By on April 29, 2013

If you’re like me, you’re probably intimidated by the wide array of functions available with today’s infotainment systems. With Toyota Entune, for example, you can make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets, and use Bing to find at least 35 percent of your search terms. Ford SYNC has an app called “tool finder,” which presumably provides the current location of John Mayer. And Chevrolet says its next-generation MyLink system can actually do the impossible: navigate an IKEA. Hyundai BlueLink can even help you put together the furniture.

Infotainment systems are daunting to those of us who aren’t sure about the idea of a motorized, road-going automobile offering all the comforts of your home computer, and also Bing. This isn’t a problem for some people, namely realtors, who are used to balancing two phones and a stack of documents as they drive their Lexus RX350 with their knees. Of course, realtors can’t do this in California, where it’s illegal to talk and drive. In California, they would be driving a Lexus RX400h.

Infotainment is also downright alien for anyone who’s used to driving an older car. For example, when I owned a Range Rover Classic, the only time I ever looked at a screen was when my mechanic pulled up the bill.

But for those of you nodding and readying your keyboard for a diatribe about the pitfalls of infotainment, listen up: it’s not all bad. I recently discovered this on a drive from Atlanta to Nashville, during which I passed – this actually occurred – a gold Lexus GX470 outfitted with police lights. Presumably, this was seized from a realtor who had been caught texting and driving too many times.

I made the trip in a Dodge Dart press car, which included many standard and optional features, all of them plastic. It also had Chrysler’s infotainment system, which boasted at least two neat items that helped convince me there might be at least some benefits to all of this in-car technology. They are:

1. “Favorite” songs. Say you’re cruising along and a favorite song comes on XM. You press a button called “favorite.” Hours later, as you’re bored out of your mind and listening to XM channel 247 (“Songs about Plant Life”), an icon appears on the screen: “Favorite Song On Air.” You press it, and you’re immediately transported to the channel playing your favorite song.

Apparently, you can do this with any number of songs, solving radio’s biggest problem: yes, I like this song. But what if there’s something better on one of the other channels?

2. StreetView navigation. In a normal car, using the navigation works like this: first, you type in the name of your destination. It doesn’t recognize it. So you use your phone to find the exact address. Then you have to enter the address, which is a tedious process that starts with the category “Country.” Eventually, you get on the road, only to be confused by vague directions and complicated highway interchanges.

This doesn’t happen in the Dodge Dart. I mean, typing in your destination is still a massive chore that no human should have to endure. But you don’t have any trouble with directions. That’s because the navigation system actually gives you a Google StreetView photo of the highway interchange that’s currently confusing you, along with purple lines that display exactly where you want to go. This makes navigating extremely easy, giving you ample opportunity to instead devote your time to more important endeavors, like favoriting songs about deciduous vegetation.

Between song favoriting and StreetView navigation, I made my trip to Nashville with ease. The only problem came at my hotel, which demanded $22 per night for parking. My cries of “But this is Nashville!” were largely ignored, giving me an idea for a new infotainment service: finding free parking. This would be really helpful, assuming it doesn’t rely on data from Bing.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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80 Comments on “Really, Infotainment Isn’t So Bad...”


  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    Yeah, I just can’t get past the fact that if a satellite can tell me where I am, it can tell OTHERS my location as well.

    My sense of direction’s always been pretty good, so I’ll stick with road atlases and attentiveness.

    For me, the concept of High Tech lost its magic about the time the internet made it ubiquitous. It’s not special if everyone’s got it.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      You must not be a fan of technology in general, if you aren’t keen on putting convenience & computer computational ability ahead of your ego. I can and do read maps regularly, but I think it makes more sense to spend 1 minute plugging a location into a GPS dealie than 20 minutes planning out a route on a map. I usually double check by doing a GMaps search and looking at each intersection + location too- something you can’t do with a paper map. I dont understand this aversion at all.

      • 0 avatar
        OneAlpha

        This isn’t an ego thing. It’s a form of sticker shock.

        Everything in life is a double-edged sword, with the bad and good existing in perfect proportion and balance. Since computers have enormously improved many aspects of our world, it scares me to think of the pricetag attached to all that good.

