Do you know JARVIS? Yes you do, every comic fan does. After all he is Iron Man’s uber cool, super smart butler-cum-assistant, an Artificially Intelligent computer program to which Tony Stark has access whenever, wherever he wishes. It carries out Mr. Stark’s orders no sooner than it receives them. Every Iron Man fan wants his or her own JARVIS, of course apart from the Iron Man suit itself. What if I were to say that you might have your own JARVIS very soon, to assist and entertain you while you drive a car on a busy street?
Cars with Artificial Intelligence (AI) have been around for some time now. Sadly, apart from being accessible only to people with very deep pockets, these cars can’t exactly be called “Intelligent”. There have been reports of glitches in these systems despite the fact that automakers around the world have spent a gazillion dollars to roll out cars with assistive AI systems. However, of late it seems that they have come to terms with their technological backwardness as far as computer systems are concerned. The creases on their forehead are being ironed by companies like Apple, Google and Blackberry who claim they can make modern day cars smarter and safer. These smart phone manufacturers get another battlefield to fight it out and you and I are the people who, someday, might have a chance to feel like Tony Stark.
Car manufacturers are laying a lot of emphasis on providing infotainment to their customers. Smart phone companies specialize in this. The collaboration of these two industries seems pretty natural. Blackberry’s QNX Car platform currently powers the most number of in-car assistive systems. However, with Apple stepping up the gas in its CarPlay and Google gearing up to commercially launch its Android Auto, this domain is all set to witness high-octane action. Both Apple and Google have massive customer base which is why they are likely to be the leaders in in-car services that use smart phones’ OS.
Both, Apple’s CarPlay (initially called iOS in the Car) and Android Auto offer a hoard of features; using them is a safer way to use your iOS or Android device while you drive. Your car’s built in display panel shall offer you all the features that a smart phone or tablet does. You can access this panel hands-free as well with the help of voice controlled commands. Apple’s Siri and Google Now have established their expertise in carrying out voice commands. This way, you can receive and make calls, read and send messages, get directions and ETA, and listen to music of your choice just by calling out to your car dashboard. Apple has recently acquired a patent (US 8868254) wherein it discloses how to use one’s iPhone as a remote, in association with CarPlay, for locking one’s car. CarPlay can also predict where a person wants to go based on the content of email, text messages, contacts and calendars. Wow!!
Apple and Google, the two players expected to make the largest impact in this segment have inked deals with the biggest automobile manufacturers around the world. Auto firms such as Volkswagen, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Ford, Land Rover and others have partnered with Apple and Google to use their technological expertise and roll out assistive gen-next cars. This progress is good news for car component making firms as well. To facilitate integration of CarPlay and Android Auto in cars, companies like Pioneer, Alpine and JVC will help in remodelling of cars and carving out an in-dash panel that offers Infotainment.
With a new domain come new inventions and with new inventions come Intellectual Property portfolios. According to Envision IP, Google already has 300 odd patents and about 150 patent applications concerning automobiles. Apple has about 35 patents and 54 pending applications in this domain. Companies like Samsung, LG and Sony have more than a hundred patents in this technology segment. The intellectual property is set to strengthen as more and more cars become ‘smart’.
Many critics hold a viewpoint that it is the wealthy that will drive such cars and a greater percentage of wealthy people prefer iOS over Android. Clearly, Android has a market perception of being the OS for a common man’s phone. Thus Android Auto bodes well for Google that now has a shot at breaking this typecast and carving a new image. Naysayers argue that CarPlay and Android Auto are trying to solve a problem that barely exists; hands-free access to one’s phone is always possible by sticking the phone to the dashboard with the help of a suction cup. One can access music by buttons incorporated on the steering wheel. There are built-in navigation systems in cars for giving directions. However, these critics might be missing the big picture.
Imagine carrying a phone for calling, a pager for receiving messages, an MP3 player for listening to music and a GPS device for navigation. Get the point? Having everything at one place makes a lot of difference. This is why, companies like Apple and Google are eager to make inroads into Car Infotainment. Not too long into the future, every car will come with assistive AIs. People won’t have to use their phones while driving. It’s just a matter of time before we have our own JARVIS. I can easily dream of driving a Black Audi and commanding JARVIS to direct me to a meeting via the least populated street. As I step down, the car hums “Shutting down the engine, have a good day Mr. Stark”.
Perfect. But… wait, that’s not my surname!
(Featured image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/landrovermena/14354641078)