Automotive companies have embraced the advantages of smartphone technology; however, it’s been a treacherous road to navigate. Carmakers like the idea of apps improving technology, but they aren’t too keen on encouraging drivers to be distracted.
The Car Connectivity Consortium, made up of various auto and electronic manufacturers, has joined together to establish an industry standard for certifying apps and devices that are both safe and useful for drivers. That standard is MirrorLink.
MirrorLink is a system that connects smartphones with in-car “infotainment” systems and select aftermarket stereos. Phones connect via USB cable, and the MirrorLink-enabled car or radio automatically detects that a dashboard of approved car apps should appear. Music, navigation, or other approved apps are then controllable by touchscreen or steering wheel controls.
MirrorLink-enabled car monitors mirror whatever is on the phone’s screen, so it becomes easier to control a music app or place calls via Bluetooth. Auto companies have used their own systems to perform these functions, but some are clunky and most are limited in scope and capability. This system doesn’t quite work for everyone, which is why the Car Connectivity Consortium banded together to simplify the process.
“There’s a need in this industry to create one common way to connect your phone to the car and find a way to operate apps in a safe manner while driving,” Mika Rytkonen, chairman of CCC, said in a recent interview with Androinica.com.
Rytkonen notes that it will take time for consortium members to implement MirrorLink across their product line, and some will take longer than others to transition from their existing systems, but there are encouraging signs of adoption.
“I think that Toyota was quite a big surprise how fast they were able to implement it to the market in the Toyota IQ,” Rytkonen said.
There has yet to be an Android phone capable of MirrorLink, but Samsung is out to be the first with its Galaxy S III. It probably won’t be the only phone considering that HTC, Motorola, and LG Electronics are also members of the consortium. Other members include Alpine, Fiat, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and many more (full list here).
MirrorLink members are working to implement a system that will be deployed at most major car manufacturers and be easily utilized by smartphone makers and consumers. The goal is that consumers will be able to have as little distraction as possible because MirrorLink will have “the first ever cross-industry user interface guidelines,” according to Alfred Tom, who chairs the CCC Ecosystem Workgroup.
Tom added in addition to streamlining the interface and connectivity standards, MirrorLink will also be empowered by developers outside of the car/phone system. The consortium is working on a system that would allow developers to have their apps certified as safe to use, and under what conditions. (MirrorLink won’t allow video to play if the car is moving, but it might be possible in park.
Until now, most Android-based in-car use centered on a car dock and auxiliary plug of some kind. MirrorLink starting to appear in products should make the way our cars and phone communicate smarter, so long as drivers use common sense and drive safely.