        Modern computer technology perfectly exploits those aspects of human nature that lead to dependency and personal weakness.

        I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        The Soldier in me says you should at least know how to read a map and navigate. It’s like knowing how to drive a stick. You should know how in case you ever need to know how.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      How can the satellite tell someone else where you are? GPS is one-way only, and a VERY simple system. It is just very precisely timed pulsed radio signals. I think your tinfoil hat may be just a TAD too tight.

      Never in a million years would I go back to paper maps when navigating in unfamiliar areas. Did it for years with my constant work travel, I can’t believe I did not get a GPS sooner than I did. Heck, I tend to use the GPS even when I know exactly where I am going so that I have an accurate ETA. I ALWAYS beat mine though – silly thing assumes speed limits mean something.

      • 0 avatar
        eamiller

        +1 technology luddites should probably check their sources before assuming how technology works.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        “How can the satellite tell someone else where you are?”

        It can’t. Thank God no one’s invented hand-held computers that incorporate GPS location services and the ability to transmit and receive data via some kind of futuristic, wireless telecommunications network!

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          But you don’t need the satellite for that, and it doesn’t help anyway. Your cell phone does nearly as well just triangulating on cell towers, just not as precisely.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            My iphone is great at tracking my every move it’s also quite capable of sharing that info with everyone on the planet… that’s why I keep it disabled

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          Perhaps your Garmin can’t, but GPS does have this capability.

          • 0 avatar
            Jellodyne

            No… It can’t. A GPS enabled device could certainly do this, but not through the GPS functionality. A GPS receiver in and of itself just determines its own position, there is no transmission or broadcast component. Yeah, if the Feds want to know where your phone is, they’ll have AT&T or whoever turn on the GPS, locate itself and the phone would transmit that information to them with non-GPS-related functionality. They also did this before phones had GPS, but they could just tell what cell tower you were on, or possibly triangulate the position based on multiple tower signals, but it was less accurate than GPS.

    • 0 avatar

      Even if you are worried about being tracked, a stand-alone GPS unit transmits nothing. It knows where it is thanks to transmissions from the satellites, and it does not have any means of sharing that data.

      Many things in life are double-edged swords but I have a hard time seeing the downside in a helpful robot telling me, “In 1000 feet, turn left on 1st Street.”

    • 0 avatar
      aaronfinch

      i like it very much nice post. good
      Philadelphia Injury lawyer

  • avatar
    cdotson

    So aside from providing a platform for your always-enjoyable snark, you claim that infotainment is good for precisely two things which I can accomplish with my 9-year-old XM radio and my $89 Garmin, both of which I have cup mounted to my windshield and I can transfer to a rental car should I so desire.

    Makes me want to open my wallet and shell out the grand+ OEMs are charging for these things.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey, I never said it was cost effective!! :)

    • 0 avatar
      dal20402

      If only someone would figure out an easier way than cup mounting. My wife has a Garmin which she rarely uses because it is such a pain to remove the cup, and clean off the cup mark, every damn time she gets out of the car. If you don’t do both of those steps your car will get broken into sooner rather than later.

      • 0 avatar
        Alexdi

        Use a vent mount. They’re stable, cheap, and never fall off.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          Alexdi, I have a vent mount in my 2004 Ford F150 Heritage, with 4 vents in the dash of my standard cab combined with column shift… it was near impossible to find a place to put it in the interior that wasn’t across the cab from me. It’s still in a sightly perilous spot.

      • 0 avatar

        After getting very tired of my garmin falling off the windshield every time we had a hot day in Tucson, meaning every day in Tucson. I super-glued the suction cup to the windshield. It worked……and my car is twenty years old, so WTH.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Friction mounts. They are basically beanbags designed to spread their weight on your dash to stay put. I put a rubber dash mat underneath it to prevent it from sliding off in toll booth escapes. If you want to hide it, just toss it in the glove box. No PITA suction mount, no blocking vents. They are great.

      • 0 avatar

        I use a TomTom which has a suction mount with a twist device on it. Seems to grip really well and just requires a turn. Are Garmins different? I really like the unit for its readability, which is better than built-in units I have seen in VWs and Audis. For example, it is very clearly which lane you should get in when coming to a flyover. In addition to being able to transfer it to different rental cars I can also program all my destinations while sitting at the kitchen table. Not bad for 100 Euros.

