In-car infotainment gives carmakers the chance to differentiate their brands from other cars. It gives drivers information that could make their driving a whole lot easier and safer. It could also provide them with entertainment options that go beyond the radio and some CDs. In fact, the latest in-car infotainment systems now allow you to get streaming audio and video from the Internet.
Yet, we realize that not all in-car infotainment systems are created equal. While most of these systems create a better experience for drivers and passengers, and add value to the cars, some infotainment systems are so awkward and frustrating to use that these actually bring the whole car down.
A good example is Ford’s MyFord Touch system. While Ford actually makes good cars, these are ranked near the bottom according to Consumer Report’s latest car reliability surveys. Citing the report, USAToday notes that Ford gets better scores than Honda and Toyota, but its in-car infotainment system has dampened its buyers’ enthusiasm for its cars. Basic services on the MyFord Touch often freeze and the touchscreen and voice commands are frustratingly not responsive. And that is just the tip of Ford’s woes with its in-car infotainment system.
Ford will be carrying out vigorous infotainment system testing before putting it’s car infotainment systems to market. However, Ford actually has an infotainment system that is difficult to use, with controls that are very complicated. As such, it could easily be a safety hazard because it distracts the driver too much when he or she tries to use it.
Lincoln owners are complaining about their MyLincoln Touch as well.
The good news, however, is that Ford and Lincoln are actually the exception rather than the rule. In fact, to be fair to Ford, its SYNC infotainment system was a good one and remains to be one of the better in-car infotainment systems available. And it is still improving with many new infotainment system features.
But, here are some of the best in-car infotainment systems available in the market now.
HondaLink: Simple but very functional
It may seem that carmakers are racing towards high tech and futuristic. The more awesome-looking your in-car infotainment dashboard is, the better. But that is not what Honda is offering its customers. In fact, it seems that Honda is leaning towards minimalism. The Japanese carmaker is eschewing the frills to deliver a straightforward and simple interface that offers a variety of functionalities. The voice command is superb and it makes it very easy for you to place a call, find the nearest restaurant or tune in to your favorite radio station. It can also help keep you comfortable by adjusting the climate control in your car. All that without needing you to take your hands off the steering wheel.
Speaking of keeping your hands on the steering wheel, you can also have your infotainment system read your incoming SMS messages. Plus, you can easily pair any mobile device to your infotainment system and control everything using the redundant controls on the steering wheel.
In short, Honda keeps everything very simple while still having the features that drivers have come to expect and love from their cars’ infotainment system.
Some of this simplicity is about to change soon as Honda has entered a partnership with Apple to use “iOS in the Car” as their infotainment’s operating system. This will enable drivers to activate Apple’s personal assistant, Siri. Siri will then give you the information you need, such as the weather and traffic data, and will read your e-mail and SMS messages.
Lexus Enform: Responsive and app-friendly
For Lexus, however, the way to go is to have big displays that would show off your infotainment system’s capabilities. You have split screens wherein one shows you your music playlist while the other is dedicated to the navigational map. Voice command makes things easier and the redundant controls on the steering wheel are there, too.
However, Lexus has a Remote Touch Control interface that allows you to control your dashboard with a track pad. It works like a mouse on your desktop computer.
The verdict? While Lexus has lower resolutions for its display, the mouse makes a difference because it is responsive. Lexus is also one of the first to offer mobile apps: Pandora, Yelp and Facebook.
NissanConnect: A true Android infotainment
If you love Google’s Android operating system, then you would love NissanConnect. Nissan’s information and entertainment system pairs with your Android smartphone to let you check on the weather and traffic. You will appreciate that the navigation system is powered by Google, ensuring that you have updated information on the places you want to go to.
NissanConnect also has voice command, which allows you to control everything hands-free. It can also stream media from your phone via Bluetooth. What’s more, the said infotainment can read your e-mails and text messages out loud.
NissanConnect has a simple display, which is more than enough even if it has a lot of functionalities built in.
Cadillac CUE: One of the most advanced
Cadillac has its own CUE system. CUE, which stands for Cadillac User Experience, is one of the most advanced entertainment and information systems out there. It has a great glass display, which provides you with tactile feedback.
CUE also has motion sensors that can detect when you are about to touch the screen. CUE automatically displays the menus and control even before you touch it. These menus and controls will disappear if you are not using the infotainment system giving you an uncluttered screen.
If you have been using a smartphone for a long time, you will surely love CUE. This is because it applies the very same gestures that you use on your iPhone or Android smartphones. You can swipe, slide and pinch just like you would on a tablet, smartphone and other mobile devices.
Audi MMI: 4G-ready and Internet-friendly
Audi has the Multi Media Interface or MMI. The Audi MMi comes with its own 4G connection when you insert a SIM card into it. What’s more, you can use it to serve as a Wi-Fi hotspot. This way, your passengers can connect to the Internet and browse the World Wide Web. For input, you are offered different choices. You could use the four keys, voice entry or type on a small touch pad. You can also use the buttons placed on the steering wheel for search purposes.
Audi is not considering putting a touch screen for their MMI system, to make sure that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel. It will also save you from having to wipe fingerprint smudges off the screen.
Audi recently announced that it is working with Google to put Android at the center of its infotainment systems. Audi now offers a 10.2-inch mobile tablet that will be called Audi Smart Display. You can connect the Audi Smart Display to your car’s MMI system via WLAN and it can connect to the Internet via your car’s LTE connectivity. You can then control the radio, see your car’s data and navigate your way around the city using the tablet.
Ford MyTouch: The new and improved version
This may come as a surprise, owing to Ford’s dismal history in infotainment systems, but the carmaker has actually taken another shot with its Ford MyTouch system and improved on it. The good news is that you do not have to spend a lot on it. If you are buying Ford Focus, you only need to add a little more than $1,000 to have it on board. It comes with a USB port, SD card slot and auxiliary jacks for multimedia input. Ford also has SiriusXM satellite radio on it. But the best feature that keeps it a head above the rest is something you hope to never have to use. The 911 Assist can call an emergency operator if you get into an accident. When your airbag deploys or if your fuel pump shuts off, 911 Assist will instantly call 911 if you have your phone connected to your MyTouch console. Using MyTouch, you can also get Pandora Internet Radio, or see recall information, upcoming maintenance and diagnostics through the Vehicle Health Report tool.
You can also enjoy full Wi-Fi connectivity and your car can become a Wi-Fi hotspot. MyFord Touch also includes Ford’s excellent SYNC system, which allows you to use voice commands and hear your incoming text messages.
Hyundai Blue Link: Ready for the future
Hyundai is certainly packing its Blue Link infotainment system with unique and future-ready features. It has the standard features such as satellite radio, maintenance schedules and weather information, but take a look at some of the things that Hyundai added in:
- The Blue Link does not only tell you where the nearest gas station is, but also where you could get the cheapest gas nearby.
- Share your location on Facebook and other social media platforms.
- Ask your Blue Link infotainment system about your car and it can answer frequently asked questions so you do not have to read your manual.
- If your teens are the ones driving your car, you would love how you could get alerts if they stay out after curfew, or go out of a specified area or go over a pre-determined speed. This will help you ensure that your teenagers do not go where they should not go, and follows your rules when it comes to car safety.
What all of these mean is that you can now do more with your car than ever before. And it looks like things are just going to get better. There is a lot at stake at offering an intuitive in-car infotainment system that works as it should, as Ford found out painfully because of its MyFord Touch debacle. Plus, the experts are coming in: Google and Apple are fighting their way into our cars’ dashboards. So expect in-car systems powered by “iOS in the Car” and Android in your vehicles as early as later this year.