Infotainment is as embedded into our way of life as keyless car entry. So why aren’t more automotive companies prioritizing the experience? Wired magazine said it best: “The touchscreen interface is a weakness for many car companies, and it’s astonishing that they don't look at systems like [Rivian’s] for valuable lessons.”
As an infotainment development partner, we couldn’t agree more. After testing out Rivian’s use of Mapbox Navigation SDK, it’s clear that they are determined to be the gold standard for automobile infotainment.
We decided to ask some of our own experts what really makes for a superior infotainment experience. Here are the top 5 tips they shared for building a world-class infotainment experience.
1. Tailor your infotainment experience to your customer
Every car manufacturer is unique and seeks to provide a similarly unique driving experience to their target customer. Rivian customized their entire driving experience from the ground up. Rethinking what their customers needed while adventuring in an electric vehicle, Rivian integrated terrain maps, trailhead markers, and high resolution aerial imagery for the offline experience.
For the on-road experience, Rivian layered in real-time traffic information, lane models for intuitive guidance in intersections as well as an EV route planning function to find the most convenient charging stations on long distance trips. The result? A more comfortable and easily navigable journey for their customers.
Taking a step back, it is important to consider the difference-making navigation features drivers sometimes might not know they need. From turn-by-turn navigation cues and speed limit notifications to 3D-rendered maneuvering graphics and integrations in dashboard, instrument cluster and mobile, having the ability to customize the navigation creates more unique driving experiences for car buyers.
2. Provide real-time updates
A core tenet of any vehicle’s infotainment system is continuous updates and improvements that provide aggregate insights. A Mapbox developer we spoke with stated that both enabling continuous updates while minimizing bandwidth needs were top of mind when developing Mapbox Telemetry AI.
“We use de-identified GPS probes and vehicle camera detections to improve roads, estimated travel times, speed limits, lane instructions and more,” said Hannah Judge, navigation and logistics quality manager at Mapbox. She went on to provide us with three main things that are critical to an integrated infotainment system.
- Real-time traffic information so that you can avoid accidents or heavy congestion. We continuously update our map with fresh real-time traffic information to secure the most up to date estimated times of arrival.
- A map that is up-to-date with the latest changes in the road network. Mapbox updates its maps continuously from driver feedback and sensor readings and we publish updated map information daily.
- GPS tracking capabilities to better guide drivers in dense urban environments with poor GPS signal, and through complex maneuvers that traditionally make guidance confusing — such as sharp turns, narrow exits and adjacent parallel roads.
3. Safety first
Distracted driving caused over 3,000 deaths in 2020. In fact, 23 states have some form of handheld cell phone usage banned while driving, which is why we believe in-vehicle infotainment systems should be considered a safety feature, and not just a luxury.
A safety-forward navigation system prioritizes simplicity and provides features that are easy to access through large buttons. Navigation embedded in the car can curate available functions such as the keyboard based on the car’s current status (e.g., parked, driving) and depending on who operates the application (e.g., driver, passenger).
“We have designed the Navigation SDK so that engineers and product designers can selectively enable and disable features based on the available sensor information in the vehicle,” said Antonio Zugaldia, engineering lead of the Mapbox Navigation SDK. “As a result, we allow for an adaptive experience that is both more intuitive and safer.”
In addition, the map can help the driver see further than the naked eye by overlaying safety critical information into the dashboard or head up display. The Mapbox Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) SDK continuously pulls from accurate map data to deliver up-to-date, safety-critical map attributes like tight curves and speed limits to help keep drivers’ attention on the road instead of parsing through confusing navigation cues.
Employing a voice-assistance technology helps ensure drivers keep their hands on the wheel. Providing the ability to search for new destinations, or add stops to an existing route is a must for safe driving.
“Mapbox Navigation can be followed without looking at the map. Today we are supporting 26 languages for text to speech with 15 more in development. Mapbox can also be integrated with any voice assistant such as Amazon Alexa, Google voice assistants or voice assistants proprietary to an automaker.” Zugaldia told us.
4. Search functionality
We are in the business of helping humans explore the world around them through location technology. The best way to do so is with search capabilities that are accurate and have comprehensive coverage. Imagine when drivers need to add stops to their route, or when looking for charging stations within an infrastructure that’s still being developed, with new stations popping up daily.
A powerful and data-rich search capability that keeps pace with new developments and offers high-quality, interpolated address coverage to predict where a location should be even if it’s new would be invaluable to car seekers.
Mapbox Search conflates data points from hundreds of data partners and over a thousand address data sources, enriches it with our telemetry information and exposes the resulting data in a single, type ahead experience that can be combined with popular voice assistants. We typically visit the same places many times, so search learns from past queries and offers recents and favorites as shortcuts to common trips. Pictures and ratings help with exploration and drivers can see at a glance the estimated drive time based on current time conditions.
For the driver, a robust search along the route is critical. An intuitive navigation experience makes it easy to add stops to an existing trip by suggesting the best stops for charging, coffee, and grocery shopping.
5. Offline capabilities
Even in the event of network interruptions or weak coverage areas, drivers should be able to rely on continuous operation of the integrated infotainment system’s on-board routing to safely navigate cellular dead zones or areas with limited connectivity.
When the vehicle regains connectivity, the downloaded maps should automatically update. This ensures that any changes in road conditions due to construction, weather, or other factors affecting traffic flow will be displayed accurately while driving.
Mapbox enables this with the Predictive Ambient Cache capability of its navigation system. This feature predictively downloads map information on the most common trips and caches it to deliver continuous routing and protect against potential connectivity holes. Predictive Ambient Cache can be combined with coverage maps from partners like Ookla to further improve the accuracy of the algorithm.
Mapbox map data is tiled and therefore can be updated incrementally on the navigation system. Mapbox will only pull fresh map data that is actually needed for the vehicle’s driving path. This avoids wasteful and expensive data updates in traditional architectures that push map data updates to all connected vehicles regardless of whether they use them or not.
The superior infotainment system
These core competencies in integrated design, particularly with maps, are the foundation of a world-class infotainment experience. To accelerate the delivery of an industry-leading infotainment system, automakers can partner with Mapbox. They will be in good company with automakers that include Rivian, GM and Toyota that have partnered with Mapbox and are already accelerating ahead in the automotive industry.
Start building with Mapbox today.