In-vehicle wearable integration is the latest trend in automotive with announcements following each other in quick succession: Harman's ADAS Google Glass integration, Hyundai's Blue Link Glassware application, Mercedes' Pebble smart watch Digital DriveStyle application, BMW's i3 EV Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch integration, Nissan's Nismo concept smart watch displaying biometric and vehicle diagnostics and performance data, and INRIX's real-time traffic Google Glass demo app. Logically following in the wake of in-vehicle smartphone integration, wearable form-factors will interface – directly or via phones – with more than 90% of vehicles shipping globally in 2019.
Vice President and Group Director, Telematics & M2M at ABI Research states in the new report that "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."
However, the use of wearables in cars is controversial with many governments dismissing them for safety reasons. Legislation banning eyewear is already prepared in several US states and in the UK. But jurisdiction seems to be lacking as illustrated by cases dismissed on grounds it could not be proven the device was either switched on or a distracting application used. Clearly, it is not the form-factor which should be banned but certain use cases such as watching videos. Eyewear functioning as dash cams or for displaying blind spot or collision safety alerts will contribute to safer driving, not deter it. At the same time wearables will kick start a thriving aftermarket connected car application ecosystem.
Yet while everyone is enthusiastic about the future of in-vehicle infotainment systems, ConsumerReports.org reported back in late 2013 that "Infotainment systems are complicated and trouble prone."
Their report further noted that "Among the systems surveyed, just 37 percent of those who had initial difficulties learning HondaLink stated that they grew much more accustomed to its operation over time. In contrast, 47 percent of similar Ford/Lincoln owners and 51 percent of Cadillac owners said those systems became a lot easier to use with experience."
At the moment it's a little difficult to understand how Google Glass and/or other future eyewear systems will fare much better than current infotainment systems in the car. Yet such is progress and over time the car industry will be able to offer new car owners a wider choice of infotainment systems according to local bylaws and consumer demand.