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In vehicles, safety first, then infotainment

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In the unregulated and do-it-all world of cars, television screens can be installed in front of drivers.

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Of course this will not happen in reality. Automakers, suppliers, and government regulations won’t allow it. That’s because even as more vehicles come with more infotainment features, nothing beats safety.

So said Manuel Pereira, director of business development for auto supplier Visteon.

“Regulators spend a lot of time with[automotive systems]providers,” he says, referring to new user experience features. “They never respond to safety, but they try to soften their decisions about whether something is safe but entertaining.”

The goal is to reduce, if not completely eliminate, driver distraction, especially when it comes to today’s infotainment systems, which have revolutionized the automotive user experience.

Connected and rich in content, they are far from early car radios.

Pereira speaks at an online event hosted by Xperi, which supplies automotive products that combine high-tech radio, metadata content and passenger monitoring safety systems.

The Xperi Radio platform has 78,000 stations worldwide, 100,000 broadcasts, 40 million tracks and 4 million albums.

Driving a car is often “a relaxing experience, and the radio is perfect for that,” whether the content is music, news, or podcasts, says Jeff Gorey, Senior Vice President of Xperi and General Manager of Connected Car.

“It’s very interesting,” Pereira says. “Many people listen to radio and news music in their cars but not in their homes.”

There is no argument that drivers’ job is to drive. “But they want some form of entertainment at the same time,” the jury (Pictured, bottom left) Says. “On average, people can drive and have fun safely.”

Jeff Gorey.  jpgSafety regulators acknowledge this, although some may feel the infotainment is better.

This will not happen in the age of connected cars because many car consumers want more and more.

Connected cars, by definition, have Internet access that allows information sharing such as entertainment (including video vaporization of passengers other than the driver), real-time traffic conditions, concierge services and over-the-air vehicle diagnostics. This is just the beginning.

“Think about the complexity that advanced technology brings,” says Xperi CEO John Kirshner. “Most of the technology is below the water line, where there is tremendous complexity.”

What’s above the water line – what the car’s occupants experience – is a matter of “understanding what they want and what they will use it for,” he says.

Kirchner talks about the need to strike a balance between “safety and sophistication” as well as “complexity and simplicity”. If a company like Xperi presents a list of 78,000 radio stations, it should be organized and grouped so that distracted drivers don’t drive off the road while fiddling with infotainment screen controls. Voice commands help in this regard.

In terms of vehicle safety in its business, this year’s Xperi Introducing AutoSense, an AI-powered single-camera driver and occupancy monitoring system.

The company says AutoSense comes at a time when concerns about disruptive driving and vehicle safety have led to a series of actions globally to encourage automakers to implement driver and occupancy sensing systems.

Meanwhile, Xperi is monitoring how it can participate in the emergence of self-driving vehicles, whenever possible. Estimated access opportunities vary.

When self-driving vehicles finally become mainstream, “How does the living room find its way into the car?” Kirchner says.

Jury and Pereira respond differently when asked to predict when autonomous vehicles will hit the road in large numbers.

“Twenty-five years, on a consumer basis,” says the jury. “These are only four generations of cars. But it is not in the immediate horizon.”

“I wouldn’t expect,” Pereira says.

Steve Finley is a retired senior editor at Wards. It can be accessed at [email protected].

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