The auto infotainment systems market in India is on the cusp of a technological revolution. These systems have become the very embodiment of all possible and futuristic ideas related to driver assistance, vehicle safety, diagnostics, connectivity, entertainment
Slip behind the driving wheel of any modern automobile, and you will be carried away by the marvel of plug-and-play electronic dashboards which would put the display of an aircraft’s cockpit to shame.
Auto buyers are now looking much beyond the exteriors of a car when they go in for a purchase. They are demanding new functions, flexibility, and updates throughout the entire lifecycle of
a vehicle — all at an attractive price. This has caused the opening up of
the automobile infotainment systems market. Today’s automotive manufacturers are rising up to these technological challenges with sophisticated concepts and intelligent architectures. The market is poised to take off. Consider the in-vehicle entertainment market, a good indicator of the potential of the auto infotainment universe. According to 6Wresearch, the Indian in-car entertainment market is projected to grow at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.3 per cent during 2015-2016. Analysts have pegged this market at Rs 500 crore and most majors in the field are now entering the Indian market with the latest global offerings.
All major players with a substantial presence in India like BMW, Mercedes, VW, Jaguar, Audi, GM etc., are focusing on developing manufacturing auto hubs across the country. These auto hubs now also target global markets, and as a result, automobiles are coming equipped with the latest in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems. In fact, the Indian market is considered to be one of the largest IVI markets. In-vehicle infotainment is no longer limited to luxury vehicles. Today, even entry level and medium range vehicles sport state-of-the-art in-vehicle infotainment panels. These can support intelligent navigation systems and wireless connectivity. The tremendous potential of IVI in India is attracting more industry players to invest in this sector. So now the Indian customer can look forward to a cost-effective, future proofed and seamless driving experience, thanks to these futuristic panels.
The global picture also points towards the growth potential of this sector. According to US market research company IHS Automotive, by 2020, 25.4 million vehicles will be equipped with audio infotainment systems — a steep increase compared to 2014, when IHS counted only 14.4 million vehicles with such systems.
Customers and manufacturers are increasingly expecting features such as smartphone connectivity via apps like CarPlay and Android Auto. Increasingly larger touch-screens in the cockpit, app functions and a connection to the cloud will soon be considered standard features.
But auto manufacturers are also realising that keeping up with market expectations is no easy task. Despite increased requirements, customers and OEMs expect lower prices for such advanced features.
Again, many new auto launches are now taking place simultaneously across the globe. Automotive manufacturers are turning towards flexible solutions that can easily be adapted to various vehicle models, trim levels, and markets. Here, another challenge is posed by the varying standards for digital and satellite radio across the world — and the rapid technical development within the consumer electronics market with regard to mobile devices. Ergo, the infotainment system of the future must be able to adapt to changing market requirements and user behaviour, while remaining reliable, easy to use, and ideally upgradeable via a software update.
Vision for Infotainment
Says Dr Krishna Prasad, Director - Technical Center, Delphi India, “We believe that the Indian market will be ripe for a full-featured infotainment system with key features like media playback, smartphone connectivity, navigation and touch-screen interface, in the next three-five years. Internet connectivity could become an attractive feature given the affordability of 4G/5G data connectivity.”
A few niche auto tech providers are waiting for the Indian market to mature even further. For example, NVIDIA, which has created a global leadership position for itself in developing technology to power self-driving cars, is actively eyeing the domestic market potential. Sundara R Nagalingam, Head – Deep Learning practice, NVIDIA Graphics Pvt Ltd, says, “Whatever development work we do, is undertaken as a global effort. In India, we are waiting for the car OEMs to adopt this (technological change), when they are ready.”
The humble car stereo has given way to sophisticated radio platforms, which fit into flat panels just 40 mm in depth (on an average), giving automotive manufacturers maximum flexibility for interior design. These platforms also support colour touch-screens and, depending on the target market, can receive AM/FM, DAB/DAB+/DMB, DRM, and HD radio via software-defined radio technology.
These in-auto platforms support smartphone connectivity via apps like MirrorLink, CarPlay, Android Auto and Baidu CarLife. In addition, they support speech input and text-to-speech output, and are equipped with Bluetooth, iPod/USB connections, and an SD card slot to support multimedia players. A rear-view camera can also be connected and an Ethernet-based audio/video bridge (AVB) can support the connection of a surround-view Electronic Control Unit (ECU) to the system, giving the driver a 360-degree view from the automobile’s cockpit.
