show earlier this year was anything to go by, off-board connectivity is currently one of in-car infotainment’s hot topics.
A number of suppliers announced new connected solutions at the show, and connecting the vehicle to off-board content was a prominent theme in many conversations. The growing importance of connectivity was highlighted in a recent study from IMS Research entitled, “ In-Car Audio, Infotainment & Driver Information Systems”, which predicted that over 13 million new vehicles will be sold in 2017 with a connected platform.
According to the report author Jack Bergquist “A number of both OE and aftermarket suppliers unveiled new connected systems at the show. They included: Parrot’s new ‘cd-less’ head unit running on a platform based on Google Android; Hyundai’s new Blue Link system to be released on the Sonata and the Veloster, which utilises an embedded modem to offer a wide range of features putting them squarely in the running against Ford’s Sync platform and OnStar; and Visteon, with a whole host of connected platforms, displaying in-vehicle ‘apps’ running on both Genevi and Android platforms”.
The connected systems in the market, whether offered with the car or in the aftermarket, have already proved that connectivity is a clear differentiator to many consumers. It is interesting, though, that this connected revolution has yet made little mark in Europe. Obviously, there are a few high-end systems from the likes of BMW and Audi; but for the volume market, with the exception of Volvo’s emergency calling system, currently only TomTom offers an affordable connected package with their high-end PND systems.
Obviously, the looming but ever-moving goal of Ecall – the European initiative to mandate embedded modems in all new vehicles to provide collision alerts and assistance – is certainly having some impact. Coupled with the constant issue of high cellular roaming charges between countries on the continent, there are certainly some obstacles preventing manufacturers pushing forward with connected strategies with the vigour seen in North America.
The IMS Research report “ In-Car Audio, Infotainment & Driver Information Systems” shows the top three European tier-1 manufacturers of navigation head units as Harman, Continental, and Bosch Multimedia; combined, they hold almost 70% of the Western European OE navigation market. Each has the expertise to produce a connected system. It will be interesting to see which volume vehicle manufacturer in Europe takes the first step to introduce a wide-spread roll-out of a connected platform. Or will a new player such as TomTom be able to follow up the success of their systems for Renault and Fiat with a more integrated system – like the upcoming unit for Mazda – utilising their connected infrastructure and stealing the show?
And of course the question: What content is most popular among drivers?
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