The majority of carmakers are only just getting around to providing smartphone connectivity and charging docks in their latest vehicles, but, according to ABI Research, soon room in the cabin will also have to be made for wearable tech too.
The research and analysis firm believes that because wearable technology is heading quickly towards the mainstream by the end of the decade, some form of in-car integration will be available across 90 percent of new vehicles.
“With in-car infotainment becoming a key customer proposition, the automotive industry is designing user interfaces both offering a rich and convenient experience and guaranteeing safety by preventing driver distraction. While head unit proximity touch screens, heads up displays and speech recognition are now well established, the quest for next-generation automotive HMI is still on with gesture recognition, eye control and augmented reality edging closer to implementation. At the same time, wearable form-factors are being explored bearing testimony to the automotive industry’s objective to keep up with consumer electronics innovation. But they also contribute to creating a seamless digital user experience inside and outside the vehicle,” says VP and practice director, Dominique Bonte.
Looking at the current state of the consumer wearable technology device market it’s hard to believe that Google Glass or any of the current crop of smartwatches will have become ubiquitous tech devices like smartphones within the next five years.
However, for once, automakers — who tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to non-essential in-cabin technology — have been less than cautious in playing around with wearables.
Hyundai and Mercedes have both developed apps and features that help owners control their vehicles via Google Glass. BMW has developed an app for its new i3 electric car specifically for the Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch. Nissan has gone several steps further and made its own smartwatch that collects biometric data from the wearer and compares it with telemetry gathered from the car when raced around the track.
The quickest way for wearable technology to cross into the mainstream and therefore into the car would be for Apple to launch a device. However, even if an ‘iWatch’ does launch in the coming months, there is still the issue of safety and driver distraction. As ABI Research points out, and as a number of high profile cases have highlighted, the use of wearable technology devices, particularly Google Glass, is still controversial when also in command of a vehicle.