Mini Bokeh - Flickr

Vehicle infotainment (VI) is a marketing buzzword. An electric vehicle that is directly competitive in price to a combustion engine vehicle is an aspiration for the distant future. An optical, head-mounted display (think Google Glass) is a novelty for a pedestrian with discretionary funds. These statements may sound valid, but they are not as accurate as you might think.

As technology and engineering evolve, they are becoming more integrated into the automotive industry. Not surprisingly, the expectations that coincide with this integration are often set at pretty high levels. For instance, the cycle time for the ongoing development of systems that deliver information and entertainment content in your car (aka VI) is frequently compared to the rapid, six-month development cycle time of smartphones. If this is the base for comparison, consumers who may be able to easily upgrade their smartphones could be disappointed when they find themselves owners of dated VI systems that are more difficult to replace.

Although VI systems may not be as easy to change as a smartphone, vehicle manufacturers continue to provide what they believe to be newer and better options for their cars and trucks. For example, Jaguar is introducing Ethernet infotainment architecture to provide greater bandwidth for the next iteration of its XF sedan. This enhancement will enable a 10.2-inch touchscreen along with dual view technology that lets the driver see a variety of information (e.g., navigation) while the front seat passenger watches TV or a DVD. This VI system can also send the estimated time of arrival to a friend and automatically keep this friend updated with progress reports via SMS or short-message service should traffic conditions change.

If this isn’t enough technology for you, take a look (literally) at what Mini and Qualcomm are doing. They are partnering to create Mini Augmented Vision eyewear. The prototype eyeglasses provide head-up display functions to the driver such as driving speed, speed limits, text message notification and parking assistance with camera images projected into the driver’s line of sight.

Once you pull yourself away from the VI and Mini-Qualcomm eyewear to consider what propels this four-wheel gadgetry down the highway, you would find that the cost of battery technology has fallen below estimates made by many analysts in the past decade. According to The Washington Post and research from the Stockholm Environment Institute, battery technology could hit a price point of $150-175 per kilowatt-hour within the next five years making electric vehicles directly competitive with combustion engine vehicles. Given the preceding information regarding vehicle technology, it appears that there is some substance behind the hype.


Ryan Lahti is the founder and managing principal of OrgLeader, LLC. Stay up to date on Ryan’s STEM-based organization tweets here: @ryanlahti

(Photo: Mini Bokeh, Flickr)