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Standard car infotainment systems to curb distraction Add to ...

QNX seems to relish its role behind the scenes for the likes of Audi and BMW, creating infotainment systems that are supposed to be tailored to each auto maker, yet offering plenty without distracting drivers. The company’s CAR 2 platform will soon hit the market with the next line of vehicles promising a better experience, but what does that mean?

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One concern about in-car infotainment systems like the ones QNX designs is that they can still cause driver distraction when they’re supposed to do the opposite. This is largely why there will be more of an onus on certain features and apps that are only accessible depending on if the vehicle is parked or on the move.

In the consumer tech world, much was made the last couple of years about the onset of HTML5 as the future standard for creating rich applications that could transcend devices and operating systems. HTML5 is mainly associated with Web browser-based apps, but the technology is agnostic enough to apply to how auto makers want to engage drivers.

This effectively means an app ecosystem for cars. The goal is to enable an application developer ecosystem for the automotive market, based on the same Web standards used for creating mobile apps, says Kerry Johnson, product manager at QNX.

His point is that it could expedite the process for auto makers to keep their vehicles refreshed with the apps, content and features over a longer period of the vehicle’s lifespan. There’s an aftermarket that usually covers those loose ends and is much faster to market in all cases, but in-car app and entertainment integration is still proving a tough nut to crack properly.

“Technology alone isn’t enough,” said Johnson in an interview. “A couple of years ago, we realized that the industry is in need of standards relating to distraction. In response, a member of the QNX automotive team became the founding chair for the ITU’s [International Telecommunication Union] Focus Group on Driver Distraction.”

The group’s mandate is to basically build a consensus for a standardization process on in-car infotainment now that mobile technologies are so pervasive and potentially distracting. If this is a movement on a grand scale involving the auto industry and other experts, it appears to be a nascent one right now.

There could be a challenge ahead in how to do this. Auto makers and the aftermarket will want to control the user experience, except it’s the drivers who essentially bring the experience they want with them via their mobile devices. There are pitfalls to that, of course, since one driver might be far more likely to be distracted than another.

That’s no argument, obviously, because put in the same context as drinking and driving, it sounds even more ludicrous. What a standardization process for in-car infotainment might look like is too early to tell, but at least there’s a discussion under way to deal with a problem that is fast becoming this generation’s top driving issue.

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