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Smartphone as car’s info-entertainment system
February 29, 2016, 4:18 pm

Honda has launched a concept car in which the head unit is replaced with a smartphone. Though vehicle infotainment systems are still evolving, the vast majority remains unintuitive and soon becomes outdated.

So what if the entire infotainment system could run on your smartphone instead; this was the thinking that partly led to the development of Apple’s Carplay and Android Auto. But these systems still relied on the auto manufacturer’s inbuilt display system.

The new Drivemode aims to do things a bit differently; the company's Android app can turn your mobile device into the central screen in your vehicle. It is not mirroring anything onto a larger display; you just plug your phone into the empty head unit slot, and then it will start displaying your speedometer, navigation, music apps, incoming calls / texts, and so on.

Since your phone is smaller than most infotainment displays, the Drivemode app puts simplicity first with oversized buttons and easy-to-read text. But reaching for something that is not the steering wheel is less than ideal, so the company has partnered up with Honda and Panasonic to make a concept car with full steering wheel controls. Things like music controls and voice search work just as they would on a regular infotainment system and Drivemode will even display the feed from the vehicle's backup camera.

All of the companies involved note this is still years from being a shipping product, but it is easy to see the appeal — especially in lower end vehicles that might not even offer the popular Apple and Google solutions. For now, Drivemode is available on Android only, though an iOS version is expected down the line.

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