Scott Hanselman

My car ships with crapware

April 10, '12 Comments [97] Posted in Musings
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Toyota Entune In Dash computerThere are few things sadder than the software that ships with your car's in dash computer. it's 2012 and we have hybrids that can regenerate power from inertia but the car manufacturers haven't figured out that we just want the in-dash car screen to be powered by our smartphone. Sure, there's a few products in the space like the hobbyist-grade "Mimics" from MP3Car and some weird hybrids like AppRadio from Pioneer but they are all aftermarket and a little Frankenstein's Monster.

The Toyota Prius V that we just bought comes with a system called Entune. This is a little computer in the dash itself that includes Applications (yes, applications) like Bing Search, Pandora, Traffic and others. I've got a dual-core internet connected super-computer in my pocket and you can get one yourself for $99 at AT&T but my new car includes an underpowered, low-resolution, low-memory tiny computer of its own. It would have made far too much sense for them to spend the money on an awesome 6" or 7" screen that mirrored the phone.

Think about this. My car has Pandora. Yay, right?

To use Pandora on my new car I have to:

  • Register for an Entune account at http://myentune.com - This is a required step.
  • Link my existing Pandora account with my Entune account. Note that this can't be done on your phone. Gotta use a PC. Didn't work on the iPad either.
  • Pair my phone with my car using Bluetooth.
  • Have a phone that supports Tethering via Bluetooth
  • Pay for a tethering account from my phone provider (Personal Hotspot from AT&T, for example)
  • Perform a second pairing to authorize the car to use my phone for Internet
  • Enter my Entune password into my car using their touch screen. It then uses my phone to talk to Entune (I hope it's using SSL!)
  • Run Pandora on my car which uses Bluetooth to my phone over tethering which uses 3G/4G to talk to the internet.
  • Send a check to Rube Goldberg to pay for royalties given this is a complete rip-off of his best contraptions.

Seriously friends, drink that in for a moment. My car has a crappy computer that runs a version of Pandora that talks to my phone to use its internet to get music from Pandora.

Here's a thought. Why don't I just run Pandora on my phone?

Do you think that my car will ever get a new version of Pandora? Do I need to get on the app update treadmill with my car's appstore?

Will my Entune system update? No.

Well, let's see. The Entune FAQ says that I should "check back often for updates."

Check back often for updates? Ok, so the answer is NO. This Pandora application will never be updated, ever. I have a pale shadow of a tablet PC in my new car that requires tethering from my super-powered and often updated internet connected phone with a thriving app store. It would have made far too much sense to use the phone as the heart of this system.

In ten years my car will still be running. AOL was hot 10 years ago. Will Pandora even exist in 10 years?

Will Toyota put out a user-serviceable update to my car's system to remove the Pandora icon or will it remain on my dash for eternity, a lonely symbol of a dead company reminding me each ignition of a bubble long past?

The phone connectivity ecosystem is so messy right now that there are actually wizards to walk you through the complexities. Toyota's Connect site will show you which of the 150 features their in-dash Entune system will support given your phone and car and phone carrier. We're doing Cartesian products here to find out if I can listen to streaming audio?

This is a ridiculous table that shows that my iphone supports SOME of the features of my car, but not all

Here's the final irony. I have the latest and greatest and fanciest fruit-based smartphone with the latest hardware and software. It doesn't support 30% of the things my car does. In fact, no phone does. I was thrilled to see that the car supports text messaging, a sync'ed calendar and more (when stopped.) Does my phone support that? No. A Blackberry does though. And I'm sure they'll be around in the future.

May I just point out, as a final hilarious indignity that this system has won awards?

I know this is ranty and if you worked on this system and show up in the comments, forgive me. I'm not trying to pick on the trench developers of these things but rather the architects/designers/planners. I wish they'd show some foresight and create future-proofed systems that use and embrace open specs and protocols. VNC anyone? The fact that I can place calls and stream Bluetooth audio in this car is great. But it'd be nice if with all this dancing back and forth and tethering and pairing that the maps and navigation would just use Google or Bing maps for always updated high-res, high quality maps. Do they? Nope, that would make too much sense.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:28:25 PM UTC
I went to a conference earlier in the year that was discussing this very topic. Here is my blog entry on it:

http://blog.somewhatabstract.com/2012/02/12/the-connected-vehicle/

I agree with what you've said and would like to reassure you that the automotive industry is working on exactly what you want.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:33:35 PM UTC
That would be amazing! I don't want my car to have an app store. They should realize that they can't compete. Be a pass-through to a larger, more powerful, more interestingn ecosystem. Don't claim that you'll update your apps in my car regularly. That is just setting me up for disappointment. The same disappointment of the "DVD Map Update."

I'm looking forward to it. I just think it's sad that it's 2012 and cars are second only to medical devices in their lack of innovation.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:37:57 PM UTC
i do NOT WANT the automotive industry to work on it. just provide the dumb interface my pocket sized super computer can plug in to and mirror as scott said. and it's not like they have to look far for inspiration either. a $100 kenwood is vastly superior to anything i've seen in a car recently.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:38:10 PM UTC
I am afraid that I went through all of this

Then I just decided to use my car as a glorified bluetooth headset to just stream music off my "fruit-based" phone.

