Voice assistants, custom apps, over-the-air software updates, navigation, calls, streaming music – all functions you would expect in a smartphone today, except this is just some of the stuff that the 10.4-inch infotainment system in the upcoming MG Hector SUV has. And it's not just the Hector, connected cars is a thing, really.
Many cars sold in India these days come with some sort of connectivity features – be it a Nissan Terrano, Maruti Ciaz, Volkswagen Vento, Ford Endeavour or even a Honda Civic. But the levels of connectivity vary.
We are not talking about just Android Auto or Apple CarPlay or even Ford's SYNC 3 here. While some feature just bare basic telematics that allow you to track your car or get alerted when it is speeding or running low on fuel, systems like the one showcased by MG do a lot more.
What's the MG iSmart System?
Cars are as much about connected technology as they are about mechanical prowess these days. The iSmart infotainment system that will be fitted in the upcoming MG Hector SUV has been developed in partnership with tech companies such as Microsoft, Adobe, Reliance Unlimit, SAP, Cisco, Gaana, TomTom and Nuance.
The 10.4-inch vertically mounted screen in the MG Hector has an M2M SIM (machine SIM) embedded, which is powered by Airtel for connectivity. It claims to be 5G ready, but can handle network speeds as low as 2G as well.
Drivers can interact with the head unit via voice commands or touch input. The voice system, developed by Nuance, is a bit like Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa in the way it functions.
The navigation system is from TomTom, which also builds in some AI to fine-tune the routes you drive frequently, and build in suggestions automatically based on traffic reports.
With this connected system, MG dealers can also push over-the-air software updates to the car or automatically book service slots, when a vehicle is due for service. Also, similar to Ford's SYNC system, it has an automatic call placement feature in an emergency.
It comes with a premium Gaana account in-built, which allows users to stream or download 1,000s of songs, while it also has a few pre-loaded songs on the system. Via a mobile app, users can also turn-on/turn-off the car, lock or unlock it, check status and turn on the AC.
How Is It Different from Android Auto or Apple CarPlay?
While most car systems that run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto also have a host of features and streaming services built into them, the MG iSmart system also builds in telematics (real-time tracking) and in-built voice assistant and connectivity.
For Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to function, one needs to connect a compatible mobile phone to the system. However, with the iSmart system, there is a built-in SIM in each car which comes with its own connectivity (that can use 5G too).
Apple car may become reality in 2023
What to Expect?
While MG Motor India organised a press conference just to showcase its infotainment system (and not the whole car), connected cars are going to become increasingly common.
Maruti already has its Connect app built into the Ciaz. Users can track the vehicle and get real-time status or security alerts through it. Honda's OBD solution updates owners about speed alerts and driving style. So does Nissan's system. And then there are aftermarket OBD solutions like Rollr Mini which handle similar functions.
The upcoming Hyundai Venue compact SUV too is being called a "Connected Car". It will come with in-built telematics as well. Expect this to be the new normal with cars.