View RSS Feed

mp3Car News

  1. Why can I buy a Kindle Fire for $200, but an OEM Nav system for my car costs $1000?

    by , 10-31-2011 at 07:59 PM
    Parag Garg is a passionate technologist with over 10 years of experience in consumer electronics. He’s done automotive work for car brands like BMW and Porsche in his own start up, later he worked in the Automotive team at Microsoft delivering the Ford Sync product, afterwards he worked in other teams like Embedded, Courier and XBOX. Parag is currently at Amazon in the Kindle group working on World Class Products. When not working on “gadgets”, Parag enjoys his time at home with his wife Linh and their 3 kids.

    Why can I buy a Kindle Fire for $200, but an OEM Nav system for my car costs $1000?
    You would think the obvious answer is that the Auto Makers want to hold a high premium for these features in their vehicles. From my experience this is not actually the case, after contemplating the pivots that increase the cost of a in car infotainment system, I’ve narrowed it down to these 5 reasons:

    Business Licensing
    As a consumer we think that Maps should be free, it’s a “give me” feature that we get on our PCs, Phones and Tablets without paying anyone. This is not true in the car, the automakers need to pay significant fees to Navteq or Teleatlas to licensing their road mapping data to use in a vehicle GPS system. A few years ago, the licensing terms used to even have clauses that charged differently if a GPS system used in a mobile device on in a vehicle.
    The same holds true for licensing of other components such as Audio/Video codecs and 3rd Party Periphrials like iPod/Phone.
    Licensing for Moble Devices is greatly different and cheaper.

    R&D Development Costs

    Typically the R&D development costs to build an infotainment system are fairly high. An carmaker may involve 3-7 suppliers to develop the complete end to end system. Automakers also like to “protect” any components that go into their vehicles, so that usually means proprietary protocols for communication between the different pieces of their infotainment system. The Auto industry also has a very long development cycle, something like an iPad gets refreshed every year, while vehicle models are refreshed every 5-7 years. The 5-7 years in my opinion hurts the development of technology in their vehicles as they feel like they have a lot of time to develop new features.
    You typically get a new iPad or Kindle every year.

    Auto Qualification of Components

    One thing that consumers generally overlook is how robust the components in your vehicle have to be. Your car could be parked in -30F to 130F degree weather, regardless of the weather condition, you expect your vehicle to start up and the infotainment system to “just work”. To support this extended temperature range for components, Auto makers work closely with component suppliers to get parts that are Automotive Qualified. “AutoQual” certification of a part both costs money and time which adds to the overall development cost and final cost of the product.
    Your Kindle Fire or iPad 2 does not need to operate in those weather extremes.

    Consumer Liability

    The automakers are extremely concerned of infotainment liability; all it takes is a way to blame the infotainment system as the cause of the accident and their liability could shoot through the roof.
    The other consumer liability to worry about is warranty repairs, generally the Infotainment system is one of the more complicated parts in the vehicle, so the automaker needs to account for repairs and replacements of this system at it’s dealerships.
    Unlike an Infotainment system in your vehicle, it’s assumed that you can use your Kindle Fire in MANY other places. The vehicle is not a primary use cases for most people.
    Units sold to share development costs
    The development of any Infotainment System has a lot of Non-Reoccurring Engineering Costs also known as NRE. These NRE costs are generally costs that the automakers likes to divvy up amounts all the sold Infotainment systems for accounting. While not 100% accurate, the NRE costs of a iPad or Kindle Fire are similar to those of an Automakers Infotainment system. The difference is that the Auto industry as a whole sold about 11 Million vehicles in the US. While the iPad 2 sold 11 Million tablets in Q3 2011 alone. ~44 Million a year.
    Now of the 11 million vehicles sold in the US, that’s ALL brands with or without Infotainment systems. Even if you take a 20% slice, you need to divvy all Infotainment Development costs between ~550,000 Infotainment systems vs. 44 Million iPads.
  2. Mp3Car's Sean Clark on "Why Tablets?"

    by , 10-17-2011 at 04:56 PM

    Our resident nerd and car computer enthusiast, Sean Clark, won't shut up about tablets. Not a day goes by that he isn't half-rambling on about the potential benefits of integrating a tablet into his already tech-laden vehicle. So, if for no other reason than to give Sean the opportunity to get it out of his system, I thought I'd ask him a few pointed questions about why this tablet trend is going to be so... well, trendy. Here is Sean Clark, in his own words (and even and interjection by Rob Wray).