Such a stupid solution. I need to either get my phone out of my pocket (while parked, of course) or mount it on the dash.

This is 2012

I've been using this solution for 4 years. Seriously.

Same solution to listen to music on my phone for 4 years.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:39:32 PM UTC
It is definitely sad that it has taken this long for auto-manufacturers to realise that clinging to proprietary systems was a mistake. Unfortunately, driver distraction laws and the fact that the phone interface isn't suitable for a car have made it difficult to integrate. I suspect that the Windows 8 appx concept where different devices can be targeted by the same app may be an avenue to investigate further for resolving some of these issues. That way, your phone could serve the app, but adapted for in-car use.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:41:05 PM UTC
Mirroring is not a viable solution with regards to safety and driver distraction.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:43:12 PM UTC
says who?
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:47:29 PM UTC
The stats on accidents caused by mobile phone usage, driver distraction legislation and the fact that mobile interfaces aren't usable while driving.

The focus of automotive manufacturers right now is how to expose the car as a platform for smartphone apps to interact with, while not adding to driver distraction or risking safety.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:53:09 PM UTC
Is MirrorLink what you're looking for?
http://youtu.be/6jTyVPLZuZI
Mike
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:57:15 PM UTC
made by alpine.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 8:58:33 PM UTC
"Anytme a website says "check back often for updates" you're GUARANTEED it's a dead website and a dead product."

You killed me there. So true
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:00:50 PM UTC
MirrorLink was discussed at the industry conference on this very problem and it was deemed by many to be inadequate because a smartphone interface was not designed for use by the driver of a vehicle. I think there's a better solution that treats a vehicle's inputs and outputs as peripherals to a smartphone application, allowing apps to respect the specialized environment of a metal box hurtling at 70mph down a concrete strip.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:05:04 PM UTC
My CX-9 is bluetooth enabled so I pair it to my iPhone and play music, youtube videos, or whatever else I want... anything that plays sound through the iPhone will come through the CX-9 speakers.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:09:56 PM UTC
Coming soon:
"Installing Windows 8 in the Toyota Prius V" by Scott Hanselman.


Not everyone is like us, many are happy to have that 'super computer' in the car.

We use this technology for years, some people still do not know it and believes it is innovative. Toyota's engineers thinks it's innovative, too.
Francisco Ruiz
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:14:03 PM UTC
The Mini Cooper does what you want...
(with an iPhone)

Mini Cooper technology
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:17:36 PM UTC
Brad - Yes, I am selling my CX-9 actually.

Mike and Jeff - I think that MirrorLink with special car-friendly apps and a protocol for shutting off functionality if we're moving would be 100% better than what we have now.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:17:36 PM UTC
@Scott: not all medical devices lack innovation. Check http://www.brainlab.com and their products - they make some mean and lean touch-3D-Matrix-style totally hi-tech stuff, basically making it possible to plant someone a new brain from an iPad (see http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iplan-net/id461391744?mt=8).
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:22:11 PM UTC
I have a "Technology" trim line Acura TL. It's still kind of a joke. I'm satisfied just to be able to link it to my phone and control the next/prev/volume functions.

Frankly, I'm surprised you thought it might actually work. It sounds like cars are where PDAs were 12 years ago. I suspect it's going to be a long time yet before this is worked out. By then, you'll be shocked (SHOCKED!) that it doesn't work with version 8 of your electric pants. ;)

Entertaining rant, all the same.
Dave
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:28:57 PM UTC
I agree - a MirrorLink-style solution that respects the vehicle platform would be much better than the current state of affairs.

My big takeaway from the Automotive Megatrends conference earlier this year was that automotive manufacturers recognise the need for progress and openness, but want to ensure any solution is safe and compatible with the long development cycle that vehicles undergo. Any increase in driver distraction will not be accepted by legislators or manufacturers.

In addition, there are many arguments and experiments to be undertaken when it comes to monetizing the in-car experience because auto manufacturers don't want to hand it all to Apple, Microsoft, Google, Nokia or any other outside party.

As consumers, that last part doesn't really concern us as we just want it to work, but it is an important thing to resolve if we're going to get what we want.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:29:52 PM UTC
By the same token, I've never understood why car audio systems fail to include a simple 1/8" audio input jack. Why do I have to use a radio transmitter to listen to my MP3 player when my vehicle was built in the last decade?
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:31:43 PM UTC
Yeah, I have a Ford Fiesta, and the console computer is utter crap. It's slow, annoying, unintuitive, never updates, and barely knows how to talk to my smartphone. Sometimes it will wedge and I have to actually pull the fuse to reboot it (unsurprising, since it's a Microsoft product).