  • avatar
    Mazda Monkey

    My realtor here in Atlanta, GA drives a RX400h! She must have plans of moving to CA one day.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I have no gripes with infotainment that doesn’t interfere with the basic functions of the car. If I want to make an HVAC change I shouldn’t have to navigate through a menu to do so. Same with music. Everything else is pretty much superfluous, including GPS.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Most all of the automakers I’ve seen still include hard buttons for the HVAC system. The only one that I’ve seen do otherwise is Tesla with the Model S, and even in that car the HVAC buttons are right there on the main screen. Likewise they usually have buttons on the steering wheel or on the display bezel for changing radio functions in addition to whatever’s on the virtual interface.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        Some *are* moving away from hard buttons, and in the case of Ford, they are replacing ‘hard’ buttons with touch-sensitive sliders, about which I have yet to hear a positive review.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    That may be so, but I don’t need it, either on my phone or in my car.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have yet to encounter a factory nav system that works as well as my $100 TomTom XL. I don’t even have to type on it, the voice recognition works just dandy. Even has speed trap and camera info on it. Live if I wanted to pay for a data plan for it, which I don’t.

    The “infotainment” in my cars tends to consist of Sirius radio on either NPR or Blue Collar Comedy. That choice of stations probably says something about me, but I am not entirely sure what. All my cars with roofs have Bluetooth for phone use, but I rarely talk on the phone while driving, and iPod control, but I don’t listen to much music anymore either. Anything beyond that I won’t pay for.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      And if you don’t spend $100 their are plenty of free NAV apps like Waze that will do similarly along with reroute around congested areas.

      I’d say screw all the electronics offered to as they are covered by the modern day cell phone. Or if you need an 10″ NAV then install a tablet!

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I’ve used the TomTom app, and I have Waze as well. None of the free apps are all that useful in much of the real world because they need a data connection. Which you may not have, or not fast enough to be useful when you need it. The pay apps cost as much as a dedicated GPS unit. The actual GPS antenna in even an iPhone 4 or 5 is not nearly as good as the one in a real GPS unit, and the windshield mounts for phones all seem to suck. Plus the issue of using the phone in a car without BT and needing to take a call while trying to navigate doesn’t work well. And the screen is way too small on anything less than the enormous Android phones. I can get by with my phone in a pinch, but like many devices that try to do everything, it is not as good as a dedicated device. Real GPS is so cheap now that there is just no reason to compromise trying to do it with a phone other than in a pinch.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          I don’t see the big compromise with a phone. It’s extremely rare that I can’t get a data connection. Your luck obviously depends on where you live and do your driving. Google Navigation works better than any standalone GPS unit that I have used. This includes the time it takes a satellite to get an accurate position. Friction mounts work great. I’m pretty sure taking a call while you are trying to focus on navigation is a bad idea – with or without bluetooth. Screen size is fine for me (does a 2.5-year-old EVO with 4″ screen count as enormous?).

          Normally I agree that tools that try to cover multiple tasks tend to suck at those tasks; however, I find my smartphone good enough at everything it does that I am more than happy to replace multiple devices with it.

  • avatar
    walker42

    Doug, Doug, Doug… not every paragraph needs a punchline :-)

    “Infotainment is also downright alien for anyone who’s used to driving an older car. For example, when I owned a Range Rover Classic, the only time I ever looked at a screen was when my mechanic pulled up the bill.”

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      But he is very good at it.
      Loved the IKEA comments.

      • 0 avatar
        walker42

        Completely agree but a little more time spent thinking about the “cars that look good but aren’t” list would have avoided comments about why the G20 was there but not say the Prowler, Fiero or Sterling.

        Yeah I know lots of comments is what TTAC is all about but in Doug’s case, with his potential, don’t want to see him dismissed as a one trick pony which he is surely not.

        Just saying slow down a little, that’s all.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I won’t be impressed until a system has picked winning lottery numbers, or at least a daily double. Of course, as soon as that happens, Nanny Ray will be campaigning against gambling and driving.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Well done infotainment systems are good thing – unfortunately most are poorly designed and full of software defects.

