Car infotainment systems: the lowdown

We can all gain a lot from information and entertainment. Blend those two words together and what do you get? Infotainment.

The serenity of a long peaceful drive isn’t enough for most motorists anymore; they need a gadget or two to keep them connected to the matrix at all times. Luckily, manufacturers like Ford, Fiat and Vauxhall are all happy to oblige.

Gone are the days of the raucous radio, and the simple sat-nav. They’ve been replaced by snazzy new systems that do everything – and we mean everything. Let’s give you a quick tour of the standard features in an infotainment system.

How do you control it?

Most infotainment systems use these methods to control the devices:

• Voice commands
• Touchscreen input
• Physical controls

They can make use of your Bluetooth/smartphone connection or provide you with an integrated tablet or buttons on the centre console. But don’t worry, your dashboard won’t look unsightly. Most manufacturers design the console specifically to work with the advanced infotainment system and look good whilst doing so.

Some infotainment systems use heads up displays to make sure that the driver isn’t distracted by all the bells and whistles whilst on the road.

What is included in an infotainment system?

When entertainment is a priority, you can expect to have lots of gadgets that entertain both the driver and their passengers, but what do these systems actually include?

• Radio – normally a DAB
• Satellite navigation – often optional
• Bluetooth connectivity
• Audio player – disks, MP3, USB, Bluetooth or AUX Cable
• Internet access – through a built in WiFi connection, can normally support up to 7 devices and can connect to the sat-nav for live traffic updates.
• TV tuners – for passengers only unless the car is parked
• Reversing cameras – to help with parking
• Screen mirroring – user can wirelessly connect their mobile to the car and ‘mirror’ its user interface on the car’s larger screen.

With a good infotainment system, none of your car’s occupants will be bored as they can watch movies, play games, talk to friends and even go on social media. It also makes your driving experience better as you can avoid traffic with live updates on your sat-nav.

Recommended infotainment systems?

Infotainment is relatively new, but there are some front-runners in the pack. Take a look:

Ford – Ford SYNC

Ford SYNC lets you stay in touch with the outside world, every second you’re in the car. It uses state-of-the-art voice activated control and connectivity technology. You can control your phone and music collection by voice command so that you don’t have to take your eyes off the road.

Fiat Blue&Me

This system gives your car Bluetooth and USB connectivity to all mobile phones and personal media players, so you can control them hands-free using voice commands. Add your TomTom sat-nav, and you’ll be able to control that in addition to everything else.

Vauxhall OnStar

OnStar has come directly from the U S of A to be your personal on board assistant. It’s much more than an infotainment system, even though it comes with the same Bluetooth connectivity as competing systems to enable hands-free control of phones and media players. However, Vauxhall OnStar also:

• Reacts instantly if your car is involved in any sort of accident. It uses an automatic crash response to make sure that you’re OK and call roadside assistance if needs be – complete with vehicle diagnostics!
• Gives you updates about your car’s maintenance requirements
• Helps locate your vehicle if it’s stolen
• Enables you to unlock your car with your phone!

We’ll be looking at all of these infotainment systems in much more detail over the coming months, so keep an eye out. If you would like to check out new cars with more gadgets, head down to your local Perrys dealer today.