I disagree with your point about the maps, though. Having recently been out in the boonies with no cell coverage, I can tell you that I don't want to have to have an internet connection in order to be able to find my way around. Maybe something loaded with OpenStreetMaps and a GPS receiver would be nice, though. At least then you are guaranteed high-quality and frequently-updated data.
Nathan
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:38:14 PM UTC
There's a recent successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the Devium Dash (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/devium/dash-the-smart-phone-car-stereo), which is basically an aftermarket stereo that lets you plug your phone into your dashboard and uses it as the UI.

On the downside, it's still aftermarket and thus not quite as slick as the built-in factory versions, and you're also using your relatively small phone screen. However, the upside is that it's basically a mount+power+fm tuner+amplifier for your phone, and nothing more. The apps and connectivity of your phone (or non-connected MP3 player) provide the real power.

One neat thing is the base unit and the face plates are separate -- in otherwords, you buy the base unit, and then you buy the faceplate that fits your particular phone, and you can swap it out later if you, for example, buy a device from a different brand.

If I didn't already have a Pioneer nav unit in my car, I would have bought one of these.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:56:57 PM UTC

I am not aware of any more unlimited cell phone plans. So using Pandora makes no sense if it's going to quickly use up your bandwidth quota.

Using technology which makes little sense just because it's available makes little sense!

Just use a hookable MP3 which has thousands of songs. If you're tired of the songs, recycle the collection.

Stay simple. Technology which complicates your life is not technology.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:59:18 PM UTC
Just take public transit... then you can use the supercomputer phone you have in your hand without worrying about causing death and mayhem to others ;)
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 9:59:56 PM UTC
I was JUST talking about this yesterday. My friend bought a new KIA Optima and it's pretty slick. He's pretty sure the in-dash computer screen is just borrowed from whatever phone display was already being manufactured in bulk and had the right price. But why does it need an internal 700MB flash drive for MP3s? Why does it need any software at all?

I was saying that all the car really needs is a Remote Desktop connection to the iPhone that I already have in my pocket, especially for things like music and navigation. My BMW comes with a DVD for all the navigation maps and it's from 2007 and just sucks (other than that the car is fantastic of course ;). I'd rather have it use the iPhone's Maps app, or Navigon. This would also work perfectly for Pandora, etc. And I see no reason why I should pay for a 3G data plan for my car *and* my phone.

All the pieces are there, someone just has to plug them together correctly!
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:02:17 PM UTC
It's somewhat ironic that you chose the 10 year mark. That's when the longest warranty on Prius batteries expires.

The fancy features are meant to be fancy for only so long. My driving a 11 year old GM doesn't help GM's bottom line, nor did the 20+ year old car I drove before it. They aren't in the business of selling to people who drive their cars until nothing is left but a pile of rust, they sell to the people who change cars as often as we change phones. The average person buys from the sucker...I mean consumer who buys from the dealership every few years.

Due to shortages, the Prius is something of an exception to this, but as Prii become more common, the manufacturer knows they just have to worry about today's shiny features, not how long those features last.
Merennulli
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:02:21 PM UTC
The bandwidth issue was a point for discussion at the Automotive Megatrends event too. The fact is, the mobile backbone can't provide the bandwidth required for the kinds of vehicle connectivity that the automotive industry predicts consumers will want. That's a big problem.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:15:58 PM UTC
Auto-manufacturers make lots of money off the used car market and actively seek to produce vehicles with a lifespan of at least 10 years. This was a "must have" feature for any connectivity solution as discussed by industry leaders at Automotive Megatrends.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:21:36 PM UTC
Not to mention, if this crappy, out of date system ever needs repair it'll probably cost $800 or more...
Andy
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 10:26:57 PM UTC
"By the same token, I've never understood why car audio systems fail to include a simple 1/8" audio input jack. Why do I have to use a radio transmitter to listen to my MP3 player when my vehicle was built in the last decade?"

I told a Honda/Acura VP at an airport exactly this once. I said, "Everyone under the age of 35 (back then) has their entire music collection on a box in their pocket. If you add a 2¢ phono jack, you will make millions because your competition doesn't have it.

He said, "It's too late for this year. The designs are all done."

I said, "You need to find a way to get it done. I'm telling you that it's a feature everyone wants."

Sure enough, most of the new Hondas/Acuras DID come with 1/8" phono jacks. And Honda overtook Toyota for the first time.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:05:24 PM UTC
From Tesla about the upcoming Model S, "The gem of the interior is the 17” touchscreen. It puts rich content at your fingertips and provides wi-fi or mobile connectivity."
http://www.teslamotors.com/models/features#/interior

I have a picture of the Model S' screen from the Detroit Car Show (NAIAS) this year. It shows a "3G with bars" icon, a Google Map and the front page of the New York Times nicely stacked on the screen which I suppose means that a data plan is required to navigate. But updates should be possible.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012 11:55:48 PM UTC
I do agree mirroring my phone would be ideal. I have to say that my Audi - A6 - current model year did do some things right…

High Quality Screen
Navigation is all Google Maps (it has it's own SIM card) - navigation can be on the main screen or moved to the screen in the instrument cluster - actually most things can
Two SD card slots and a hard drive - anything you put in you can copy to any of these
It plays movies off the HD or SD slots
Everything works while the car is in motion (except the movies - which is still lame but acceptable)
Wifi in the car
Very good Sirius/XM interface
Very good bluetooth - audio streaming, siri integration, phone calls
It's the first in car hands free that people can't tell that I'm in the car

They didn't try to be too fancy - they gave it some decent features and made them classy and work well.