  • avatar
    brettc

    “and use Bing to find at least 35 percent of your search terms” <– This made me LOL because Bing is a piece of crap. Someday Microsoft will finally admit that they're just not good at search (or much else for that matter).

    As for infotainment, I've never used anything but VW's non-navigation system so I have no idea how bad or good the fancy ones actually are. I did test drive a Prius C on the weekend, but it was such a sad little car I that didn't waste any time playing with its system.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      MS has a tendency to throw billions at lost causes, long after everybody has already made it clear that it’s a lost cause.

      Every time I try to use Bing, I run screaming back to Google. Even with sponsored ads and paid search results, I find relevant links so much sooner.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      I’m tired of MS cramming that Bing down my throat. Seems I’m always trying to remove it

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I wouldn’t expect Bing to be permanently in this state. Google is complete crap compared to what it was 5 years ago. I’ve never gotten so many completely irrelevant results, and it constantly thinks it’s smarter than you by ignoring your search terms. Add any complexity to your search, and Google takes a crap. Google’s lead isn’t nearly what it was before.

  • avatar

    Everybody I knew had a cell phone before I got one. Everybody I knew had a smartphone before I could be bothered. Heck, it took me a year to discover my phone would work on the free wifi nets at my home, place of work etc. That’s about how much I care for this kin=d of thing.

    Yet I read the article cause I enjoy your writing Doug. Thanks.

    As to such things in the car…Only when it’s absolutely free. Then, in my car, it’ll never work cause I’ll never pay for the info package, connection or whatever.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Marcelo,

      More and more, with each comment you post, I think our ancestors sprang from the same chunk of space-DNA that came here on a meteorite.

      Poo on expensive data plans. Smartphones are just another addiction. And my travel-for-work days are behind me so poo on digital navigation, too.

    • 0 avatar
      cargogh

      My mac is a couple of years old, and I got an iphone5 last year. But when it comes to the car, I am happy when the radio isn’t staticy and the cd doesn’t skip. I bet I’m pleasantly surprised if I ever get around to upgrading.

    • 0 avatar

      Marcelo – appreciate the kind words.

      I agree with your general sentiment. I love the iPod connection in cars, but my current vehicle doesn’t have it. I just use CDs. I’ve had the car 5 months and I don’t miss iPod at all. The car also has Bluetooth, but I’ve never connected my phone. No point. The sound quality is bad and it isn’t worth the hassle.

      These in-car infotainment things are neat, but for people who enjoy driving, they’re largely unnecessary. We don’t need touch screens and cool displays to persuade us to buy cars. :)

      • 0 avatar
        cargogh

        The mob chanted “We don’t need no touch screens! We dont need no touch screens!” and marched toward the parking lot waving keys and CDs. A few displayed intricately designed multi-pastel-colored paper. Experts are suggesting these could be what ancient drivers referred to as maps.

  • avatar
    tpepin

    I’m actually impressed with the simple little nav/xm/ipod/bluetooth unit in our 2012 Cube. It’s dead simple to use, has hardware buttons AND a touch screen, also it wasn’t outrageously priced.

  • avatar
    mikey

    Good stuff Doug…. I’m starting to fall behind in the tech world. I figured out the “infotainment” system in my Camaro but I don’t like it. My kids talked me into an I phone 3. I can text, albeit slowly.I figured out half of what it is capable of. I don’t like bluetooth, and I hope they never phase out Lap tops. I think have reached the summit of my technological ability’s.

    Now if those kids would just stay off my lawn.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    I have two cars with MyFord Touch. The version in the C-Max/Focus/Escape/Fiesta is the best because you still have tactile HVAC controls. I have never used the HVAC options on the touch screen.

    Most of the time I like the system. However, when it freezes up or doesn’t recognize my command, I want to drive the car into a ditch and set it on fire.

    My favorite thing is that I can have a 8″ live map in the dash. I don’t need directions, but I love maps. I find it useful for finding side streets to avoid traffic and navigating urban areas. Its just nice to have a map that is integrated into the car.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      “However, when it freezes up or doesn’t recognize my command, I want to drive the car into a ditch and set it on fire.”

