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Car and Driver: INRIX OpenCar Wants to Make Infotainment Obsolescence Obsolete

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INRIX-Autotelligent-Congestion-Ahead
-One thing that automakers and most new-car shoppers can agree on is that the roughly five-year development cycle of a new vehicle is unacceptable. That gestation period means, among other things, that much of the onboard infotainment technology is obsolete by the time a new vehicle rolls into the showroom, especially compared to a smartphone that can be updated minute by minute.

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Car companies know this and are adopting over-the-air updating strategies—the most notable company being Tesla—but even in doing so, they remain hesitant to give up their proprietary systems due to the profits they bring in and other factors such as the brand identity.

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Data aggregator INRIX is hoping to change all that with its purchase of OpenCar, an automotive software company that has previously worked in conjunction with Mazda. OpenCar’s software is an open-framework package that allows automakers to customize the look, feel, and function of their infotainment, even down to separate models or global regions. In adopting the OpenCar platform, the company says, carmakers can speed development and reduce costs while keeping the look and feel of the system their customers have come to know—in some cases for better or for worse.

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OpenCar also provides developer tools to allow for an open app ecosystem whereby automakers—and perhaps individual vehicle owners—can pick and choose what features and functions to add to their cars. OpenCar also says that leveraging the data-collection power of INRIX, which already works with BMW, Audi, Ford, Tesla, and other OEMs, will pay big dividends in terms of global scalability. It’s worth mentioning that INRIX says that control of data usage, sharing, and storage will remain the province of the automakers, not OpenCar.

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In simpler terms, OpenCar will allow center screens and buttons, knobs, console rotary dials, and other controls to retain the same functionality (or lack of same) they’ve always had, along with familiar colors, logos and sounds. But it adds smartphone-like agility, with seamless over-the-air updates to keep the technology current. (This isn’t an infallible process, however.) That means that not only will users have the latest versions of existing software, but that new features and apps can be added throughout the life of the vehicle. And the whole thing won’t be obsolete as soon as the owner gets a new phone.

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INRIX and OpenCar also take a swipe at Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for limiting automaker customization options and accessing car data. Other advantages to carmakers include integration of car-specific features like sunroof controls and seat heaters, which neither Apple nor Google’s connectivity platforms offer. INRIX also is touting the rollout and OpenCar integration of Autotelligent, which can—among other functions—provide drivers with a custom route based on preferred roads, frequent stops, and their personal calendars, taking into account weather, dynamic parking and traffic data, and opportunities where walking or buses make sense. The big question is whether adopting automakers will pass some of the development savings from all of this to their customers.

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