The best feature of all though - I press a button and the screen disappears into the dash and all the technology goes away.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:11:00 AM UTC
The average age of passenger cars in the US is more than 11 years. How many of you are using a tablet, computer or phone that is 11 years old?

If Toyota had installed an awsome 6" or 7" screen that mirrors your phone, what is the likelihood that it will work with whatever phone you will be using three years from now?
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:14:19 AM UTC
I love my Microsoft SYNC with bluetooth in my 2010 Expedition. Just got m mom a 2012 Fusion which has the same and loving it. I agree car manufactures are way behind on the technology front. Even stupid things like a 1/8 plug should be standard. You would think stupid things lie Lind spot and rear-view sensors and rear-view camera would be standard now days!
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:20:44 AM UTC
I just bought a car with similar functionality. After spending a frustrating afternoon trying to get everything sync'ed up. I finally just decided to stop using it. Now I just plug my phone into the aux audio jack and use the pandora app on my phone. Works like a charm and I have a better UI than the car's circa 2000'ish UI.





Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:53:55 AM UTC
Less than half of the people buying cars have smartphones in their pockets at this time. So the MFGs currently need to develop automotive crapware so those feature phonies out there don't feel left out. Us geeks pay the price.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:33:17 AM UTC
I've got an aftermarket Pioneer head unit which is perfect. I plug my iPhone in with a typical USB cable, and either play music directly from the music app, or stream directly from a number of other internet enabled apps I use. It has bluetooth built in so I can take phone calls on the move, and a totally horrible feature that can read my sms's on the head units screen. It's as close to pass-through as I could want.

Unfortunately, aftermarket headunits just aren't possible with many newer cars, as they are beginning to build the sound system directly into the dash which makes it very hard to replace.

Get out of the way. Provide a screen, bluetooth, a USB connection that supports all the major smart phone brands. Ditch the CDs. It'll look better, feel better, work better.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:39:04 AM UTC
I'm really happy with my Infiniti. I can play Pandora or the music on my iPhone/iPod through Bluetooth without any extra steps.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:36:09 AM UTC
My android has an optional car dock unit. Then my smartphone is safely operated by the driver while driving. It has the same big icons as your new car and only allows certain apps. Those apps get updated in the android market.

If the car just had a better location to mount my car dock then all would be perfect.
michael lang
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 6:18:34 AM UTC
haha, totally! The boss of my sister recently bought a new car (VW Passat) with inbuilt hands free kit ... turns out the only platform that is really supported is the one that non-smart nokia phones use -> facepalm -.-
Franky
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 6:20:06 AM UTC
PS: point being: some ppl in the industry obviously don't even manage to get a stupid hands-free kit done right, which every aftermarket-dealer being able to do so for under a hundred bucks ...
Franky
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:21:22 AM UTC
If you want a connected system you have a lot security considerations to deal with. For me, I really don't want a Windows OS or something in my car. I want something simple with separated TomTom and media stuff. Imagine that you need to install security patches and stuff automatically! [No pun intended.]
Edward
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:57:08 AM UTC
If you think about the development cycles of cars, how long powerful smartphones have been around and how long a car manfucturer must support their sold cars, it should mark this rant as unfair. toyota will still support your current prius at a time where your current phone has already been recycles 3 times, bluetooth 4.5 is already out 4 years and the fruit people decided that the next big thing are augmented reality glasses.

Signed, ex MechEng, now Software dev.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:02:31 AM UTC
Before I got my WP7 phone I had an iPhone and a car kit from TomTom. I could sit in my car, stick the iPhone in the car kit and it just worked. No connecting separate cables, Bluetooth connection automatically enabled and connected, the iPhone "knew" that it is in the car. That was a PERFECT solution!!! (the car kit is compatible with all iPhone models from 2g to 4s).
Now I have a Windows Phone 7. Each phone model has usb connector on the other side and place. For example Nokia and my Omnia 7 have it on the top. There is no standard car kit for WP7 phones. I had to buy some general car phone holder. Each time I place the phone inside it, I also have to connect the usb power cable (remember, the usb is on the top, so the cable stick from the top of the phone and goes down to the cigaret lighter). Then I have to press a button on my Bluetooth receiver to initiate a connection to the phone. That is 3 steps for WP7 vs. 1 step for iPhone. But that's not all. The WP7 does not even know that it is in a car now. After some time it switches the display off while I'm listening for a music or audiobook. WHY??? (iPhone just dims the display a little) I have to switch it on again and enter my pin. And no, I DON'T stop the car each time I have to do this. And yes, I live in Germany where you DON'T have speed limits on highways! The WP7 is a killer :)
I'm glad Scott, that you have touched this problem. And I'm glad you work at Microsoft. If I would be in your situation, I would go to the WP Team and ask them what have they thought as they designed the phone. And ask what can be done to change this. I think car manufacturers can't connect to the phone, because the phone simply doesn't allow this. I hope you are in a position to change this :)

p.s. The licensing of Bing maps and Google maps does not allow to use maps in turn by turn navigation apps.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:18:37 AM UTC
This reminds me when I bought my Prius three years ago: The CD player has a selectable track list which, of course, only works when the car is not moving.

