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The Coming Wave of In-Dash Auto System Obsolescence 445

Posted by timothy
from the new-din-standard-called-for dept.
jfruh writes "Automakers are striving mightily to bring their in-dash systems into the modern age, providing integration with smartphones and other advanced features. The problem: while smartphones go in and out of vogue every few years, modern cars have lifespans of a decade or more. Add in the fact that many (though not all) manufacturers have no plans to allow software upgrades to their systems, and you might end up driving a car with a fancy in-dash computer system that's completely useless for much of the time you own it."
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The Coming Wave of In-Dash Auto System Obsolescence

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  • by jaymz666 (34050) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:14AM (#42129857)

    Many BMWs from 2000 or so have built in Startac phones... how useless are these now?

  • Sure (Score:5, Funny)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:14AM (#42129859) Homepage Journal

    This is a completely new phenomenon with smart phones. At least I'll always have my 8-track player.

    • Re:Sure (Score:5, Funny)

      by mekkab (133181) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:22AM (#42129935) Homepage Journal
      This is EXACTLY why I've still got my RCA 45rpm record player in my Plymouth. You really appreciate the 'warmth' of vinyl as you're cruising down the highway...

      for those who care... [youtube.com]
    • Even before phone integration, automakers have been making the entertainment systems more and more integrated into dashboards (and other vehicle systems) to the extent that it's hard or impossible to install an aftermarket system. When I bought my car a few years ago, I decided to forgo the built-in navigation and spend my money on the "performance package" instead. I guess it was a good call, since I don't think map updates for it are available anymore. And if I want HD radio, I'm out of luck, I'd need an
      • Oh well, the fancy tires are probably too loud for me to hear the difference between HD and plain old FM anyway.

        If your fancy tires are loud, you have a problem. Good tires tend not to be very loud on the road at all, because the noise they produce indicates energy lost, which means higher rolling resistance.

      • I have a friend who bought an aftermarket stereo system that connects to the remote audio controls in his car. He does not even have the mechanical aptitude to build his own PC, yet he managed to replace the car stereo...even with the console set up he had to get (although he did borrow tools--and probably got assistance from--another friend who is fairly mechanically adept).
    • Except that it has been trivially easy for anyone with even minor mechanical aptitude (if you can build your own PC, you can do this) to replace the car stereo...even the one's with 8-track players. On the other hand, I have not heard of anyone replacing these in dash systems that work with obsolete cell-phone technology.
      • by d3ac0n (715594) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:55AM (#42130325)

        I have. It's easy. You can buy entire systems with an Android-based phone built right into them. You will (of course) need an account (contract or PYG) with a carrier to use the phone, but they are available aftermarket.

        More commonly, people just replace it with a Bluetooth calling enabled system that allows them to connect to their existing smartphone. So unless you are driving a 1980's era Bentley with the "Robin Masters" built-in telephone handset, you won't have a problem.

  • no plans to allow software upgrades what about when we have auto drive cars??? With the gov have to force them to have them for a least a few years?

    With out software upgrades that will limit the use of them when they start to roll out.

  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:15AM (#42129873) Homepage

    I already know at least two people who have in-dash navigation systems, yet use their smartphone or a standalone GPS because either the automaker stopped providing map updates, or wants to charge an exhorbitant amount of money for them (as in, SEVERAL TIMES that of a stand-alone GPS or even a smart phone!)

    Someone needs to come up with a docking module on the dash, to which you can dock a standard device that can be upgraded over the years. Kind of like the old "DIN" standard for car stereos, but more flat, intended for touch screen devices. Then when your in-dash system gets outdated you can upgrade it.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Someone needs to come up with a docking module on the dash, to which you can dock a standard device that can be upgraded over the years. Kind of like the old "DIN" standard for car stereos, but more flat, intended for touch screen devices. Then when your in-dash system gets outdated you can upgrade it.

      It's called the "Cigarette Lighter". It can power a wide range of devices...