      I am dying laughing. My reaction is normally to pull over and key off, key on the vehicle while swearing and recording the event with a USB stick to jam down a design engineer’s throat.

      The map is better than Nav, in my opinion. Prior to a commute, I look on google maps on my smart phone to see which routes are highlighted with red (traffic), then I reference where I’m at with the 8″ display and follow my preferred route. It’s much safer to glance at the display than at my smart phone.

      Whichever OEM pairs up with Google (to integrate Google Maps) first will win the infotainment battle. Maybe someone already has?

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I think my Audi engineer friend has an A7 with Google Maps. I don’t know if it is powered by Google or just uses the maps.

        I use my smartphone and nav maps just like you do.

        The worst command is when I am picking item number “one” on a list, like a city of a place name, and MFT goes to the next page. Also, the city of “Canton” is often mistaken for the command “Cancel”. Just terrible.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          I’ll try these out next time I’m back in MI and write up an issue. The voice command one will be pushed aside, but the numeric voice command should carry some weight. Do you call it out via voice or do you select it on the screen?

          Edit: I really want to drive an Audi with this. If it integrates traffic, color me impressed.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I push the button on the screen now because the numeric voice command doesn’t want to work.

            I want to drive an Audi with the google maps as well. I’ve just driven the A7 around the Audi building in the Detroit area. I’ll ask him if it integrates traffic like on Google maps, because that would be awesome. The maps were Google satellite view as well. Seemed pretty slick.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            Damn, that is sick. I wonder if their OS is Android or if it’s just an integrated app.

            I will try to replicate it. So it’s by voice. What command would you say? I will try to replicate this. I may be able to test it out here in Mexico on the 6″ version.
            Thanks for your help!

          • 0 avatar
            WRohrl

            And this demonstrates the power of the internet perfectly. Here you have one guy frustrated with his vehicle and another guy who appears to be involved with the manufacturer in question and is genuinely interested in figuring out and/or improving the user experience. I believe Tresmonos is here as an interested reader rather than as a manufacturer’s plant. This is a much better (informal) feedback loop than any interaction with either a service department at a dealer level or on the phone with a customer service person who either is not interested or has no power to actually do anything of value. Who knows if the issue will get fixed but it sounds like progress may be made…I’ve always maintained that any car company that wants to really get ahead needs to A) have executives and engineers drive and give to their families to drive the competition’s products for a period of months to figure out the delights and frustrations and B) also issue them decade-old examples of same and their own product to see what goes wrong so that future product can be improved in the failure areas and C) Force service and maintenance on all of the above to be performed at a dealer not the manufacturer’s service center.
            Long-term this would do a lot to improve things across the board.

          • 0 avatar
            Silvy_nonsense

            “I wonder if their OS is Android or if it’s just an integrated app.”

            Audi’s MMS is built on QNX.

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            WRohrl,
            You are correct. I do not favor my company for what is has done to my personal life. The only thing I like about my job is what I do. Manufacturing cars is cool.

            Silvy,
            Thanks! Googling QNX right now.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          So much this.

          Not really a car issue and just more of a voice recognition issue. I was trying to use Siri to voice-text my wife while driving. It took ten minutes of the phone misunderstanding me and retrying before I was fed up. First red light I hit after I got off the highway I just typed it myself.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy

      Yes yes yes.

      Just made my first payment on a Focus ST and I got so goddamn pissed off at the voice command system the other day that I thought briefly about driving to Dearborn and finding the guy who designed MyFordTouch and shoving the entire car up his or her ass. Seriously that’s how mad I was.

      Then I realized… Sync. Powered by Microsoft. Pulled to the side of the road and did a CTRL ALT DEL (aka pushed the stop/start button).

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Criticize MS if you want, but doing so reflects an unsophisticated understanding of the situation. Only the underlying OS was developed by Microsoft. The problems with both SYNC and MyFord Touch can be traced back to the customizations, applications and interfaces developed by Ford and/or Ford’s contractors. When it comes to SYNC and MyFord Touch problems, the blame lies with Ford.