Doesn't anyone see the irony here? The UI I am left with while driving is more dangerous than the one they disabled: Now I have to select next, wait, see / listen for right track, select next until found.

The tracklist would distract me for a shorter time than it takes the CD player to move to the next song.

But I don't really care, as I don't use the CD player anymore. I replaced it with a hi-tech mini-jack cable :-D
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:29:10 AM UTC
Use one of these
http://www.cartft.com/catalog/enthusiast
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:30:54 AM UTC
in fact, smartphone are needed in whole aspect, include automotive.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:49:33 AM UTC
I agree 110% worse feature of the Prius V I just want my Car to be a dumb terminal to whatever smart phone I have at a time. Lifetime of my car 10 years. Lifetime of my phone 2 years. Who should wear the UX hat do you think. I am interested in seeing if they implemented a way to detect updates. You know phone home?

Also by making it just a screen that you tether to a device it is hard to prosecute car companies for idiots who use there products abusively while they drive. Just seems to make sense.

Also cool to find out Scott bought one :)
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 11:56:54 AM UTC
My new 2012 Ford Focus just got an update to the latest version of Sync. It's prettier then the last version but has a hard time remember what radio station I was last using. Ford has been promising an SDK for developers for years and has been nearly dead and silent on the matter. I do enjoy using the bluetooth stream for youtube/pandora, Google Maps voice nav and the hands free calling with my unlimited data plan.

Personally I hope someone figures out how to put Android/Ubuntu on it though :D
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 12:38:21 PM UTC
"cars are second only to medical devices in their lack of innovation" - from Scott's comment.

... you're wrong. Car manufacturers innovate, only not in IT. You won't believe the number of innovations that have taken place under your Toyota's hood.

You've expressed your programmer's view on this and I generally agree, but you can't expect them to be fast in something that is not their main feature, something they don't fully understand.

Eventually they'll have to understand it - pretty much like the music industry already has to. But I'd much rather pay for a car with a perfect engine, than for one with Pandora.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 1:47:38 PM UTC
I got an idea, when you are driving your car, just drive. Don't look at a tiny screen, just drive.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:09:36 PM UTC
Thankfully Android powered car stereos are just around the corner. I've heard of 3G enabled units (with 4G/LTE presumably not far behind), but I'm also hoping for units that I can simply tether to my smartphone.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 2:54:44 PM UTC
My Corolla 2010 has an "aux" jack that works good with shuffle and other similar 1/8" plugs. Bluetooth takes care of my iPhone being used over the speaker system. However it won't play itunes format, only .mp3s.

John A Davis
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 5:07:39 PM UTC
is definitely sad that it has taken this long for auto-manufacturers to realise that clinging to proprietary systems was a mistake. Unfortunately, driver distraction laws and the fact that the phone interface isn't suitable for a car have made it difficult to integrate. f you want a connected system you have a lot security considerations to deal with. For me, I really don't want a Windows OS or something in my car. I want something simple with separated TomTom and media stuff.gratisinternet
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 9:30:34 PM UTC
My in dash computer (in a very popular car) intermittently crashes out, which is infuriating as you can't make calls through it. I also know it will never be upgraded so it will randomly crash for ever. If only you could upgrade/rollback the software in your car over the years.
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 10:48:23 PM UTC
I think this boils down to the same issue that we have had with products in the U.S. for decades. As consumers we are very willing to make trade-offs and purchase products based more on emotion than analysis.

If these are such important issues for you Scott, why did you buy the car?

Why didn't you say "This in dash computer is crap. I am not buying this pile of bat guano?"

This is the curse of the 80% solution. Why should 80% be good enough?

To quote Nancy Reagan, "Just say no."
Thursday, April 12, 2012 1:40:06 AM UTC
Hey Scott,

One thing I really liked the look of is this stereo system on kickstarter that all it does is lets you plug your phone in to act as your stereo: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/devium/dash-the-smart-phone-car-stereo

That's awesome to me, because my phone does a lot of what I want from one of these systems anyway - music, mapping, etc.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:08:35 AM UTC
; Anytme a website says "check back often for updates" you're GUARANTEED it's a dead website and a dead product.

Actually, I think if you send your car to repair, they'll also update the system software for you. The computer is shared between the car's system and that little touch screen. I wish to believe the manufacturer is trying to make more use for you for the CPU in it. :P
Cheong
Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:28:54 AM UTC
I wouldn't expect anything but a "premium" make to put something decent into the car dashboard. BMW's iDrive for example is brilliant with its little control knob.