      • Someone needs to come up with a docking module on the dash, to which you can dock a standard device that can be upgraded over the years. Kind of like the old "DIN" standard for car stereos, but more flat, intended for touch screen devices. Then when your in-dash system gets outdated you can upgrade it.

        It's called the "Cigarette Lighter". It can power a wide range of devices...

        Cigarette lighters provide a data connection? Since when?

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        I've been wanting a base amplifier that fits in a car stereo slot and has a doc on the front that I can plug my phone into and then use the phone as the OS and data source while the back end is just a dumb amplifier.

    • by d3ac0n (715594)

      Why go to all that trouble? Why not simply replace the existing system with a drop-in aftermarket one with Bluetooth connectivity for smartphones? Or, if you MUST have a built-in system, build your own with a Raspberry Pi as a processor.

      This is why I never buy the fancy stereo option. It's easier and cheaper to go buy an aftermarket one with all the same features and more and have it installed than to buy the top-of-the-line auto system with no support.

      Of course, I also drive a Jeep, so I'm not exactly t

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Any links to a decent one?
        What i would really like is to at least provide power and accept hdmi. That way I can play sound and show the navigation display from the phone.

        Yes, I have a passenger that uses the device or I stop driving to do so.

        • Most in-dash video systems (and after market ones) either blank the display when the car is in motion, or use a polarized display so that the driver can't see anything while the passenger can. Since such a device would have no way of knowing if it's connected to a GPS or to a DVD player, it's unlikely you'd have a way to override it.

          Personally, I just use my smartphone. Tie it in to the car's bluetooth system, and let it use voice instructions for navigation. The car has a USB socket in the center console,

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            My car is too old for bluetooth and usb. I use a 12v to usb adaptor to power it
            My smartphone does voice dialing just fine though.

            To listen to music on the device in the car I use one of those fm radio transmitters.

            Over all I already meet my needs I would just like it to be more elegant.

        • by d3ac0n (715594)

          Spend some time over at Crutchfield.com. THOUSANDS of aftermarket stereos with varying capability available.

    • yep, my parent's just got a car with a bluelink [hyundaiusa.com] package, and the most basic GPS features are lumped into their most expensive package. That's just insane considering those features can be had for $100 upfront cost [amazon.com] or by use of her smartphone considering she's already paying for a data connection.
    • My new car is going to have Toyota's Touch [engadget.com] system built in. Apparently even the cheapest new Toyotas get these as standard now.

      Annoyingly Android isn't supported yet, but the only thing I really need is a 3.5 mm audio input, which my car definitely will have.. as well as a 9 speaker stereo system and sub :)

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      It is easier than that.
      Just put in an LCD touch screen, GPS, whatever radio that the owner wants and provide a USB+HDMI connectors.
      Your phone can use the HDMI to display on the cars touch screen and send audio back to the stereo. The USB powers the phone and allows the phone to control the radio, get data from the built in GPS and maybe read hard buttions if their are any and to get data from the car or control other functions.
      The reason i put in a GPS when most phones have one is that a car GPS could have

    • *sigh* I know this already. My Subaru Tribeca 2008 (hate it with a passion) has a built-in GPS. And apparently Subaru wants $100+ for the annual update CD which comes on 3 now? Whereas my Garmin can handle pretty much the entire country and has better coverage and it only cost me $120 for a lifetime map support and I'm still good.

      Sadly, cars were not meant to be hackable, otherwise I would have ripped it out and put in something nicer.

      A coworker ended up making their own dash using an Android Tablet and som

    • My sister was looking at new cars. To get built-in Sirius it was going to be an extra $1200; to just add her own deck that mounted with a suction cup to the windshield was only a couple hundred. AND she had more features (stop, rewind, 1 hour recording, bigger display == more information) available in the dash-mounted unit vs the built in.

      Ridiculous. So she had a brand new car, and then immediately mounted stuff on the dash...automakers just don't get it.

      • by Rob Riggs (6418)

        Ridiculous. So she had a brand new car, and then immediately mounted stuff on the dash...automakers just don't get it.

