Built-in Navigation is the Future

Integrated, fully connected, navigation systems are essential to tomorrow’s intelligent automobile.

Brought-in or Built-in Navigation?

Many drivers still rely on their smartphones for driving directions. However, intelligent built-in navigation systems are just around the corner.

Imagine you’re driving down California’s beautiful Highway 1, enjoying the spectacular views.  You stop your car to take a picture. When you return to your car, you realize that your phone’s navigation system can’t get a signal to guide you to that delightful restaurant in Carmel you heard about. What are you going to do now?

Most of the time, mobile navigation, also known as “brought-in” navigation, is good enough.  Sure, there will be rare cases like the one I described, however smartphone-based navigation is free, easier to use, and much better than the system in my car, right?

OEMs Need to Even the Score 

In Telenav’s cross-manufacturer benchmark study, the industry average Net Promoter Score (a measure of whether people are willing to recommend a product or service) for OEM-provided built-in automobile navigation is a dismal -21.  That score means that people are actively telling people how much they dislike their in-car navigation systems.

Does this mean that smartphones will always have a grip on turn-by-turn navigation? On the contrary, in-car systems continue to improve and have the potential to surpass brought-in navigation. Either way, understanding where you are, where you’re going and how you get there will be essential to future intelligent automobiles and mobility-as-a-service. 

Built-in Software: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

Software and its integration into the driving experience is the fastest changing aspect of the driving experience.  Unfortunately, what people say they are getting from automakers lags far behind customer expectations compared to what they get from mobile phones—in terms of design, user experience and intelligence.  For cars to make the leap to “intelligent” devices, the software must be dramatically improved. Nowhere is this truer than what used to be referred to as “Navigation.”  Navigation governs location-based services and, increasingly, personalization. 

The good news is there isn’t any good reason built-in navigation or any software in the car needs to be rated so low.  In fact, built-in software should have the advantage over a smartphone system because they offer:

  • Seamless interactivity, pleasing aesthetics, and brand integration (Check!)
  • Advanced integration into vehicle data like fuel/energy level, state of headlights, which seats are occupied, etc.…
  • Integration into unique product differentiating hardware like digital clusters, cool aspect ratio screens and head-up displays (sometimes)
  • Fast processors and graphics cards to power experiences way beyond what the phone can do today (this should be less rare)
  • Innovative features and functionality such as using speed and fuel information when determining the best route (OEM’s take note!)

Three Ways to Make Built-in Software Better

There are a ton of reasons why today’s in-car navigation systems are poor. On the other hand, there are only a few key enablers that can help create experiences that people will love:

1. Connectivity

The single largest enabler for good software is internet connectivity. Connectivity enables the driver to receive real-time traffic and road hazards as well as provides a more effective cloud search.

2. Unique Digital Cockpits

Driver experiences are being redefined by digital experiences. The Tesla Model S is famous for its 17-inch portrait HD screen.  The Model 3 uses a unique 1920 x 1200 8:5 form factor that allows full HD content to be paired with a 120-pixel persistent domain bar at the bottom. Cadillac and BMW have long had head-up displays. This technology is now moving to the mid-market with Mazda and Chevy— reaching a broader consumer audience.

3. A More Iterative Process

Making automobiles is a waterfall process. I get it. You want to lock-in parts and not change them unless necessary. However, that doesn’t mean software needs to be made the same way. Imagine buying a shiny new iPhone with 3-year-old software on it. It would be quite a disappointment. Automobiles are no different. With over-the-air app updates, automakers have more liberty to experiment with new innovative features and pull data and services from thousands of online sources. If it doesn’t work perfectly, it can be refreshed, refined or removed.


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