I'm just afraid they will replace it with a touch screen and screw it up.
Blah
Thursday, April 12, 2012 6:45:59 AM UTC
Here's where it came from:
http://www.qnx.com/news/pr_4459_1.html
and the BMW iDrive (youtube link):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QgUHhj6t5Eg

Just about every in car system is built on the QNX stack. This is the same company that RIM bought so they could throw away the Blackberry OS for something that would work.

All of which goes to show that a great (or at least competent) framework and toolset still enables someone to build crapware.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 1:58:34 PM UTC
I have a 2012 Fusion with SYNC. It has AppLink, which is able to do just as this post suggests: control the Pandora app on your phone through the vehicle's voice and steering wheel controls. Though it doesn't mirror the display on the phone, it does work pretty well to access your Pandora content.
stevetechie
Thursday, April 12, 2012 2:46:53 PM UTC
I work in infotainment, specifically with bluetooth connectivity. As far as the bluetooth features go you should be mad at Apple and Google for not implementing newer versions of the bluetooth spec in their device OSes. RIM is the only company that has actually kept on top of the bluetooth spec.

Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:09:55 PM UTC
Huh. I got a nice Clarion stereo for my car which has a USB port in the back. I plugged my iPhone into it. The phone said, "There is software which will help you with this device. Do you want to download it?" so I said, "Yes" and the thing downloaded Pandora. The stereo understands the iPhone, in terms of letting me control the iPod bit of it through the car stereo, letting me make hands-free calls and, when the phone is running Pandora, letting me control the Pandora app through the stereo. It basically acts as a front end to the iPhone. And if I don't happen to have the iPhone, it'll act as a normal stereo with a CD player, a radio and so on. Now, how hard is that? I have a feeling that most of the crappy stereos like this one in the Prius represent an attempt by the manufacturers to be rather too clever for their own good... meanwhile, for $200 I bought what is basically a perfect stereo: it handles the phone perfectly, and in the meanwhile, doesn't have any ideas of its own and doesn't get in the way.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 4:52:29 PM UTC
Is it wrong that I don't want that sort of computer in my car? Does that make me a Luddite?

I accept that a modern car needs an embedded computer to monitor the various systems, and that it might need to display information or warnings to me on the dashboard. But anything more complicated just seems like a Very Bad Idea.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:33:45 PM UTC
There are a couple things that must be kept in mind. First, the development cycle for an automobile is much grater than that of a cell phone. That nice UI that you're talking about? Expect to see it in 3-5 years. Secondly, because an automobile's dash computer is integrated into the vehicle's network, which controls pretty much everything in your car, the system has to adhere to and pass the same gauntlet of testing that that the rest of the vehicle's systems must pass. That's to make sure little silly things never happen, like running a search on Bing doesn't deploy your airbag, or checking your mileage doesn't disable the brakes. Yes, a nuisance, but someone in the big chair thinks these little things are important.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 7:44:16 PM UTC
I have to say, on my Android phone's browser I was able to link Pandora to my Entune account just fine. Granted, it wasn't a mobile friendly webpage (bad idea for something they intend to use with mobile phones), but it definitely worked.
Thursday, April 12, 2012 8:24:28 PM UTC
But you bought it anyway! You, who place more value on such a feature than 99% of all car buyers, bought the car anyway. If it's not important enough to affect your buying decision, then it's unimportant. I should be mad at you for reinforcing Toyota's decision to install such crapware.
Friday, April 13, 2012 12:53:57 PM UTC
Hey Scott,
Just be patient, in a few month, you'll have a far better product in your car for listening to music : Radionomy.
It's really better than Pandora.
We are working hard to provide you the best mobile music experience.

Regards,

MisterG
Friday, April 13, 2012 3:45:54 PM UTC
Can't we just have someone jail-break it please? :)
Friday, April 13, 2012 3:52:54 PM UTC
I love my bluetooth-enabled Toyota Corolla. I listen to audiobooks and Spotify in the car, that's it. Maps would be the next best thing since right now I have to stop, search Google Maps and then start up Google Navigation (which is awesome).
Friday, April 13, 2012 6:46:48 PM UTC
The missus and I have rented a lot of cars over the past few years because it's a small price to pay not to have to put a few hundred miles (each way) on our frequent jaunts to Chicago on our family car. Anyway, I've been most impressed with the Ford Sync system because it pairs with my phone and plays audio right off my phone. MP3s podcasts, everything. Plus the other handsfree stuff you'd expect.

Doing research, I've found that the Fusion is a pretty nice car and we're considering making that our next purchase.
Mike Brown
Friday, April 13, 2012 10:22:28 PM UTC
Mercedes:"Next year's new tier of models[B1] will have an entry-level feature, called Push UI, that will allow owners not ready to pay for mBrace2 to plug in their phones and use some of their own apps on the car's built-in display."

"Automakers may, however, be following Generation Y into hazardous territory. In December, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a ban on all use of mobile devices while driving, including hands-free devices. One board member compared the use of phones in cars to driving while intoxicated."