        If the system is too slow, its because of hardware Ford specified. If the system can’t recognize your voice commands, its because of the VR application developed by Nuance for Ford (the MS OS had its own voice recognition system, but Ford does not use it). If the system crashes, its because of a conflict caused by one of the millions of lines of code that Ford developed. You really shouldn’t blame the MS OS for being unable to run Ford’s goofed up code.

        Your car’s engine can’t run well if you feed it contaminated gas and Microsoft’s OS can’t run well if you make it eat buggy Ford code.

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          Flame on, but my Macs don’t have these issues. Whoever has the first Apple iOS powered interface wins IMHO if for no other reason than the coolness factor.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Tresmonos-

        If I there is a list of cities or places, I’ll say “one” for item number one on the list. Somehow, MFT thinks I want to go to the next page. Perhaps the user installed update that I need to do will fix it.

        WRhorl-

        I know my father in law used to drive the competition’s trucks on a regular basis. The first time I went to my wife’s parent’s house, they had a Silverado 3500 in their driveway. This was right before the 11th gen F150 launch. He doesn’t typically use mules anymore, just an executive lease. I wouldn’t be suprised if Ford still has engineers drive Chevy and Dodge trucks.

        Timothy-

        I can tell you it will get better. It takes a few months to get MFT to be a mostly positive experience. It makes me mad once in awhile, but overall, I can’t see myself buying a car without something similar.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    I don’t disagree. However, I have no need for the in-car part of any of this. I have myself a $140 Pioneer deck in my S2000 with Bluetooth streaming. My wife’s Mazda 3 has the feature from the factory as well. Both allow Siri or Waze (best navigation app ever) to overtake whatever is playing on the head-unit and say their bit. It does every piece that most of these factory units doe at 1/10 the cost. I think I’ll stick with that.

  • avatar
    redav

    I can definitely see a favorite songs function and/or similar being useful. However, the same thing is accomplished (better) by simply having a usb, mp3 disc, or other library of your favorite songs already plugged in.

    I could also see a use for visual scan (similar to visual voice mail) or favorites scan, where instead of sequentially hopping from station to station, it just tells you what’s on all of them (or the ones you care about) and lets you pick.

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    I have to admit that my 2011 Accord spoiled me, being my first car with nav, ipod integration, and bluetooth. I honestly don’t think I could ever have a car without those three things again. Honda’s system was archaic relative to others out there, but it worked 100% of the time, every time. I sorely miss that car. The real trick these days is finding all that and a stick shift.

    Then again, I am a technology nerd so menus and interfaces don’t bug me that much. What honestly drives me nuts is digital HVAC systems. Of all the ones I’ve used, not one has ever been quite as precise as the good ol’ knobs. You know when you’re driving and sometimes you just can’t get the temperature “just right” with buttons? Where 65 is just too cold and 66 is just too warm? Yeah… I hate that shit.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The touch capacitive buttons are worse than digital. I remember driving an Edge with the brand mew MFT and thats what pissed me off the most. Those buttons have a mind of their own. Good luck turning off the hazards once they are on. Of course that button was right where you rest your hand, under the touch screen.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Dear Auto Interior Designers/Engineers;

    Give me a very basic AM/FM radio + integrated USB port + 3.5mm audio jack + a nicely designed smart phone mount near the middle of the dash = for 1/2 the price of your “infotainment system.” I keep cars for a decade but I get a new phone every two years. I will be eternally grateful for your intelligence and forethought.

    Sincerely,

    Me

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have to say I was wrong about an earlier statement – I HAVE used a factory GPS option that was almost worth buying. FIATs. It is bog-standard TomTom GPS unit that is in a custom mount that plugs into a socket on top of the dash. FIAT software on the GPS integrates it quite well with the voice command system, steering wheel buttons, and the stereo. Costs <$500, which is a fair markup on MSRP of a stand-alone TomTom for the added functionality IMHO. Of course all the reviewers of the car think it is goofy, but I think it is great. Would have bought one if I didn't already have a TomTom. I think you can even take it out of the cradle and use it with a standard windshield mount too, but not 100% sure on that one. Gets it up in your line of sight, but much closer than stuck to the windshield.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Doug,

    I’m pretty sure that the Dart with the Uconnect 8.4N should have voice recognition. There should be no need to type in an address – just speak your desired destination and the system will bring up several choices based on what it thought you said. Then you just speak the number next to the correct choice and off you go!

