Why Your iPhone Isn’t Like Your Car

The rumored Apple car notwithstanding, there are evident efforts being taken by OEMs to make their user interfaces large, icon-intensive and swipeable, just like a smartphone. Since Tesla rolled out with the 17-inch screen in the Model S, there has been an on-going effort to make screens big and familiar, perhaps with the most exaggerated example the 56-inch Mercedes MBUX Hyperscreen.

Whereas it was once said that a “car is a computer on wheels,” it seems to have transitioned to a “car is a smartphone on wheels.”

After all, OEMs are not only aggressively integrating apps that they can mine for data and otherwise monetize, but the ability to have over-the-air updates (OTAs) is becoming as de rigueur as standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Tamara Snow of Continental. The complexity of vehicle compute, control and communications networks shouldn’t be underestimated. (Image: Continental)

But Tamara Snow, head of Research and Advanced Engineering, North America, Continental Automotive, points out that there are some substantial differences between that high-powered processing and communications device you carry around and that high-powered processing and transportation device you have carry you around when it comes to the compute architecture and application.

Snow notes that a smartphone has:

  • 1 microprocessor
  • 1 display
  • 1 operating system
  • 7 sensors
  • 6.1-ounce mass

And the smartphone has a top speed of 0 mph.

A vehicle has:

  • 100 microcontrollers
  • 4 displays
  • 4 operating systems
  • 100s of sensors
  • 2.5-ton mass

The vehicle has a top speed of 155 mph.

Snow says that when it comes to a smartphone, a software glitch can be “annoying.”

But the same for a motor vehicle can be “fatal.”

Making cars–and the systems that go into them–is hard.–gsv

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