Mercedes Announces Plans to Pursue Generation Y: http://www.technologyreview.com/business/39473/
RainerT
Saturday, April 14, 2012 8:14:39 PM UTC
Will Pandora still get updates in ten years? I dunno. Will (for instance) Silverlight?

jmurphy
jmurphy
Sunday, April 15, 2012 10:59:10 AM UTC
A car should really just have a tablet dock. One with a plastic insert that can be made to fit any form factors up to a bit more than current iPads and 10 inch androids, and where the car side is the same for every car from that manufacturer for a few years at least, and that offers links to the car. The Ford/Hyundai App for Android and iPad offers everything car-specific.
Jasper Janssen
Monday, April 16, 2012 5:11:46 AM UTC
Come on guys, not everyone in the world has tablet or smartphone.
Vadim
Monday, April 16, 2012 9:16:45 PM UTC
How would Infiniti charge me $250 per navigation upgrade if I had the option to just use Google maps?

It's not a case of why don't they enable integration, but rather why would they?
Sunday, April 22, 2012 5:06:09 PM UTC
I was just thinking something similar to this other day. What car manufacturers should do is license the Android OS, as it will run on just about anything, and start building a basic 7-10" tablet into the dash on trim levels that are planned to have this stuff. The cars can have a wifi connection for when at home, or somewhere not driving, and can be tethered/linked to a smartphone when driving, for access to pandora, maps, calendar, etc.

If done properly, the specs of the built in tablet can run the OS for years to come, as there is a little more lee-way in what can be crammed into a car dashboard, than into a hand sized device.
Monday, April 23, 2012 3:05:18 AM UTC
A tethering plan is not required to use Entune. If you don't believe me, you can see:
http://priuschat.com/forums/prius-v-audio-electronics/101939-does-entune-require-you-have-tethering-plan.html

> I wish they'd show some foresight and create future-proofed systems that use and embrace open specs and protocols.

Unfortunately there are no "open specs and protocols" that all carriers and phone makers embrace. Especially iPhone.
Mellie Mel
Friday, April 27, 2012 5:03:33 PM UTC
Prius iV -> 7" + apple TV

Prius gV -> 7" + micro HDMI port (sure cables sux)

Lazyness is underrated...
Andres Gaitan
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 4:38:26 PM UTC
I am in the minority I suppose, because I do NOT want 'my phone' to be the center of my car's brain! Some people do not have 'smart phones' - nor do they care to have them; nor do they want to connect them - aside from 'bluetooth in-car pairing' for ANSWERING THE PHONE HANDS-FREE, which is the ONLY thing you should be doing - and really should not even be doing that! Because you are the "ME" generation - it's all about "ME" (meaning - YOU, of course), when there was a time when NOBODY HAD A PHONE IN A CAR, AND GUESS WHAT?! WE SURVIVED! And FEWER PEOPLE DIED! I've been hit THREE TIMES BY ARSE-HOLES on cell phones, so all I need is MORE arse-holes with MORE options to distract them.

Seriously, if the car makers want to make the interface, make it 'separate', but able to connect to the smart phone for some things - like i said: answering calls hands-free via bluetooth.

AND NO, IT WON'T USE A SEPARATE PHONE/DATA PLAN, IT WILL USE YOUR *CURRENT* PHONE/DATA plan! (that is, IF the car makers of the in-dash technology have any common sense).

I do agree that the 1/8 audio/accessory jack is a *MUST HAVE*! Scr3w the proprietary Apple iPod connector! That is crapware! Just a 1/8 rca audio/accessory jack is all that is needed; and has BEEN NEEDED, for the longest time! I asked car makers why this was not a feature, and they said they wanted to limit what the driver could do and force them to use the in-dash units and so forth. Sounds like crapware to me.

As for the person WHINING ABOUT WP7 PHONE - Well DUH, how long have they been out, compared to the iPhone? NOT LONG, eh? So yeah, give it time, and then you will have a super-dock like you did for your iPhone - that is on YOU for not researching first, then changing over.

Nope, no cell phone needs to be in a car - period - ever!
Hands-free or otherwise. They all should be completely banned, JAMMED and DISABLED in cars (which is another thing being worked on).

I am as conservative as they come, but I do NOT believe that you cannot LIVE WITHOUT A CELL CALL FOR 30 MINUTES TO AN HOUR THAT IT TAKES YOU TO DRIVE TO HOME OR WORK! And no, not even for LONG trips. Need to make a call? Pull your arse over and STOP, then TURN ON YOUR CELL PHONE, make the call, then TURN IT OFF BEFORE TURNING ON THE IGNITION - PERIOD!

You want THIS COUNTRY'S (U.S.) ECONOMIC WOES SOLVED?
Just FINE ($$) EVERY SINGLE ARSE TALKING ON THE CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING! Suddenly, no more national debt!
And still I see people not just TALKING BUT *TEXTING* while driving! Don't get me started!
Jeff
Wednesday, May 09, 2012 7:27:02 PM UTC
Hey Jeff, would you mind staying out of my way while I text and drive? Thx.

