Wearables in cars - a long way to go for app designers

February 05, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
The latest trend for electronics in vehicles is wearables of any form factor. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a herd of exhibitors played around with this type of gadgets. But besides increasing the risk of distracting the drivers, the functionality might fall short of buyer's expectations.

During or in close temporary connection to CES, presentations infotainment system vendor Harman demonstrated the integration of Google Glass into its ADAS. Hyundai showed an App that connects Google's VR gadget to its Blue Link telematics platform. Daimler presented an App that runs on the Pebble Smartwatch and enables users to access vehicle data from virtually everywhere. Nissan exchanges vehicle diagnostic data with its Nismo concept smart watch. BMW tethers the Samsung Galaxy Gear smart watch to its i3 electric vehicle, and traffic data services provider Inrix demoed an app that allows, again, the users of Google Glass to access its navigation services. And these are just some examples. Market research firm ABI showed itself enthusiastic: Within the next five years, wearable form-factors will interface with more than 90% of all vehicles shipped, ABI expert Dominique Bonte estimates.

The market researcher's enthusiasm might be premature. While connecting wearables to automotive functions indeed seems a logical consequence of the smartphone integration, there are reasons why wearables might fall short of the expectations of vendors and users alike. One is that the term "integration" describes more or less everything, it is very fuzzy and currently serves to one purpose in the first place: Excite user expectations which never were meant to be met. Soon after the CES demos, speculations rose that eventually Google Glass - or other wearables - could take the function similar to a head-up display or even could make head-up displays redundant. Such expectations are unlikely to come true. The truth is that in many geographies the use of such eyewear is forbidden when driving - on the grounds that it could lead to driver's distraction. Hyundai, for instance, quickly back-pedaled: The company clarified that the app that connects Google Glass with its Genesis top-of-the line car has a very limited functionality - remote locking or unlocking the vehicle's doors, switching the engine on or off. Such a limited