Predictive and Personalized: How to deliver the digital driving experience consumers want

In-vehicle infotainment systems need to anticipate user needs with seamless and personalized experiences.

"Stress-free, productive, helpful, connected, fun" – those are the top 5 digital experiences consumers want in their cars, according to a recent poll. (Source: SBD Automotive 2020)

Today’s in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems provide the elements for these experiences with navigation, media sources, voice and messaging. But they still fall short in delivering what consumers now expect in their digital lifestyle. Instead of simplicity and convenience, these systems still require people to fumble through separate apps and features, adding to their cognitive load as a driver on busy roads.

Modern IVI systems must be designed to anticipate driver needs to make the experience truly stress-free, helpful, and fun.

An in-vehicle infotainment system

In many vehicles, infotainment features are presented in dedicated applications accessed through buttons or menus, much like on smartphones. It means drivers have to switch between apps and environments to perform basic tasks. 

Navigating the interface is disjointed and distracting, and does not support the safe and stress-free driving experience people want and need.

How in-vehicle infotainment is evolving

Newer IVI systems strive to solve the usability concerns of application hopping. Leveraging advancements in hardware capability and larger screen size, they offer a dashboard home screen that replaces app shortcuts with widgets or cards.

This home dashboard makes selected information and features directly accessible, improving safety by reducing the attention and interaction required by drivers. Examples of this approach can be found in recent systems from some manufacturers and smartphone mirroring solutions (like Apple CarPlay). 

Generally, these dashboards use the following interaction experience:

  • Primary applications run in extended cards (with more details displayed)
  • Secondary apps run in minimized cards
  • Each card provides quick access to application status information and/or basic commands
  • Tapping a card opens the application in full screen
Vehicle navigation Vehicle navigation - minimized applications in context

While this home dashboard approach improves usability, it still does not deliver the personalized experiences consumers increasingly want and expect. Instead, the interfaces are:

  • Static: Apps and their layout do not adapt to current driving situations and user behaviors.
  • Passive: Interactions are initiated by the driver, rather than the car predicting their needs.

To optimize the driving and IVI experience, systems need to extend beyond the home screen to be contextual and proactive.

Transforming how drivers engage with IVI

Driver needs change depending on many factors such as time of day and day of the week, location, destination, traffic, weather, and more. Let’s call it the “driving context”.

As the driving context changes along a journey, a well-designed IVI system will proactively adapt. As it detects current and upcoming changes, it can deliver timely, relevant assistance to enable a more personalized, stress-free driving experience.

For example, when a person is driving in their home area, they usually know their way around without a map. What about when they’re driving in a location far from home, where they rarely go?  A contextually smart IVI will recognize the driver is in a location that may be unfamiliar, and proactively serve up an on-screen visualization of the surrounding area.

Seeing a contextually smart IVI in action

A dynamic, personalized IVI system will adapt continuously to the current driving context to minimize distraction while providing the productive, helpful experience consumers want.

Here’s a quick example of a predictive and personalized IVI user experience in action. I’m commuting to work, which is when I listen to my favorite podcasts.  The IVI system recognizes my driving context and, as traffic is flowing as usual, preemptively presents the media player with the latest podcast from my playlist.  Along the way, the system detects a traffic incident on my usual route, so it dynamically expands the map and navigation functions, including offering an alternate route, making it easy for me take the appropriate action.  

Having the IVI system anticipate my needs with simple, intuitive actions goes a long way in making my commute low-stress and more convenient. That’s only one of many ways a predictive, contextual IVI can make the overall driving experience delightful.

Contextual Ii-vehicle navigation experience
Morning commute to work experience

More and more, consumers expect digital experiences to be seamlessly easy, personalized, and fun. They want that in their connected car as well, with the added benefits of making driving stress-free and helpful.

To deliver the experiences that win customers and drive brand loyalty, automakers need to provide 'smarter' infotainment systems. IVIs need the power to adapt to driving context to ensure they provide the right features and information at the right time.