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Will iPhone Influence Car Design?



Apple's new iPhone, which went on sale just last month amid a blaze of hype worthy of a blockbuster movie, is very likely to have a major impact on the design of automobile interiors over the next few years.

Frank Homann, vice president of interior electronics solutions for Siemens/VDO inAuburn Hills, Mich., said carmakers are eager to make the car interiors more appealing to consumers. The demands of younger customers, who demand the latest in communications and entertainment technologies are driving automakers to adopt solutions very different from only a decade ago, he suggested. The so-called "Digital Natives," basically anyone born after 1987, want and demand "perpetual connectivity," he noted.

Hence, the iPhone, which its emphasis on ease of operation and ability to handle multiple operations, is very likely to serve as the standard for the engineering of the next generation of interiors, he said.

Customer expectations mean that the new vehicles will have features such as iPod interface adaptors, Bluetooth (the very low-frequency connection for wireless services) and USB ports for connections to flash drives and other portable hard drives as well as high-definition radio receivers, Homan said.

At the same time, cameras are becoming cheaper, storage is moving to solid state and touch screens can be personalized by the customer with a specific color, he said. In addition, some new devices will be integrated such as satellite radio receivers and MP3 players. Navigation screens are coming Internet-connected rather than DVD-based. In fact, most drivers will probably use a wireless phone-based navigation system rather than a system built into the vehicle, Homann said. Built-in navigation systems, however, will still be found on high-end models, he said.

Homann said, for automakers, the trick will be to make the integration of different appear seamless, while ensuring that the technology is easy to use. Cars also have to become more adaptable, he said. "A car survives ten generations of mobile devices," he noted.

The combination of new technology and new customers is already reshaping the interior of the vehicle, he added. Besides being tech-savvy, digital natives are also very style-conscious. Hence the pedestrian interiors found in vehicles in the past simply aren't going to work anymore, he said.

Thus, Siemens/VDO is experimenting with the development of new center consoles, which will feature new lighting schemes for day and night driving, which also incorporate sophisticated textures, materials and design, he said.

"Whether it is Gen X, Gen Y or EcoBoomers, the voice of the customer require unprecedented levels of storage, connectivity and audio and video media management," Homan said.

The new designs will also emphasize better human-machine interfaces, making them safer to use, while bringing back some of the elegance traditionally associated with the interiors, dashboards, and instrument clusters from earlier eras in automotive history.

Homan said Siemens/VDO is preparing to show off its own new-look consoles, which it developed with help from Cadence Innovation of Troy, Mich, during the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

 

 

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