Holden have added Android Auto and Apple Car Play to the brand new Holden Spark. Like many others auto makers, Holden are handing the keys to the infotainment display to mobile phone manufacturers. Of course there’s still a default experience which provides navigation and music if you don’t have a phone, but the expectation really is that all driver’s have smartphones. Ultimately this decision is a tremendous benefit to consumers and however unlikely it seemed this would happen, its happening, which ultimately benefits consumers.
The Holden Spark starts at around A$15,000 which makes it one of the cheapest vehicles to get support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The car also features other technology you may not expect at that price point, including reverse parking camera and push button start. Holden likes to say, this is a small car that wasn’t designed as a small car (in terms of its features).
One of the great things about the switch to support screen projection, is that once the system is enabled by an auto manufacturer, the system can update itself independent of a middle-man, which frees developers to update apps at will.
In a world where auto makers increasingly move to global shipment of car models, they would love to ship the same car everywhere as that’s where they get economy of scale. Something they can’t get around is left and right hand drive differences and the differences in legislation, which means some features of Car Play and Android Auto may be unavailable based on the local driver distraction laws. This does allow auto makers to relieve themselves of the liability of such decisions in consumer’s eyes as the requirements come from the Governments, not auto makers.
Right now the main uses for Car Play and Android Auto are Navigation and Music, but that will continue to grow over time. The biggest question will be how much vehicle data are the auto makers willing to make available to the system. If developers can detect and utilise vehicle data in their apps, the platform and the experience can become much more developed.
Modern cars take advantage of the vehicle speed to automatically adjust the volume of the stereo to compensate for higher road noise at higher speed. Music apps need this data to perform the same function. The biggest goal with connected infotainment systems is to provide a connected experience that is safe and ensures the driver doesn’t get out of the vehicle with a big to-do-list.
Yesterday at Holden’s Melbourne HQ, I got to experience both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay first hand. First we had a walk through of Android Auto in the new Spark which requires the phone to be connected via USB cable. Next was the demo of CarPlay in the updated Captiva and finally I had the chance to test our the system on the roads of Melbourne in a new Insignia VXR.
Check out the hands-on video below of Android Auto in action in the Holden Spark.
One of the most impressive experiences was seeing an iPhone running Apple Maps, enter the car, be connected to the lightning cable and having the nav seamlessly arrive on the in-dash display and continue navigating the user. That’s awesome.
Driving the Insignia was interesting.. first off the sporty electronically adjustable Recaro seats were a delight, but simply pressing and holding the voice button on the steering wheel, then firing commands at Siri, really does show how a connected driving experience is possible today. No here’s the but. The system works great for Navigation, great for handling music, it’ll even let you receive and reply to messages using your voice. The problem is when you get outside those use case, like using Siri to find facts or anything that results in a visual display on the phone being fired (almost everything) these are restricted while the car is in motion.
I ask “How many people can the MCG hold” and Siri replies ‘I’m sorry I can’t answer that now”. Its clearly still early days. Driver distraction is a massive issue and as we flush out the use of voice as an interface to the internet, there really is an opportunity to arrive quickly at a point where there simply isn’t a need to touch your phone.
For more information on the Holden Spark, head over to Holden.