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Successful Phone, Car Connection Relies on Smart Pairing

Apple CarPlay is growing in-car integration app

An Alpine display at CES.
Anyone behind the wheel with an open stretch of road in front of them knows that driving is an emotional, visceral thrill.

Audio plays a significant part in that, according to panelists at the CES session “Reinventing the Phone-Car Connection.”

To best facilitate that thrill in today’s interconnected world, consumer electronics and auto manufacturing industries are now being challenged to best pair these disparate technologies — audio, automobile, mobile device and apps — into a seamless interconnected experience.

“You may have bought a new car, but we’re also aware that nobody just drives a car — they also have a phone with them,” said Dan Kinney, director of user experience with General Motors.

“[Drivers] want to use their phone all the time and stay connected, so we’re interested in making sure you can bring that life with you, to stay connected to friends and [to get you to] where you want to be.”

To get to the point where phones — and the streaming audio options within — are successfully paired into current car models, the consumer electronics and auto manufacturing industry must demystify technical aspects and give users functionality that they already trust, Kinney said. “Successful paring between car and phone means tapping into the features and functionality that consumers are already familiar with.”

GM is one of several manufacturers at CES showcasing in-car integration with Apple CarPlay, a feature enables users to connect an iPhone while driving to listen to music, make calls, get directions and send messages. The technology is also being deployed in Ford and Fiat-Chrysler cars and being integrated into new after-market audio dashboard systems from Pioneer, JBL and Alpine.

Having music like the Pandora streaming system paired to the car is the future of entertainment, said George Lynch, vice president of automotive partnerships for Pandora Media.

“If you go back to the beginning of apps in the vehicle, Pandora was the first to appear in a vehicle five years ago, but it was hastily done,” Lynch said. “Now you pair your phone once, and you never have to do anything else. You press a button, the audio comes on, Pandora is there five seconds later.”

Pandora will continue to offer its streaming service as a free, ad-supported service, but is also considering offering an on-demand offering following the November acquisition of assets from the Rdio digital music service. “We’re just getting into the ideas of what we can do with our service in terms of on-demand,” Lynch said.

GM and Ford (shown) are two manufacturers showcasing in-car integration with Apple CarPlay at CES.
The session also looked into the real-world issues of safety. “[Our] intention is to make the phone so smart it can determine where you are so it can become your safety companion,” said Sascha Simon, CEO of Driversiti, a technology company focused on smartphone driver assistance.

The session was moderated by radio and iHeartRadio host Michael Garfield, and included Chris Gardner, vice president of the Automobile Aftermarket Supply Association.