The battlefield of brought-in navigation solutions

As we discussed in our last blog post, embedded navigation and brought-in navigation solutions can immensely improve driving safety by eliminating unnecessary distractions with intuitive HMI designs. This week, we’ll dig further with an overview of brought-in navigation solutions.

Brought-in navigation solutions are applications that utilize the connectivity and processor power of a smartphone to enable an in-car navigation experience on the display of the head unit thorough Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB and other types of communication technology.

At the recent New York Auto Show, Chevrolet, Honda, Subaru, Hyundai, Kia, and VW showcased their new models equipped with Apple Carplay, while Android Auto expanded its future offering list to 19 Auto OEM brands. Most car models’ infotainment systems enable both platforms, which include Google Maps and Apple Maps as in-car navigation applications.

Across the sea to the Far East, Baidu announced Chang’an Automobile as its latest partner, supplying the Baidu CarLife platform for smartphone integration. In China, Baidu acts as the biggest player for brought-in infotainment systems due to its dominant position on search engine and Baidu Maps users.

Traditionally, Auto OEM and Tier-1 suppliers controlled in-car infotainment systems.  However, mobile device technology, cloud technology and connectivity have disrupted this space. Apple and Google, two CE giants with strong end-customer understanding, fostered the idea of connecting smartphones to the touchscreen of the car head units.

On the other hand, some automakers aren’t as supportive of Apple and Google’s emerging involvement in dashboards.  Instead, they work with Tier-1 suppliers to provide alternative brought-in infotainment solutions, which are more tailored to each automaker’s user interface.

Ford’s SYNC AppLink platform is aiming to provide robust smartphone brought-in solutions by opening vehicle data to app developers and collaborating with other automakers. Toyota has already formed a partnership with Ford and will be applying SmartDeviceLink (the open version of SYNC AppLink) in upcoming new car models.

Bosch, the biggest Tier-1 supplier in the automotive industry, also came up with its own solution for brought-in infotainment systems. Bosch’s MySPIN platform works with Jaguar Land Rover to provide an InControl Apps platform, which includes several navigation apps for in-car use such as Sygic and Magellan GPS.

Subaru is another OEM that applies a different approach. It collaborated with its Tier-1 supplier, Clarion, and navigation provider, Magellan GPS, to provide inclusive in-car navigation through its STARLINK platform.

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Magellan GPS showcased brought-in navigation solution with Subaru STARLINK platform

In a nutshell, Apple Carplay, Google, Android Auto and Baidu CarLife seem to be the most promising brought-in infotainment platforms because of their broad app ecosystem and brand identity. However, there are still limitations and concerns. First, these brought-in infotainment platforms require premium head units with demanding specs to run Apple Carplay and Android Auto, which increases the BOM cost. Also, the technical complexity of brought-in infotainment platforms could cause unexpected delays in production (see Hyundai just announced that Apple Carplay delayed again in their models). In addition, there’s some concern that Apple Carplay and Android Auto may cause more driver distractions than other OEM solutions due to inexperience in HMI designs with in-car scenarios. Lastly, Apple Carplay and Android Auto will not have access to vehicle data from the cars’ sensors (at least no signal so far), which may handicap their navigation apps from delivering a personalized driving experience.

While Apple, Android and Baidu have strong user preference, Car Makers may have noted the effect of smartphone apps on mobile carrier app stores, and the BYOD movement in enterprise computing, and are appropriately cautious to providing open access to their IVI and customers.  Thus many car makers and tier 1’s will continue to invest in 3rd platforms, including Ford, JLR, etc. The battlefield is getting fierce, but in the end; the drivers are the main beneficiaries.

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