Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Your car, your Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, your dashboard future

by Don Keith

Anyone even mildly interested in new automobiles is certainly aware that one of the things that is changing most rapidly is the media and communications technology in the dashboard, and certainly when it comes to that big video screen in the middle. Thanks to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto--the current leaders by far for the in-vehicle entertainment system--our automobiles are quickly gaining almost unlimited information and entertainment possibilities.

A recent article in USA TODAY says:

The auto industry is racing to keep up with the growing demand. Less than a year ago, fewer than 50 vehicles were offering one or both, or were scheduled to. For the 2017 model year, the list has grown to more than 100, and more announcements are expected in the coming months. General Motors now offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on 30 models. Ford wasn’t even on the list a year ago, but for the 2017 model year it becomes the first full-line vehicle manufacturer to offer Android Auto and CarPlay on every vehicle line it sells.

For those unfamiliar with this sea-change, such technology simply makes the dashboard in your car an easy extension for the capabilities of your smart phone. From your car you can surf the web, watch video, listen to music, talk shows, and podcasts, get directions, check traffic, listen to music, listen to news, check your email, post on Facebook, write your blog post...hey, you get the idea! (Hopefully most of that not while driving.) You can even make telephone calls, as radical as that sounds.

I just bought a new Honda truck and was impressed that my lower end model allowed me to synch a Bluetooth phone or other device and easily make calls and such. That is only scratching the surface of what higher end models of my Ridgeline and many other cars now offer.

What does this mean to the constituencies of this blog? Amateur radio?  Broadcasting and other media?

Lots. Hams can now worry about new ways our mobile radios can interfere with the stuff that all the other occupants of our vehicles really want to watch, see and listen to. We will have to be even more conscious of RF interference in these systems, just as we were when electronic gas injection and the ubiquitous computer first appeared in motor cars. Remember keying the mic to talk and having the car stop dead in the middle of the freeway?

Broadcasters? Even though the traditional AM/FM radios are not going away (though some manufacturers no longer supply an AM receiver as a standard offering), the fact that people in cars--who once had few other choices besides broadcast radio--have a literal worldwide web of potential media offerings they can consume. You can only imagine what that effect will be on Rock 107 with its stream of a couple hundred high-testing classic rock songs played over and over and 15 minutes of commercials each hour...and few other reasons to listen.

Amateur Radio operators and car manufacturers will figure out ways to minimize potential interference. That is what we do.

Broadcasters, on the other hand, either don't have a clue or are not willing to do what they must to try to keep people from turning down (or off) their radios so they can use all that other exciting technology that sits there less than an arm's length away as they zoom down the highway.

If they are not listening to radio, ratings go down. If ratings go down, revenue decreases. If revenue decreases, today's over-the-air broadcasters will do more of what they have been doing. Fire all non-essential personnel. Chop sales training. Pay lower commissions to sales reps. Order them to make more cold calls rather than develop true marketing plans for potential ad clients. Automate something else. Forget research and promotion. Sell more commercials for less dollars per announcement. Run fifteen or twenty commercials back-to-back after "107 minutes of commercial-free music!" Postpone maintenance on studio and transmitter equipment. Cut benefits for employees. Blame the ratings companies when audience declines. That is, do whatever you have to do to make cash flow look positive to blow smoke for stockholders, Wall Street analysts, or the venture capitalists who invested in your group in the first place.

And continue to wonder why things are going downhill so quickly. Damn rapid technological change!