Navigating towards a safe connected car

Rachel Boagey and Garmin’s Kip Dondlinger discuss the challenges of making cars connected...and safe

The car of the future will require advanced connectivity and navigation, the ability to wirelessly update, and an intuitive User Interface (UI) that meets consumer needs for a safe and connected drive.

By incorporating navigation and safety into its development plans, and offering software and hardware infotainment platforms that combine advanced navigation and smartphone integration, Garmin International aims to provide users with an always-connected lifestyle.

Kip Dondlinger is Product Manager, Automotive OEM at Garmin, a role that entails planning the company’s next generation platform and products specifically for automotive OEMs. Dondlinger is also responsible for putting together Garmin’s feature and product requirements, and leading the User Experience team which develops UIs and carries out customer research, evaluating and ensuring the usability of Garmin’s products to reduce driver distraction, as well as setting new standards for infotainment integration and usability.

In a recent interview with Megatrends, Dondlinger spoke about the future of navigation in the eyes of Garmin, and how the company can develop not only as a navigation provider, but as a key part of the connected car community going forward.

Battling for attention

While recognising the need to make the car more connected, Garmin also notes that there is a fine line between providing customers with the connectivity they require, and making sure they’re not distracted from the task of driving. “It’s something that we’ve been focused on for a number of years now, and there’s no one single approach to making the car connected in a safe way,” noted Dondlinger.

“I personally take this very seriously,” he explained. “You still see many people using their smartphones while driving. We are very much focused on identifying those situations and use cases that tempt people to interact with their phone while they’re driving. We can then make those use cases accessible in a far safer way through the head-unit.”

To address this, Garmin has created a solution which provides advanced infotainment technology alongside advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), to help solve the diverted attention dangers often associated with in-vehicle infotainment.

“The ultimate goal is for the driver to have very little interaction with the touch screen, and very few steps in order to complete the task,” he noted. “We do this by making sure the system responds to the pace of the driver, and he doesn’t feel pressured to complete a task in a certain timeframe. Driving needs to be the first priority, so the driver should decide the pace, not the system.”

Garmin’s K2 platform was developed by the company’s automotive group and is a fully customisable and scalable solution to meet the needs of OEMs, as well as the needs and safety of the driver. “As systems become more complex, they can become more and more difficult to use,” Dondlinger commented.

Today, he noted, in some vehicles that support applications such as OpenTable or Yelp, the driver has to exit the navigation application and open other applications to make, for example, a dinner reservation. “With K2 and our navigation systems, though, you’ll be able to access that type of functionality from within the navigation system. It means there are fewer steps for the user, so that it’s much easier to find a destination and do other things in a third party application without having to manage separate apps.”

Garmin Gemini Navigation Core
Performance advancements in Garmin’s new Gemini navigation core allow for the integration of realistic and beautifully rendered 3D graphics

A friendly voice

The company also has its own in-house speech recognition team, and Dondlinger said Garmin’s expertise in this area helps to create easy-to-use solutions for the user. “We work with partners like Nuance, but also apply our own solutions on top to make things more usable. Speech features are something that people don’t give too much consideration to until they actually have it, and it’s really nice to be able to get guidance in a way that is more like the way people think than the way a computer thinks,” he noted, adding that the system is an easy to use and understandable solution for navigation purposes: “People often don’t have a good sense for what 100 feet is, but if the system was to say ‘turn right at the second traffic light’, or ‘turn right at McDonald’s’, it becomes very easy for people to understand and comprehend.”

Pushing a wireless future

Dondlinger believes that the increasingly connected environment will significantly improve in-vehicle navigation. “The days of loading software onto a system yourself will soon disappear, as we see more and more systems that do the same things people have come to expect through their smartphones and their tablets. That is, to always have updated software and the latest information.”

While embedded systems have traditionally been slow to update their data, Dondlinger explained that this will soon change when over-the-air (OTA) information updates are introduced to built-in systems. “We’ve got technology coming in our next generation navigation core Gemini, which enables you to push smaller files, map updates and POI updates to vehicles over wireless networks,” he said. “It will mean we are very frequently and affordably able to give users the latest information in their vehicles.”

Dondlinger also explained that one of the biggest problems concerning in-dash navigation systems is consumers being unhappy with the map and POI information not being up to date. “With Gemini, we have redesigned navigation from the ground up so that we could do the types of OTA updates people want in a way that doesn’t consume a lot of bandwidth,” he added. “We can send out updates based on geography or updates on parts of the road network that have changed, for example. The companies that succeed in infotainment will be the companies with the capability to push these types of updates to vehicles. It’s something that will really change embedded solutions,” he suggested.

End-to-end experience

With increasing consumer reliance on smartphones, automotive companies have an opportunity to develop software that helps bridge the gap between infotainment used in cars and the applications that drivers use before and after their journeys.

For this reason, Garmin is working on an end-to-end experience for customers for when they leave their car and its navigation system, so that they have ‘last mile’ information transmitted to their phone. “If the user is walking to a specific airport terminal for example, our system can route them specifically to where it is they want to go. Once they turn off their car engine, that information can be instantly transferred to a portable device so the driver is not left in the dark about the rest of his journey,” Dondlinger said. “There are opportunities both within and outside the car to really connect the user to their vehicle and to the navigation information that’s available.”

A two-way street to autonomy

Looking to the future of the connected car, Dondlinger pointed out that partially autonomous vehicles will continue to advance, and that the supplier will support more two-way information when it comes to maps. “Maps will become more up-to-date because vehicles on the road are providing updates as they drive,” he said. As roads change due to construction, and as weather conditions change the road, therefore, cars will require real-time accurate data that gets fed from the vehicle to the network and back to other cars. “That still may be a number of years out, but we are looking at how to make that real and how to make maps more detailed.”

Rachel Boagey

This article appeared in the Q1 2015 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. Follow this link to download the full issue.