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Today at LINC Project, we will discuss the development of ‘smart car’ operating systems design to connect your car and driving experience to your smartphone. One could look at this discussion as that of connectivity or changing market trends. However, we at LINC Project have decided to look at this technology in a different context. Many can argue with great gusto that smartphone tech and cars do not belong together. We’ve all seen a car accident in our lives. The author of this article volunteers at a local Emergency Room and has sometimes seen the gruesome result of a terrible car wreck, but the undeniable fact is that despite advances in driverless cars neither driving or smartphones are going away. This is where Apple’s Car Play and Google’s Android Auto come into the picture.

Based on current trends and projections, both ‘smart car’ operating systems are designed to integrate your mobile phone into your car thus greatly reducing if not eliminating distracted driving. While both products are still very much in the testing phase, the early results are promising. Both products rely on their respective mobile OS’s to provide inspiration in the creation and execution of the car based operations and use a form of wireless connectivity, such as Bluetooth, to connect the physical smartphone to the smart car OS. The idea behind this technology is simple; reduce the number of physical actions to the fewest possible as to keep concentration on the road. Both systems set out to accomplish this by identifying the most common functions used in a smartphone and highlighting them either by using voice commands, large icons, or some other combination. Also of note is that both systems include a nice feature that locks the physical smartphone while engaged to further cut down on distracted driving.

Functionality in the car can be broken down into three categories: music, navigation, and communication. When it comes to music, the era of simply turning on the radio is over. With the advancement of on demand music in smartphones, the options of what to listen to are limitless. Integration between streaming music services and local libraries is not an issue as both Apple and Google have redesigned the most popular music apps to work with a different touch screen interface. The problem at hand is reducing the time needed to fine-tune what you wish to listen to and as well as reducing the need to manipulate the app while the music is playing. Here, the smart cars OS’s stress their large screen functionality combined with recall technology bases on previous preferences to try to identify music that the driver might want to listen to faster. The same methodology is applied to navigation with both smart car OS’s relaying heavily on their parent company’s map products to try to reduce the setup time of the navigation program while making voice search of nearby sites of interests an attractive feature.

The most contentions, and arguably the most distracting, of these functions is communication. This encompasses both phone calls and messaging. In terms of phone calls, both systems keep to the ethos of previously described functionality by allowing you use wireless tech to make and receive calls over your own smartphone via the car’s speakers. However, unlike the days of a built-in-car phone, the OS’s combine the advantage of voice recognition technology and contacts integration to allow for quick dialing again further reducing the need to take your eyes off the road. This technical methodology is further extended into the realm of text messaging as Apple has created a specially dedicated interface for its messaging app while Google has opted to allow third parties to create Android Auto apps for their messaging services. Again, the goal here is to use large screens and voice recognition to reduce the time a driver might take their eyes off the road. In both OS’s the incoming message is treated as a notification and read allowed while allowing the user to respond with a voice transcribed message.

The technology shows great promise as tech companies begin their battle over the car dashboard, but the question remains, are they safe? One could argue that the there is enough distractions in a car as is without adding in the functionality of a smartphone. However, as stated at the being of this article, neither driving nor smartphones are going away anytime soon so we would do well to figure out what the safest way is for them to live with each other. Still, despite all the features and advances in smart car OS’s, the golden rule of driving still applies….always keep your eyes on the road!

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