    CAP: Why tablets? What benefits do they offer someone that are above and beyond a car computer?

    SC: Off the top of my head, I can think of three big reasons:
    a) The screen. You can spend over $1000 and still not get a screen that's as dreamy to touch as a tablet. All of these tablets have glass, capacitive (more on this below), multi-touch displays that have a coating to keep your finger happy. All of these CarPC displays are resistive (more on this below), plasticy, and single touch. There are SOME that are multi touch, and some that are capacitive, but it's inferior technology that cannot compare.
    b) The Price. Tablets can cost as little as $600 for a fully functional computer plus a multi-touch screen. That same package is gonna run you close to $800 and you will still have to run a ton of wires.
    c) The Software. Software on CarPC's is always growing and always developing. But the market for car PC developers is maybe .6% the size of the Android market, and an even lower percentage of the iOS developer market. You just get access to way more apps and way more customization to the user's liking when you go android.

    Rob - I'm not so sure that stat is accurate - and the car PC developers may disagree.

    Sean - Well, it's true that there are many more apps, but they may not necessarily be car centric. Rob - I can agree with that. There is just no "front-end" glue holding it all together. Very similar to the Car PC market in the late 90s. A bunch of random software with no glue.

    CAP: What are the differences in the monitor and touch screen? Why would this be particularly helpful in a vehicle?

    SC: A normal car PC touchscreen is between 7 and 10 inches, is 'resistive,' and single touch. Resistive by definition means that you have to contact 2 layers together at a point to create the touch input. That means you will, on some level, feel the 2 layers. That gives the screen a softer feeling. Which is actually bad. Softer screen means more friction, which means more heat your finger generates when trying to swipe and gesture. Which brings me to my second point: gestures. CarPCs aren't really geared towards gestures. Because the screen is so "one touch," the software and displays are designed to treat "your finger as a mouse." Tablets have been designed to treat your finger(s) as a NEW input device. This means that you're expected to swipe and make gestures with one or more fingers.

    Let's take scrolling for example. On a car PC, you would tap down and up arrow buttons. But on a tablet, you just swipe up and down, a much more natural interface for the user to use, and the displays make this all possible for tablets.

    CAP: How would you integrate one into a car? What size would you need?

    SC: The biggest challenge one faces when installing a tablet into the car is the fact that they don't conform to any auto standards. A lot of cars generally have a double DIN-sized opening (or close to that) which a 7 inch display can be fabricated into. That is to say - the 7 inch screen can be taken apart, and is now SMALLER than the double din size, which means it can be built in. A 7 inch tablet cannot be taken apart. So the bezel on the tablet will make the tablet BIGGER than the double DIN-sized opening. Therefore you will need CUSTOM installation for a tablet. So if you can't blow fiberglass or weld metal, your looking at $1200-$1,500 for a custom installation.

    CAP: Where are we headed? Beyond the early adoption phase, what features do you see a tablet performing that might be exciting horizon concepts?

    SC: I see room for what we call a "black box". There is still a void with tablets that car PC's still fill: connecting to hardware. Because of all the USB and serial hardware that has been created over the years, you can control your lights, engine features, remote functions, tuning and more with your car PC. None of that exists for tablets (except for the engine diagnostics). A black box would fill this void; it would interface with all of this hardware, and then translate its data to the tablet. Once this black box is made, the tablet will be able to do everything the car PC can do, including all the bells, whistles and customizations car PC hackers love.
    Tags: -1' Add / Edit Tags
    mp3Car News
  3. Mimics Delight - Released

    by , 07-07-2011 at 02:17 PM

    Yesterday marks the release of the 3rd 'userland' jailbreak for the iOS family. A userland jailbreak allows an iOS user to install Cydia (the hack app store) by simply visiting So all those awaiting your pre-sale Mimics can get ready for your install by just visiting that link and downloading the "Mimics Driver" app from Cydia.

    This jailbreak is good for anyone using an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or iPad 2 running the latest 4.3.3 firmware. If you aren't on 4.3.3, feel free to update as normal in iTunes, even if you are already jailbroken and just wish to update. Note: you will want to back up your Cydia apps if you are upgrading from a previously jailbroken device. As always, backup your phone with iTunes before jailbreaking.

    Happy Jailbreaking.
  4. Who said anything about no hardware?

    by , 05-09-2011 at 11:52 PM
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Images  
  5. Imagine car computing. Without the computer.

    by , 05-05-2011 at 12:05 PM
    mp3Car News
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Images  
Page 1 of 18 1234567891011 ... LastLast