        I'm sure they hire MBAs and accountants from the best business schools to figure this stuff out.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Someone needs to come up with a docking module on the dash, to which you can dock a standard device that can be upgraded over the years.

      No, you need to be aware of the preexisting docking module for the dash [ebay.com], because "someone" has already made this.

      .Kind of like the old "DIN" standard for car stereos

      I believe you mean the current "DIN" standard, which is for a hell of a lot more than car stereos. For example, you can purchase standardized 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 DIN and such modules for gauges, set point controllers, etc. In any case, this unit is a single-DIN to iPod dock, which is precisely what you're asking for, available as a retrofit.

      What we need is a standard for the touch displays in automobi

  • by OhHellWithIt (756826) * on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:20AM (#42129913) Journal

    . . . [Y]ou might end up driving a car with a fancy in-dash computer system that's completely useless for much of the time you own it.

    My first car had an AM radio, but I wanted FM, so I bought an FM converter for it. Car #3 had an AM/FM radio, but I wanted a cassette player, so I ended up buying and installing a radio with a cassette player in it. Car #4 didn't have a CD player, and I remedied that with a portable CD player and an adapter that slipped into the factory-installed cassette player. The current car has a radio with CD player and auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth, but I'm pretty sure it will be obsolete by the time I get rid of it.

    Why would onboard computers be any different?

    • by jpstanle (1604059)

      . . . [Y]ou might end up driving a car with a fancy in-dash computer system that's completely useless for much of the time you own it.

      My first car had an AM radio, but I wanted FM, so I bought an FM converter for it. Car #3 had an AM/FM radio, but I wanted a cassette player, so I ended up buying and installing a radio with a cassette player in it. Car #4 didn't have a CD player, and I remedied that with a portable CD player and an adapter that slipped into the factory-installed cassette player. The current car has a radio with CD player and auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth, but I'm pretty sure it will be obsolete by the time I get rid of it.

      Why would onboard computers be any different?

      Because they are far, far less standardized and more integrated into the systems of the car itself than tradition stereo DIN head units.

  • I wonder if any of the auto manufacturers have considered working with Google and using Android?

  • Then please, please, please open source it, or at least let some third party support it. Car owners will likely pay to keep their car up to date if the car manufacturers can't be stuffed.

  • Anyone who has a Ford Sync system knows it is completely useless brand new.
    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Anyone who has a Ford Sync system knows it is completely useless brand new.

      Gee, it's a collaboration between Ford and Microsoft ... what did you expect? ;-)

    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I feel like devil's advocate here, but I've had decent luck with the Ford Sync system. It works well with iOS and Android, and has not given me any real grief.

      Only minor issue is that it tells the Bluetooth device that is playing music to start playing when the radio is turned on, even if the radio is turned off.

      All and all, it has been pretty decent -- especially with the service of it texting where the wrecks are on my daily commute route.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      Anyone who has a Ford Sync system knows it is completely useless brand new.

      I'm second in here, since someone else has already mentioned they have had success with it, but I must also add that I found it to be pretty good. We rented a car with it installed and over the course of 2000-odd miles it had to contend with two different iPhones being hooked up to it for charging and music/podcast playing and it performed flawlessly the whole time. The voice control was also *much* better than I was expecting - I thought it would be a novelty at best, but it actually worked very smoothly a

  • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:27AM (#42129981) Homepage

    My wife's last car had an in-dash GPS. After a few years when the maps started showing their age and missing entire subdivisions, we looked into replacing it.

    Turned out to buy the DVD from GM to update the maps was on the order of $700 or so. Which, was obviously way more than it would cost to buy a Tom Tom or similar.

    I try to avoid such things because they do go obsolete far faster than the thing they're attached to. Though, the BlueTooth integration in my KIA is pretty sweet.

    • by eth1 (94901) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:44PM (#42131027)

      My wife's last car had an in-dash GPS. After a few years when the maps started showing their age and missing entire subdivisions, we looked into replacing it.

      Turned out to buy the DVD from GM to update the maps was on the order of $700 or so. Which, was obviously way more than it would cost to buy a Tom Tom or similar.

