Google will dominate car infotainment, says Kia

Google will dominate car infotainment, says Kia
Your car could be the next Apple/Samsung battleground. Yey!

Google will power the connected car, and the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy devices will soon have in-car modes, according to Henry Bzeih, head of infotainment and telematics at Kia Motors America.

Speaking at the Consumer Telematics Show at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Bzeih talked about his expectations of Google becoming a key player in the car infotainment market - and he certainly isn't opposed to that.

At December's LA Auto Show, Kia announced the second-gen version of its hands-free UVO infotainment system, which will debut in the 2014 Kia Sorento vehicle. UVO was developed with Microsoft, but the new version comes with both Google Places and Google Maps. There's no access to the web at large, so Chrome takes a back set, but many of the features can be controlled through a smartphone app.

Google will dominate car infotainment, says Kia

As well as streaming music from a phone, the improved voice-activated system - centered on a 7-inch touchscreen - now includes emergency services calling, engine diagnostics info and a parking location reminder. This time it learns your speech patterns for more accuracy.

Free smart cars

"We worked with Google on our first generation telematics service that's launching in the next few weeks on the Sorento," said Bzeih. "Google APIs open up an ecosystem that will enable a variety of content and services... this is the bedrock for advancing the connected car."

Kia won't charge customers to use Google services - it's a commercial agreement between Kia and Google - and nor does it mean Kia is locked to an Android OS. In fact, it's built with Microsoft, which Bzeih described as "agnostic".

Google will dominate car infotainment, says Kia

Bzeih also predicted that the future of the connected car will follow the pattern of the spread of digital devices in general. "I expect the emergence of a single device that will converge our tablets, our phones and our business devices into one device that fits all," said Bzeih.

"This is called 'bring your own device', and I expect to see every major OS translate into a single application."

Machine head-to-heads

He also predicts that the era of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications will soon dominate in our everyday lives, both at home, at work, and in the car. "Technology like DLNA, LTE, NFC and other communication protocols will play a big role in M2M connectivity," thinks Bzeih, who is convinced that the usual suspects will be involved.

"We will see the Samsungs and Apples of the world thinking about integrating a 'car mode' into the devices they provide. I also expect augmented reality to become more prevalent in digital applications."

Google will dominate car infotainment, says Kia

"Translating this to the connected car is what I call 'Tethered 2.0'," said Bzeih, explaining that it will involve maps and navigation, tracking services - a friends and family finder - vehicle tracking, city guides, user-generated content and social networking.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),