Means of Access
Today's Cars are Waiting for the Bus
By Collin Keefe
As with time and space, technology and innovation are constants. Regardless of the sector or context, someone somewhere is always developing something to surpass the limitations of a predecessor. This is certainly the case in the current state of mobile electronics. The rate at which new automotive consumer electronics have emerged and been adopted in recent years—everything from navigational systems to satellite radio—has been truly inspiring, and in keeping with the rapid pace of other CE evolutions.
Unfortunately, over in the automobile manufacturers' world, time moves much more slowly. As a result, mobile electronics manufacturers appear to be leaps and bounds ahead of the auto makers when it comes to creating digital applications and gadgets for in-vehicle use.
This situation has already become a bottleneck for manufacturers, retailers and consumers of mobile electronics equipment. Sophisticated aftermarket products are increasingly out of step with the vehicle infrastructures that must accommodate them. While workarounds have been developed, coming up with a commonly-accepted solution has been more difficult, and may continue to be so.
NOT INVENTED HERE
Historically, auto makers have been slow on the draw to adopt or adapt to new technologies, particularly those introduced from companies outside the automaking industry. The tendency in the world of steel and wheels is to develop closed, or at least limited, proprietary systems, with little attention paid to aftermarket possibilities. Once the automakers do latch on to a new technology, the breakthrough usually manifests itself in expensive, high end vehicles first, and then over the course of several model years, trickles down the automotive food chain before overall standards are set.
In the past, when mobile electronics basically meant an audio head unit and some speakers, the status quo worked out according to expectations and market demand. But now, with mounting consumer demand for high-tech aftermarket goodies like CD changers, audio hard drives, digital radio, navigation systems, DVD players and video displays—in other words, today's technologies, not tomorrow's—installers are finding themselves hard-pressed to appease their customers. While the mobile electronics manufacturers are doing all they can to satisfy consumer demand, one of the major obstacles standing in the way of fulfilling consumers wishes is hardwired into the cars themselves. It's called the automobile's data bus system.