      I try to avoid such things because they do go obsolete far faster than the thing they're attached to. Though, the BlueTooth integration in my KIA is pretty sweet.

      Not to mention the fact that for the initial cost of most of those "navigation packages," you could buy a brand new standalone GPS every year for about THREE DECADES... :P Maybe only one decade if you're buying top-of-the-line units.

      I've never met a car salesdroid that has a good answer when I point that out.

  • by alphax45 (675119) <kyle.alfred@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:28AM (#42129995)
    Ford has solved this with Sync: http://www.ford.com/technology/ [ford.com] Great system that leverages your ever changing smartphone.
    • Re:Ford Sync (Score:4, Interesting)

      by FreshlyShornBalls (849004) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @01:54PM (#42132117)

      Ha! You've clearly not actually USED Sync.

      Here's a tip: the fuse that needs to be pulled in order to do a hard reset of the system every month or so requires you to have about 7 joints in your hand to get to.

      I will say this: when it's working, it's awesome. But it was developed by / in conjunction with Microsoft.

  • by Runesabre (732910) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:29AM (#42129999) Homepage

    Car companies and tablet/computer/smartphone companies should work on a standardized touchscreen API. Car companies then install a general purpose touchscreen that is activated and controlled by whatever tablet or smartphone device the user currently has in her possession.

  • by sakkathotmagaa (2728241) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:32AM (#42130039)
    When I recently bought a car, I specifically searched for a model that does not have any touch screen jazzy GPS-smartphone-capable stuff thrown in. Apart from the slow upgrades that are offered by the manufacturers, I find it extremely distracting. A phone call can always wait, and I prefer physical buttons on the dash to skip music tracks or control the volume. Unless you have steering wheel mounted controls (which I admit, most cars have these days), I find the prospect of taking my eyes off the road to figure out where on the screen to touch to change route/track very distracting and potentially dangerous. Voice activated commands are not yet very accent-insensitive. I speak with a marked indian accent, and I find that a couple of systems were not able to pick up commands very easily. More distractions and it just ends up making the journey more tiresome. So car makers, please spare some of us the bleeding edge technology and give us cars that we can actually enjoy driving.
    • Not that I like distractions that raise my risk of death in my car either, but how do you navigate if not with GPS?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The same way we did before GPS, by actually knowing where we were going. I'm nearly 40 years old and never once used GPS to go anywhere and I've never been lost. I've looked at a map a time or two before I went somewhere, but never GPS. I've driven all over the country too and in some very large cities and some very backwoods locations. Never understood why people really needed GPS, seems like a fancy waste of tech to me.

    • + 1

      I think the frills are the result of a combination of looking for things to charge you more for and to substitute for a lack of MEANINGFUL, BIG innovations.........like running on alternative fuels.

  • by Peter Simpson (112887) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:39AM (#42130129)
    Best thing since FM radios in cars. Don't like the factory "whatever"? Pull it out and put in your own.
    • Agreed... it's just too bad that most newer cars have forgotten about that. For a while the aftermarket has been pretty good about designing adapter mounts, conversion face-plates and modules to undo all of the integration and serial data garbage that passes through your stereo from the factory these days, but the OEMs are making it harder and harder with each new model.

      The "DIN" standard needs to be freshened up (maybe call it DIN2) along with a standard electronic interface to help curb this trend.
  • by eyegor (148503) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:40AM (#42130135)

    I've been amazed over the years at the very poor quality of in-dash software and functionality. My 2008 Subaru Legacy has a so-so Nav system and horrendously expensive map upgrades while my wife's 2011 Sienna has probably the worst in-entertainment/Nav system I've seen.

    While my Legacy's Nav system is somewhat hackable, the Sienna seems resistant to any kind of tweaking to improve any aspect of its operation. Instead, we're forced to accept whatever execrable interface they provide, no matter how irksome it may be.

