Today, the average smartphone is more powerful than the average embedded infotainment systems. And a system called Terminal Mode has been gaining in popularity in the automotive and mobile industries as the way to tap the power
in your pocket.
Terminal Mode is largely based on VNC, the software
that enables you to remotely control computer desktops; it allows programs and interfaces to be replicated on other screens. With some tweaking on the back end, that means your in-car navigation
screen could become a modified, interactive version of your personal phone, as long as the phone and the vehicle are Terminal Mode–capable. The car and tech companies imagine a synched approach, where touching your car's built-in screen can manipulate your phone's apps. Then, when you disconnect the phone, the car's normal operating system would take over.
"The significance of Terminal Mode is that it allows applications to be used on various platforms, Lanctot says. "So you could conceivably have [a mobile phone] app that would work on multiple [brands of] cars with only minor differences."
"The carmakers are quite eager to just use the customer's phone as the pipe to the car as opposed to embedding the module," Lanctot says. "That's what this is all about."
If Terminal Mode truly catches on, this issue will likely be addressed by making sure the application's look can be modified depending on the make and model of the car.