BMW, Fiat join Connected Car Consortium
Smartphone, meet in-car system
Fiat and BMW have joined the Car Connectivity Consortium, a body developing a standard scheme for linking smartphones to in-car entertainment and navigation systems that already numbers Daimler, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and VW among its members.
The group will promote the so-called "Terminal Mode standard" - a Nokia-developed specification for phone-to-car communications.
Terminal Mode was formerly renamed MirrorLink in October as the name under which the technology will be taken to market.
MirrorLink auto-connects smartphone to a car's and hi-fi to allow handsfree calling. The phone's display is mirrored on the dashboard screen. Tap the display or flick a control, and the commanded is routed to and performed on the smartphone.
Phone-car links can operate over USB or Wi-Fi. Bluetooth is also supported but seemingly not favoured these days.
MirrorLink 1.0.1 is available to manufacturers now - version 1.1 is in the pipeline. The first products are expected in 2012.
The CCC's other members include in-car kit makers and phone firms, including Alpine, Clarion, Denso, Garmin, HTC, KDDI, LG, Mitsubishi, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Sony Ericsson. ®
Why no Bluetooth?
I get in the car, phone pairs with my Sony stereo, and I can make calls and listen to music. Works with both my iPhone and my Android phone.
Bluetooth works quite nicely.
Bluetooth can't drive an in-car display
MirrorLink allows *any* application to use an in-car touchscreen for its I/O... Think of it like a car-area VNC.
MirrorLink doesn't replace Bluetooth
Mirrorlink provides a way for mobile phone apps to run on any compatible car touchscreen. This would, for example, allow you to run your phone's navigation and maps system directly on your car. The physical link is USB, which has the added bonus of keeping your phone charged.
Here's a walk-through in a Toyota: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGY0GJPKxBc
And here's the Nokia/Alpine PR video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdHBFsy930A&feature=player_embedded
With FIAT-Chysler and BMW on board, there's now a good mass behind the standard - Ford (US and EU) and Renault-Nissan are now the only major makers not involved.
Of course, this is as much down to OEM contracts than the will of the car companies: Alpine, who supply BMW, are already a CCC member, and have already launched a product using MirrorLink (ICS-X8 "App Link Station"), so it's not much of a surprise to see BMW joining in. FIAT-Chrysler are a more interesting sign-up: they use Delphi (a CCC member) for Dodge/Chrysler/FIAT models, but European FIAT/Alfa/Lancia vehicles all use Blaupunkt equipment. Blaupunkt are the one notable absence from the list of equipment makers, but as Blaupunkt's biggest customer, Volkswagen Group, is involved in the CCC, this may change...