I've used Sync, and was not impressed. Contrast to current Hyundais, where everything is simple, and just works. There's a 1/8" jack, and a USB port (that will also control an iWhatever, which part I can happily ignore). Easy to pair and easy to use.

Andy
Wednesday, May 30, 2012 1:00:23 AM UTC
Hi Scott, I found your article via Mark Ramsey and I love it! I'll definitely be visiting more often.

But alas, I'm confused...you have the latest and greatest smartphone, but it DOESN'T support text messages or calendars?

Cheers!

Andrew
Andrew
Tuesday, August 21, 2012 5:01:50 PM UTC
I have the exact same system in my car, except the thing won't pair with my phone via bluetooth, nor anyone else's phone who I've tried it with... And to think there's even more effort ahead of me if I were to get it working thus far for myself!
Monday, September 03, 2012 1:43:54 PM UTC
The original story at the top commented that all the features work with a BlackBerry.

Guess what?......

The Toyota system was made by a company called QNX. QNX is the leader in developping OS systems for entire automotive industry. QNX is owned by RIM. RIM is BlackBerry.



Martin
Monday, November 05, 2012 4:30:39 AM UTC
Couldn't agree more.

Just a dumb interface that can connect to a smart phone is all that's needed. Had I understood how crappy it would be before purchasing car with entunes, I would have left it out and looked for alternate systems that would just be a dumb interfaces.
harish chander
Thursday, December 06, 2012 6:38:44 AM UTC
"Does my phone support that? No."

Blame The Fruit Company for taking five years to support Bluetooth's Message Access Profile.
Stef
Sunday, May 12, 2013 5:30:19 AM UTC
What if when you connect your phone to the car it managed the calls but disabled everything else. I'd feel safer on the roads immediately.

maybe even auto replied to text messages "im driving at the moment"
russ burns
Sunday, May 12, 2013 9:01:47 AM UTC
This stream has been around for a while but one thing still to consider is the rental car - I may rent two or three a week in various countries (and laws and languages). If autoexperts are still reading here, business travelers need generic compatibility. Primarily phone and GPS. The rest is gravy. Thx.
Katie
Sunday, May 12, 2013 2:19:29 PM UTC
Totally agreed. My $99 Windows Smart Phone is smarter than my $75,000 brand new truck. Sad.
Sunday, May 12, 2013 4:46:07 PM UTC
My Lexus CT200h has worked flawlessly, but then, I guess I would expect it to. I even got a laugh when it read me an instant message from my wife that ended with "Smiley with tongue sticking out".
Monday, May 13, 2013 12:53:49 PM UTC
Absolutely agree, have been saying this to friends & family for years.
Walt Daniels
Monday, May 13, 2013 2:23:52 PM UTC
AOL was hot 13-15 years ago. In 2003, it was already a phenomena of the past. But I get your point even if your timing is a bit off.
Ryan
Monday, May 13, 2013 3:29:54 PM UTC
So.. you have to have a smartphone in order to use the Internet-enabled apps of the car? Yeah, exactly, what's the point. It makes the car into the most complex, difficult to use cellphone cradle in history.
Pat
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 3:42:35 PM UTC
I agree with the 1 or 2 voices that are trying to tell all of you that the NTSB and state legislators are going to ban / outlaw /bar any devices in the cars. They have become the leading cause of distracted driving, which is the major cause of accidents.
Just my 2 cents.
Bob
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 8:43:37 AM UTC
Scott,

OK, so your solution is to use your phone's UI instead, do you really think THAT will be unchanged 10 years from now?

Imagine if they had done that for iPhone 1, your car would just have a big useless screen now.

Further, would they have to make different models for Android, WinPhone, ...

I agree the current situation is not optimal, but I suspect your solution doesn't really move things in the right direction.

Rob
Rob G
Monday, June 10, 2013 9:21:24 PM UTC
If they'd let you use your phone nav, they wouldn't be able to sell you (outdated) map updates for EUR 109 each. (No kidding. That' what Toyota charges for its Auris map updates.)
For that same amount you by a TomTom (or Navigon) device INCLUDING the latest map updates for a year AND live traffic info!
Bart Kemps
Thursday, June 13, 2013 12:42:53 AM UTC
I agree wholeheartedly with the author that using the iPhone/Android as a compute/communications platform and app store in the car makes all the sense in the world. Using the same thing for a driver HMI makes no sense whatsoever. Smartphones and smartphone apps are not designed for a user who is driving a car. For that purpose, they SUCK, to put it nicely. Driving a car and using a smartphone app is a danger to civilization. Projecting that app onto a bigger screen in front of the driver doesn't make it any better. Hearing that app via Siri doesn't offer much improvement either.

Unfortunately, a hybrid system is needed, and that is inherently more complex. But if the automotive and software apps industries want to bring true value to the consumer leading to mass adoption, then the apps need to be rewritten and optimized for the driving experience.
Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.