    Both systems could be vastly improved if auto-makers would use a more modularized and upgradable approach to their in-dash systems. Rather than sticking us with a system that's more or less immutable, why not use a general purpose computer underneath whatever buttons and displays they choose to use and allow companies or individuals to provide software to support the various functions we'd like to see. Kind of a chumby approach to things. A user could plug in a NAV module, a way to expand storage, a better quality audio amp or whatever they need to interface to the latest and greatest cell phones.

    • Why should they care? The customer base they are targeting buys a new car every three to five years. While some people buy new cars and keep them longer, the bulk of cars that are older than five years old are being driven by someone who is not a customer of the auto-makers (although the expansion of "certified pre-owned" programs may start to change that perception among car manufacturers).
  • Just give me a USB port and a cigarette lighter for charging and an AUX plug for sound. Bonus points for microphones, but those are strangely absent on most cars.

    A tablet two years younger than an in-dash system will always beat the in-dash system. Controls are still a problem, but voice activation is improving. Either way, you can already by bluetooth devices for the steering wheel with buttons controlling a phone.

    What the tablet cannot offer is decent speakers and a good microphone mounted close to the he

  • What the hell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:43AM (#42130179)
    http://www.mirrorlink.com/ [mirrorlink.com]

    This problem has been solved.
    • by KNicolson (147698)

      Yup, I'll second that. For the people too lazy to click through, your in-dash unit basically becomes a thin client terminal (using RealVNC) for your smartphone server, and the phone can supply an audio stream to the in-car audio system, and read back all your presses of the steering wheel buttons, etc, etc.

      Toyota/Panasonic's system will even read your Tweets to you as you drive, and I'm sure an update to the smartphone side will use whatever in-car hands-free system to allow you to dictate Tweets as you dri

    • "MirrorLink also provides a mechanism that ensures only approved applications are accessible while driving. Applications will be approved using a standardize testing process that will be introduced later this year."

      I don't need that bit. Look, all I need is a wireless peripheral standard that will allow my smartphone/credit-card-computer (which will live in my wallet in 10 years) to make use of my car's (touch?) display(s), speakers, microphone, keyboard, mouse, various buttons...or whatever else it may h

  • Rand McNally (Score:5, Informative)

    by boristdog (133725) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:45AM (#42130209)

    I upgrade my big $6.95 book of Rand McNally road maps every couple years. It's not that expensive.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @11:46AM (#42130219) Journal
    My Prius model year 2006 came in with the maps stored in a DVD that was updated in Feb 2005. Car is still going strong, giving me 45 mpg in summer and about 40 mpg in winter. No problems, no issues. Except for that stupid map-DVD. Toyota thinks the updated DVD is worth 200$. And furthermore, only an authorized dealer technician can do this impossibly difficult task of ejecting old dvd and inserting the new one, labor at 80$ an hour. And the local dealer charges 20$ a day "storage fee" if you don't pick the car up when they call you to say it is done. It is a rip off. No one in right mind is paying for this stuff.
  • If by "a decade or more" they mean 25 years, then yeah, OK. Don't forget the used car market; when the first owner of a car moves to a new car, the old one does not go straight to the scrap heap, and for modern cars 25 years is pretty common.

  • In-dash car stereos suck... they always have, and they always will. Lets be honest here, these "Systems" are nothing more than glorified car stereos. If you want to save some money on your car, get one without this nonsense per-installed and install your own after-market system for $200. You can replace it whenever you want then. When you get the factory system, it's often so integrated, removing it becomes a real problem.

  • by dstone (191334) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:00PM (#42130431) Homepage

    Seriously. Just give me a Bash shell. I'll alias some useful stuff to short commands. Voice dictation can reduce the safety issues with keyboard use. And when the car is out of warranty, the dealer has to add me to the wheel group for sudo.

  • by MpVpRb (1423381) on Thursday November 29, 2012 @12:12PM (#42130609)

    ..and tried to tell them this

    Don't put electronics in dashboards, build interfaces and docking stations

    Concentrate on things like speakers, that must be designed to fit the space and don't change a lot

    Needless to say, I was ignored

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