Mercedes has been in the headlines this summer for upgrades to its MBUX infotainment system, available in the S-Class vehicles. (As a CNET automotive website puts it, the S-Class is Mercedes’ flagship so it gets the first of any “latest and greatest innovations” before they reach the rest of its lineup.)
Watching such developments with interest is Jeff Jury, who leads the Automotive Group at Xperi.
He posted on social media that the MBUX “offers a good example of how car companies are innovating around their infotainment offerings, and looking to provide a personalized look and feel in the vehicle.”
Radio World checked in with Jury for an update on dashboard trends and how they play with Xperi’s HD Radio and DTS Connected Radio offerings.
Radio World: What do you see in the Mercedes photos that you think radio industry folks need to pay attention to?
Jeff Jury: There are two very high-level points that are relevant to the radio industry.
First, Daimler [the parent of Mercedes] is not just handing over the dash to Apple or Google. They are innovating for their customers. This is a great outcome for the radio industry because it means not all entertainment needs to be behind a car play or android for auto wall.
Second, the main screen has radio as a separate icon (and apps as a separate icon). This shows that radio is compelling, and importantly, a standalone infotainment source for Daimler buyers. Again, good for the radio industry because radio is a main option, not one of many apps in the dash.
RW: What other recent car model or infotainment system introductions are notable to you?
Jury: A number of the e-vehicle manufacturers are innovators in the dash. I know that companies like Byton, Karma, etc. all had a very user-friendly, and radio-friendly, dash experience. A number of these may not come to market soon due to economic issues. But it does show the trend towards in cabin environments which look more like phone screens than traditional car dashes.
RW: What features are coming that will further change how consumers interact with audio or radio in the car?
Jury: I believe the move towards personalization will accelerate in future car generations. In addition to setting up the dash with icons based on your preference, the car systems will also have recommendation systems for content. So the dash look and feel can be personalized, and the content delivery can be personalized.
And, as long as radio has compelling content, this is a good news story. Those great stations people love will be recommended, and great content on stations can be discovered.
RW: Xperi and DTS are active in the evolving hybrid radio space. How close are we in the United States to consumers having ready access to these hybrid kind of systems?
Jury: I believe we are very close. We continue to work with most car companies on developing hybrid systems for deployment around the world, including the USA.
I am happy to report that many car companies see the value in upgrading radio. In fact, many work with us on deploying HD Radio, and they are working on us with various version of Connected Radio. They see value to the consumer in both the digital broadcast capability, and the “hybrid” nature of delivering broadcast content back by IP metadata.
[Related: “Hybrid Radio Picks Up Momentum”]
RW: One radio engineer told me he thinks hybrid radio is just a transition or gateway to 4G/5G delivery. Thoughts on that?
Jury: First, let me confirm that linear content, such as radio and TV, is still extremely popular. And even with new systems that enable many new services and content platforms, people still want TV and radio.
Regarding technologies, we believe there is still quite a bit of life in traditional broadcast technologies. There is no more efficient data pipe to deliver one-to-many content into vehicles than radio. Yes, 4G/5G will grow and more cars will have built in modems, but that does not chance the efficiency of broadcast delivery.
In a world where the automobile will be getting inputs and sending data to multiple sources, you still have needs for additional, efficient means of delivering content into the vehicle.
RW: What should radio and media companies be doing that they’re not already, to be better prepared for changes in audio systems in the car?
Jury: We started out talking about personalization. The key to that is accurate metadata.
We spend a lot of effort within Xperi making sure we have accurate station metadata for our systems. This is essential so that as consumers’ increasing use voice to call up stations and use personalization capabilities to find what they like, that a radio station can be found.
Over the years with HD Radio, we have worked with stations on making sure station information, artist images, song titles, etc. are accurate during broadcasts. In the future, this becomes even more important in the connected world, with personalization.
RW: Anything else we should know from your part of the technology world?
Jury: Yes, one topic that doesn’t get a lot of attention when talking hybrid radio is system security.
Hybrid means “connected’ radio in various forms.” This means the connection has to be secure. For both HD Radio and our DTS Connected Radio system, we have had third-party network specialists do audits to validate the security of the system.
It is important that whatever system is interfacing with the car, that it has state-of-the-art overall system security. While this may not have been a big issue years ago, as car become extensions of eco-systems, it is an important requirement. And I am happy to say that we focus on this for all radio-related services we deliver.
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