From satellite radios and sophisticated sound systems to integrated navigation systems and DVD players, car makers are constantly updating their vehicles with the latest technology. What's next? Touchscreens can already be found in some high-end car models, and tablets themselves seem like a likely fit.
A division of iGate, an international technology and consulting firm, is developing apps for tablets installed or used in the car, and is also working on tablet technology directly.
The company envisions such features as using augmented reality in a tablet navigation system that would go beyond GPS to get a clearer view of the road ahead. Tablets might also be used to connect drivers and passengers with friends in the area via social networks and to control in-car electronics from the backseat.
Sanjay Salunkhe, senior VP of product and engineering services at iGATE, tells TabTimes where the tablets in cars trend is heading.
Tablets and cars -- what's the near term opportunity there?
“The first apps will be in the back seat of the car. The five seat car has room for an infotainment area in the back and we’re doing prototypes to support that in Europe and in the U.S.
What kind of tablets are you working with for that?
We believe the main entrant for tablets in cars will be Microsoft because it already has a strong presence in cars with their Sync technology.
What are the regulatory issues for having a tablet in the dash?
You don’t want the display conflicting with the internal alerts that are already in the front dash, as that’s kind of the inner sanctum of the car. It will take time, you have to be sensitive to the vehicle architecture and work with the manufacturers.
What about driver distraction?
That’s not a big issue as we already have cellphones in cars today that can be used handsfree to make calls directly.
You have protocols that companies like Nokia have developed for getting the technology into the dash and we believe there is a way to reduce driver distraction with voice input and touch. These types of things will happen.
Are you making an assumption that people will also have a tablet with them when they go for a drive?
That’s a perfect scenario. You don’t want to buy a DVD player for your car, but if you have a tablet already, it’s portable and easy to take with you. And then there’s a lot more we can do knowing the tablet is there in terms of augmented reality and social integration.
So it goes beyond entertainment?
Yes, there are many more applications coming to inside the car. For example, we can envision healthcare applications where you’ll be able to check your blood pressure and stress levels. I believe the tablet is going to find its way inside the car.
We’ve heard about Google’s self-driving car initiative. How does that play in?
I would say a lot is happening from a safety perspective, such as trying to build a cocoon around the car and cars talking to each other via sonar and other technologies.
What Google’s doing is amazing and as more of that technology comes to market the driver distraction controversy dies out.
Will adding a tablet, whether it’s integrated to the dash or in the back seat, add significantly to the cost of the car?
If the tablet integrates [into the car], it has to replace the existing infotainment system, otherwise it’s not cost-effective.
I’ve been in this industry over 20 years, starting when the only interface to plug into was the cigarette lighter. Video was the highest cost add-on, but was always something separate, an add-on.
Now video is one of the hottest items, with heads up displays. Infotainment is the main area car manufacturers want to differentiate. (PHOTO: The touchscreen dash in the new Tesla Model S)
Business travelers, road warriors, bring their notebooks or tablets with them. What changes do you see for the car that could help them do their jobs better?
It’s a very interesting question.
We were involved in a project seven years ago to investigate how an external device could be used to link the person in the car to the rest of the world so they could have emails read to them, access their Excel spreadsheets on a display and so forth. But it was too early, the technology wasn’t there yet.
But you look at where we are today and it’s easy to see the potential for these things to happen where, for example, I’m parked to take a break and I can check my email, or do a video call using technology in the car. It becomes more like an extension of the office.