Will sat navs all be cloud-based by 2020?

Potential for distraction

However, one of the big questions of in-car apps remains over driver safety. "You still have safety and security to worry about. Driver distraction is going to be the biggest issue. Governments will come down hard on automakers because of the distractive nature of mobile apps."

Magney suggested that one idea was that some intelligence could be supplied to how HMIs are used, perhaps depending on the time of day or the conditions but – perhaps unsurprisingly – many of the other speakers at the SVOX Forum were focused on better, more natural speech solutions as the key method to reduce driver distraction.

Thomas Scheerbarth, senior expert in Voice & Multimodal Solutions at Deutsche Telekom said that studies carried out using a PTT (Push to Talk) button had reduced eye dwell time on the in-car system to around two per cent. However, a demo video of a in-car scenario with a touch-interface where emails were being read out revealed eye dwell time as significantly more.

There's also the question of how smartphone apps will sit alongside the embedded model – systems like BMW iDrive and the Microsoft Auto-based Ford Sync. "These things will coexist. We do believe long term that you'll have embedded for the driver's sake and mobile apps for the passenger's sake."

"Unfortunately people aren't going to pay for traditional telematics. But mobile apps... that's what will drive them into the showrooms to buy those cars."

Doing open source properly

With many in-car systems moving to open source operating systems like Android, Andrew Till, head of solutions marketing at mobile software provider Teleca, warned that using open source isn't a ticket to cheaper design.

"Open source is not free. Yes, you can get the code, but everybody else you're competing with can get the same code. [Those who have] reduced their R&D budget, are less competitive.

Till warned that those designing using open source software should design for platforms and portability not lead devices. He said that the initial outlay is not inconsiderable, with the first device being 150 per cent of the cost of using a closed platform, but the second 75 per cent and so on.

Till also warned that the licensing in open source was very important to think about. "MeeGo is distributed under the GNU license – it's important to understand where you need to contribute code back. Android however is under the Apache2 licence and doesn't require you to contribute anything back."

"We'll end up in a strong multi-OS world. That said, some will disappear, it's too fragmented."


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site T3.com. Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.