  • avatar
    mkirk

    I am cool with infotainment. I have a nice, aftermarket system that has bluetooth connectivity to allow me to link with my phone to talk. It also controls Pandora/Spotify and has a hardwired connection to a 160gb iPod Classic in my console which it controls. Obviously, I have no issue with infotainment.

    The system also has buttons and knobs and no touchscreen. In car infotainment is cool but in car touchscreens blow IMHO. I actually took one out of my car.

  • avatar
    MP_SLC

    Where is the CTRL-ALT-DEL button on these new entertainment systems? At least Bill Gates had the courtesy to put it on my laptop/desktop computers.

  • avatar
    becauseCAR

    I don’t think I’ve ever seriously used an infotainment system in a car except the Audi MMI (which was very good) in the 2013 S4. Unfortunately, MMI with navigation is expensive (about $3,000). Also, love the John Mayer comment.

  • avatar
    bk_moto

    I’m not a luddite or technophobe by any definition. I was an early iPhone adopter and have pretty much had every other generation right up to the iPhone 5. I was sporting iPods well before that. I’m the guy at the office who everyone comes to with their computer questions. When I’m touring on the motorcycle, I have my bar-mounted Garmin deliver its nav instructions via Bluetooth to a ScalaRider headset mounted in my helmet.

    But for whatever reason, I still haven’t come around to screens in cars. Not only do I not want/need the capability to look at Facebook in the car or have my car read my text messages to me, I especially don’t want/need to do it on hardware/software that’s already obsolete by the time it makes it to the showroom floor. Then the kicker is the manufacturer wants you to pay a lot of money for this third-rate hardware and software. Then, five or six years down the road, if you still own the car, the infotainment technology is going to be so hopelessly obsolete and dated that it may even be unusable/unsupported/un-upgradable depending on how personal tech progresses by then. It’ll be like looking into a ’90s high-end BMW today and seeing one of those laughable built-in phones. “Wow! This CAR has a PHONE in it!”

    For me, these systems just don’t add value. I can already easily put my Garmin that I use on the bike into its car mount and bring it with me on road trips. If I’m in a pinch and don’t have it with me, I’ve still got my iPhone with my choice of Google’s or Apple’s voice nav.

    When I was recently car shopping, I was looking at the Focus and stopped by the local Ford dealer to play with the MFT system. Watching the salesman demonstrate the ability for the system to use voice commands to change climate control settings was laughable. First you have to push the button to signal the system to listen, then say your command (hoping you choose the right syntax and the system can understand you – god help you if you say a command that the system doesn’t understand: you get a long lecture from the Microsoft lady about what you can say and how you can say it) – a comedy of errors just to adjust the fan speed. It’s just so much easier and faster to reach over to the knob and adjust it manually.

    You can of course also adjust the settings through the touch screen interface but then you’re required to make an additional soft button press on the touch screen to get to the climate control interface, where you can then touch your adjustment. But that’s still an extra step needed where you could have just reached over to the climate control panel itself. If the electronic system doesn’t make it any easier (or, more importantly, safer) to accomplish the task, then what’s the point?

    I eventually decided on a GTI and I must admit that one of the factors in picking up a MkVI GTI now was because the coming MkVII GTI will have a touchscreen infotainment system as standard. I see this more as a liability than a selling point though I expect I’m in the minority on this these days.

    The setup in my GTI is just about perfect for me. It’s a regular stereo with no big goofy screen but it does have satellite radio capability and Bluetooth integration. Being able to play music from the Spotify app on my phone through the car stereo via Bluetooth Audio is a nice treat (I was pleasantly surprised with the sound quality of BT Audio, fully expecting it to be crap) and the car also has a plug in the center console where I can plug in an iPod or iPhone and navigate my iTunes library via the car stereo head unit with track info displayed on the screen (while of course also charging my device). And finally there’s the good old 3.5mm headphone jack aux in port for all those other devices out there.

    I see these infotainment systems now as being gimmickry for gimmickry’s sake as opposed to serving any truly useful purpose. Hopefully that will change as the technology improves but for now I don’t see them as being worth the money (or any money really).


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