Meeting Market Requirements
A wide selection of features combined with best possible cost optimisation, broad-based scalability for a variety of markets and models, reduction of the number of global market variants, maximum freedom for interior design due to flat panel design, and future viability to implement new functions or services via software updates throughout the lifetime of a vehicle — these are the main advantages of the new radio platforms.
“We see that this market will grow in terms of integrated navigation functionality, larger screens, and smartphone connectivity. Nowadays, youngsters are looking for state-of-the-art phone connectivity features, and of course, larger displays. Urbanisation and higher quality maps are driving positive response to navigation applications,” Prasad says.
A good example of the seamless adaptation to developing market requirements is smartphone integration with automobile platforms. With capacitive touch-screens in resolutions of up to 1280 x 720 (HD), support for USB and Bluetooth connectivity, these platforms can seamlessly link up with smartphones via apps like MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto.
This linkage allows smartphone-based apps to access the touch-screen of the head unit, permits the transfer of audio signals in both directions, and allows the support of smartphone-based navigation functions as well as other applications, as and when they become available.
Nagalingam opines, “Every company in India, and all over the world, is interested in smart features. These things are mostly adopted by car manufacturers. We are moving fast towards an era where the car is software-controlled.” He adds, “There is also a very important change which will happen. The consumer will select the software features (depending on the required user experience). People now think about the engines, the looks of the car, before purchasing.”
Over the last two years, NVIDIA has also created a niche for itself in developing technology to power self-driving cars. Its DRIVE PX platform is a supercomputer, the size of a lunchbox, that delivers the massive computing power required by the artificial intelligence systems which will navigate cars in the future. Audi has become the first automaker to announce that it’s developing advanced driver assistance functionality based on DRIVE PX, which will appear in the Audi A8 next year.
Commenting on his company’s product range, Prasad says, “Today, Delphi has a presence in radios; as the local market demand is growing, we are planning to introduce full-featured infotainment products. The key features would remain similar across the range, but the quality of audio, size of display screens, performance of a feature like hands-free functions, user interface for navigation applications, etc., will progressively become better.”
As a technology leader, Delphi has an extensive product portfolio. “We are introducing product features that best meet local market needs. The quality of human-machine interface, quality of media playback and hands-free performance can act as powerful differentiators,” says Prasad. NVIDIA’s automotive business falls broadly into three categories: high-end graphics used in product design, infotainment and autonomous driving. The company works with a wide range of automotive manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover, Porsche, Audi, Ford, Honda and Skoda.
“Every automaker in the world uses NVIDIA’s Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) technology in the design and styling of their vehicles, from the computer aided design (CAD) models employed by engineers to virtual prototyping,” Nagalingam says. GPUs are also widely used in the marketing of vehicles, most spectacularly in the impressive Audi City showrooms, where consumers can visualise their new car life-size with any combination of features, accessories and colours on NVIDIA-driven power walls.
Inside the car, NVIDIA GPUs provide an intuitive experience on every screen, including virtual instrument clusters, navigation and entertainment systems. Examples unveiled at the recent Geneva Motor Show include Audi’s new Q2. This SUV is aimed at a new generation of digital-savvy customers. Options include the all-digital Audi virtual cockpit and a head-up display and a stunning NVIDIA-powered navigation system with online Audi Connect.
“Over the lifetime of our company, we have invested billions of dollars worth of R&D in our core technology, the Graphics Processing Unit,” Nagalingam says. This same tiny piece of silicon that creates stunning graphics for gaming, professional graphics applications and in-car infotainment systems is also highly suited to the computing required for deep learning, the branch of artificial intelligence that will soon make self-driving cars a reality. Of course, with all these major changes on the horizon, auto manufacturers have their task cut out for them. A car which loses control if it hits a patch of bad cell signal or goes through a tunnel can spell disaster.
When self-driven cars become more common, the market for infotainment systems is bound to see exponential growth. One side effect of self-driving cars will be the freeing up of in-vehicle screen real estate, and the ability of the car’s occupants to consume infotainment content. In fact, concept vehicles, such as the Mercedes F 015 Luxury in Motion, imagine the automobile as a ‘mobile living space’ where every surface is a screen capable of displaying rich interactive content.
“In India, we are waiting for the car OEMs to adopt this technological change, when they
- Sundara R Nagalingam,
Head – Deep
NVIDIA Graphics Pvt Ltd
“We believe that the Indian market will be ripe for a full-featured infotainment system with key features like media playback and smartphone connectivity in the next three-five years."
- Dr Krishna Prasad,
Director - Technical Center, Delphi India