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Plan a trip on your tablet. Hop into the car, and the in-dash panel already knows where you’re going. Get out at the other end, and your phone knows your final destination (and where you left the car!)
HERE Auto was announced nearly a year ago, but it was only recently that I was able to experience the product up close, driving around Berlin with Alex Mangan, Product Marketing Manager, Connected Driving.
The version I see is a reference design fitted into a HERE demo vehicle. It’s the vehicle used to show car manufacturers what HERE can offer and the benefits of the system.
He’s set up a route on his iPad to take us to a nearby mall. Then before he’s touched it, the 8-inch screen on the built-in dashboard unit is showing us which way to go.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, said Arthur C. Clarke, and it certainly feels like Alex is using some sort of advanced power from science fiction to accomplish this feat. What impresses isn’t that it’s possible; it’s that it just happens.
We take off – fairly slowly, because Alex is not only driving the car but also demonstrating the device to me at the same time. I don’t feel unsafe, though –he doesn’t have to meddle with the device to make it do its job: just to show me the extent of its capabilities.
On screen we are presented with a number of different viewing options, from 3D to 2D to satellite and more. Alex says it's a hybrid solution, meaning it can work either online or offline – removing the familiar frustration of “recalculating” when the system loses connection. For major roads, there are also congestion indicators so we're aware of traffic conditions well in advance.
There’s also a very clever automatic zoom, which moves in closer when you need it – such as when you’re approaching your destination, or a junction – and zooms out when a bigger picture is more useful – for example, if you’re going to be travelling down the same road for a few miles.
Indicators for the next turn, your distance and time of arrival are conveniently placed in a comfortable line of sight.
A feature that sets this system apart is the seamless ability to synchronise favourites across devices – allowing people to plan trips in advance and easily synchronise that trip to the vehicle and mobile device. The system collects ‘favourites’, which might be specific locations, but can also be more generic. On the home screen, we’re shown how to customise the live tiles that are accessible in one touch. Alex has ‘Starbucks’ set up as a favourite place – but it will let him choose from any Starbucks cafe, ranked by proximity to the current location or route. You can set up similar smart lists for any other brand, or perhaps for ATMs, fuel stations or garages.
The system also makes use of street level imagery. As you get closer to your destination, photographs of the place you’re headed to pop up at the bottom of the screen. You can pan around these with your finger to get a better idea of the location. Alex calls this the “approach mode” as the system provide you context for what your end destination looks like, but also surfaces parking nearby. In most cities, you’ll need to park a little distance away from where you’re actually going. The system knows this and will scout out parking locations nearby.
In the future, it’ll know whether those spots are empty or full, and let you pre-book and pre-pay your parking space. For now, it’s convenience enough to be able to see some likely locations to be able to leave the car.
Maps and precise locations are invaluable, sure, but being provided with contextual information and smart services – like parking and traffic – provide more real value that people can use on a day-to-day basis. When we get to the mall, Alex pulls out a phone to guide us on the last leg of our journey. The mobile companion application picks up directly from where the in-dash system leaves off.
Alex shows us how the system immediately recognises that he is parked and will now need pedestrian guidance directions from the parking garage to the mall. The mobile and web companion applications allow consumers to extend their experience beyond just the vehicle – providing a seamless experience across all the screens they may own.
He took me back to the office and our drive was over. But part of me wanted to stay in the car: I’ve had a little taste of the future, and I want more of it as soon as possible.