You might have heard it on the news recently; the Queensland government has introduced the strictest fine in the country regarding the use of your mobile phone while behind the wheel.
The reason why something like this is newsworthy is the eye-watering punishment attached to it, namely a $1000 fine and a loss of 4 points.
Oh, the 2nd offence within a year? Try another $1000 fine and 8 points on for size. This could mean a loss of license for almost everyone.
Think of how many times you’ve used the phone while driving, even just last year! Sending a sneaky text, choosing a new Spotify playlist, using your phone to call someone because it’s easier than going through the car’s factory Bluetooth menu.
Connecting to the world during your drive should be easy; it’s the 21st century for crying out loud!
The problem is up until recently; you had to rely on the vehicle’s designers to make it as easy as possible for you to connect to the world during your commute legally.
However, every manufacturer had their idea of what a user-friendly car to user experience should be.
This is why Audi’s MMI, BMW’s NBT and Mercedes COMAND systems are so different and why every year, as technology evolves, a completely different iteration is created.
Multiply this by the models and different price points, and you have a result of hundreds of varying UI experiences, each one created by a different idea of how things should be. It’s gotten to the point where if you bought the same BMW series but a couple of years younger you would be greeted with a completely new interface to learn. New ways to do the same things you finally got used to in your old car.
In March of 2014 along comes, Apple CarPlay followed a year later by Google’s answer, Android Auto. Both of these were made to solve this glaring issue in the car connectivity arena: too many different ways to do the same thing and nothing like what you’re familiar with.
These two organisations have solved this problem by interfacing with the powerful computer in your pocket – your smartphone. With this connection comes the ability to seamlessly sync with your digital world and allow you to easily (and most importantly, legally) use a familiar, personalised interface. There are four main functions Apple and Google work tirelessly to integrate into your commute: Navigation, Phone, Messaging and Music.
Since then there have been after-market replacement head units with CarPlay and Android Auto as well as vehicle manufacturers slowly coming on board to have it as part of their factory infotainment offering.
But what about those luxury brands that were slow on the bandwagon of smartphone integration? For brands like Mercedes, Porche, Lexus, Audi and BMW? Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is only a recent addition to their latest generation of cars. But their previous-gen offering is still a viable option if you’re looking to buy a car, or already own one for that matter.
Especially since the new car tax has been removed from the resale value after driving off the dealership floor a few years back, the problem is we can’t change these radios like your every day Toyota or Hyundai. Every system goes through the radio—things like vehicle settings and menu’s, diagnostics and warnings. Changing anything would lose this and, what’s more, ruin the interior’s aesthetics, a significant part of the appeal of a luxury car.
Only recently has there been a quality solution for this type of scenario. Designers and manufacturers of some of the most reliable electronic components have come together to build vehicle specific integration modules for smartphone connection in the most luxury vehicles of the last ten years. Not only that, but there is no need to even plug your phone in anymore.
The communication between phone and car is entirely wireless, and you can leave your phone in your pocket while using CarPlay and Android Auto.
The interfacing for the module through your car has been carefully thought out too so you can intuitively use the new system with your factory controls. Whether it be using the factory control dial, touchpad or factory touch screen, with some cars, you also can add an overlay to a screen where touch function was not previously optioned.
Professional and experienced installers for this particular product are not common; however, but they do exist. If you are going to update the factory radio for your vehicle, make sure that you choose a local service provider that knows the product and the cars inside and out.
The fact is $1000 per fine is a ridiculous cost for such an easily avoided offence. That money could be better spent on a new upgrade for your dated entertainment system, and at the same time, you get to keep your demerit points! Do some research, ask the right questions and you’ll be pointed in the right direction for your car’s newest update, all while keeping on the right side of the law.
This post was first published in GCMAG.com.au, author Ben Soutter of Connected Car Solutions