Cool new tools and apps make driving pleasurable -- and worry-free-- for Indian motorists. An IndiaTechOnline special focus
By Anand Parthasarathy
Bangalore Januuary 5 2015: "Happiness is a journey, not a destination", runs a popular quote with many claimants. But is it true today? At today's frantic pace, getting there -- safely -- is as important as having a ball on the way. A clutch of recent tools and devices for the Connected Car ensure that we can do both.
Car infotainment systems are not new. But recent launches in India, have morphed navigation with communication and entertainment into an integrated console. The Pioneer AVIC - F60BT, offers Audio, Video, Information and Communication channels. The Rs 49,990 system uses special chips for GPS navigation and a 13-band graphic equalizer while partnering with MapMyIndia for the route maps. You can also connect your mobile phone via Bluetooth for talking and browsing. Another Japanese company, Clarion, has gone down this route for its AX1 Android-fuelled Connected Car stereo system with built in voice navigation and full HD playback. The Rs 55,990 system harnesses the phone's rear camera for shooting driver-view video.
DashCam: The biggest connected car trend in 2015, will likely be centered around what is being called a 'dash cam' -- a dashboard camera or car-mounted digital video recorder, usually poking just above the dashboard or more commonly fitted inconspicuously on the rear view mirror. It records the driver's view of road ahead, as soon as the car moves on the storage you provide: typically an SD card of 64 GB or so. A dash cam can be the biggest contributor to the driver's comfort factor -- providing indisputable proof, if the car is involved in a collision. A sudden crash or stalling, triggers a 'G' sensor which ensures the record is frozen and cannot be erased. Any search on Indian online retail sites will throw up dozens of dash cams from Rs 1400 to Rs 10,000. To obtain usable content, that you can submit to an insurance company or the police, 720p HD is desirable; 1080p full HD is better. The Drive Pro 200 from Transcend seems to be a popular model worldwide and is available online for below Rs 10,000. It comes with a free 16 GB SD card, full HD recording at 30 feet per second, replay on a 2.4 inch LCD screen or on your phone and a 160 degree wide angle view from a 7-glass lens system that includes an infra red filter for low light.
It is useful if the car DVR can take a feed from the GPS system, since this will tag every frame to a location. Experts emphasis that dash cams are not a fashion statement and should be discreetly mounted on the windscreen. So small -- and black-- is beautiful!
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Mobile phones have become so smart that it may no longer be necessary to invest in a stand- alone music system or GPS navigation. Google Maps come with voice navigation; most mobiles have good audio and video playback and the phones are so big these days that you don't need a second screen. . I can see why a respected car navigation player like Tom Tom is now offering not just GPS systems but a hands-free Car Kit for Android and iOS phones for as low as Rs 4990 ( Rs 2990 extra for charger and mount), with Bluetooth-fuelled calling as well as a voice menu. Phone Video recording is currently not quite up to dash cam specs -- but that may change as chips and apps become more powerful.
- ST Microelectronics offers a slate of hardware solutions for safety, navigation and entertainment that can be found under the hood of makes like Audi, BMW and Daimler-Benz.
- Infineon has shrunk two redundant safety-critical sensors for power steering, into the size of a single chip: when one fails, the other kicks in.
- Telit has harnessed its acquisition of NFC's auto temematics business to release a flagship ATOP 3.5 G multiple car communication applications.
- Car makers like Ford have sponsored hackathons where developers harness such hardware, to come up with connected car innovations like a fuel-low signal that also locates the nearest pump; personalised maps and car-to-car social media networking.
Now for our Make in India moment! A key mobile app rolled out worldwide was crafted by the Bangalore-based engineers of Robert Bosch: Called Smart Emergency Crash Notification (sECN), it brings rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision. On receiving the trigger initiated by an airbag, the app logs the location, of the accident and sends SMS alerts to personalized emergency contacts.
It is said the golden hour -- the first sixty minutes after an accident -- can make the difference between survival and tragedy. The best brains in India are helping to make it truly golden even as technology makes the entire drive a shubh yatra indeed!