We’ve all heard talk of autonomous, driverless cars for years, and many of us had a chance to try out some rudimentary implementations of such technologies, which are slowly making their way to mainstream cars. This post won’t deal with those for the following reasons: driverless cars are still years away, they will be closed for development, and they will not create a new market for developers, not unless you want your car to be parallel parked using code written by a 16-year-old coder freelancing for $5 an hour.
However, cars with next-generation connected infotainment systems will create new opportunities on several fronts. In case you already have an infotainment system with a neat touchscreen and GPS in your car, please accept my condolences; it’s about to become as obsolete as a Nokia 3310 compared to an iPhone.
Next-gen infotainment platforms are to current systems what smartphones are to feature phones.
I know that is a bold statement, and many of you won’t agree with me, but I like to kick off on a provocative note. I will do my best to change your mind, and if I fail, feel free to let me know in the comment section.
Evolution Of Car Infotainment Systems, Or Lack Of It
So what’s so wrong with the current generation of car infotainment and navigation systems? How come many of us chose not to buy them? Why don’t we see a lot of development in this niche?
It all boils down to a combination of technical and economic considerations. Consumer tech is rendered obsolete in years, roughly two product cycles for smartphones, three to four cycles for desktops and laptops. That usually translates into two to five years. Naturally, as products mature, their lifecycle is extended as well.
The car industry does not work that way, so very few of us go out and buy a new car nearly as often. In fact, many new cars ship with three- to five-year warranties, so most people are unlikely to sell them for five or more years. Cars are built to last a decade or more, and they can’t be upgraded like desktop PCs, or receive OTA updates like our smartphones.
What Sort Of Technology Is Coming To Our Cars?
What Does This Mean For Developers?
Creating Opportunities For Small Developers
Why Develop For Apple CarPlay And Android Auto?
What about older cars? The good news is that aftermarket head units with CarPlay and Android Auto are showing up, but they aren’t cheap. Sooner or later Chinese white-box outfits will start making their own versions for a couple of hundred bucks. However, installing aftermarket head units in many modern cars can be tricky, so it’s a turn-off for many car owners.
In any case, despite their limitations and slow uptake, smart automotive platforms will become a significant niche market by the time the decade is out. Hardware outfits and carmakers will make a few billion dollars, but the potential for developers will remain limited for years to come.