Tom and Ray Magliozzi—known as Click and Clack on their hit radio show Car Talk—represented an automotive era that is gone. In their time, luxury meant robust build quality and top of class mechanical components were mission critical for automakers. With Click and Clack’s hearty laughs and friendly spirit no longer on air, the industry has changed too. Performance remains important, but luxury is now more associated with high tech features, and infotainment systems have become more mission critical to automakers than transmissions, which will be obsolete with electrification. Click and Clack would be astounded by the new auto industry and the consumer has everything to gain from the revolution: time, comfort, and safety.

On future cars, the most important aspects will be connectivity and user experience, and once full autonomy arrives, car design will change dramatically to reflect limited human involvement in driving. There may be controls available for humans to use, but driving dynamics will no longer be the most important aspect of how a car is developed. HARMAN works with Rinspeed, a Swiss think-tank, to build concept cars that encapsulate these ideas about coming trends. Rinspeed cars seem like science fiction, but the Rinspeed Bedouin foreshadowed Porsche’s move to ‘all road’ style vehicles 15 years before Porsche Taycan was announced, and proposed the use of renewable fuel sources 3 years before An Inconvenient Truth came out.

HARMAN collaborates with Rinspeed on their concept cars to bring future connectivity and infotainment solutions to life, and inspires connectivity features going into the next generation of production cars. Giving a taste of what the future holds, Rinspeed models ensure that though the Click and Clack era of automobile adoration will be limited to enthusiasts, the experience replacing it will improve quality of life for everyone. Time returned to the user is evidenced in Rinspeed’s highly automated concept cars like Oasis, which incorporates living room-like touches including bookshelves. Those minutes spent merging onto highways can be replaced with more enriching activities, like reading.

HARMAN inspires the connected experience with technology like Life Enhancing Intelligent Vehicle Solutions (LIVS), a system so embedded in the connected world that it can anticipate traffic changes based on a sports injury delaying when the crowd leaves the stadium, as one example of its capabilities. An intelligent voice-activated assistant integrated into the infotainment system has a knowledge base unique to tasks you may want carried out in the car, so it is able to order flowers on Valentine’s Day, and point out restaurants in the area that your Facebook friends have liked as you drive by.

Similar features are highlighted on the Maserati GranCabrio equipped with HARMAN’s Digital Cockpit, which debuted at CES 2018 and by the time cars like the Oasis are out, the pool of data AI learns from will have grown to iron out kinks like bizarre recommendations and unrefined virtual assistants.

But the scope of HARMAN’s solutions is broader than providing connectivity. The Oasis is also equipped with HARMAN’s cybersecurity suite, called HARMAN Shield, which ensures that telematics data, and vehicle controls are protected from hackers. The system detects anomalies in data from the engine control unit and telematics control unit to identify possible traces of hacking. Some features are dedicated to building efficacy between the vehicle and occupant, like a prolific heads-up display that places images precisely onto lanes and adapts to turns. The HARMAN system in the Oasis is also responsible for coordinating ride and car sharing, key for efficiency and improving on OEM’s one-time-sale business model. Even though ‘sharing’ typically is associated with compromise, this won’t be the case in mobility. Rinspeed indicates this on their Snap model, which separates the cabin of the car from the chassis.

The Snap’s customizable nature is indicative of how future vehicles will adapt to varying user preferences. Cabins can be oriented towards outdoors and recreation, or work and productivity. Even if the cabin is to be shared, users can still feel at home because the HARMAN Ignite platform stores their preferences in the cloud and settings can be adjusted to a user’s individual token. Ignite allows for a new level of individualization—users can carry preferences with them from the car to Samsung devices in the home or office.

This level of information sharing is still limited by the speed at which we can transmit data, because dense mapping packages and passenger profiles need high speed 5G systems to transmit terabytes of data. HARMAN’s support of 5G network implementations would enable these massive amounts of data to be shared quickly enough for people to thoroughly enjoy. While not ready yet, these changes support returning time spent in transit to people—they can dedicate their time to reading, sleeping, or working.

But autonomous cars are software driven products, so they can be updated over the air, just like smartphones. With the industry’s realignment on the way, patterns like ‘trickle down’ tech may not hold in an autonomous future. HARMAN’s support for automakers lies in the areas that will soon be most critical for new cars. With the user in mind, the solutions we engineer replicate the at home and relaxed feeling in the car, just like when Car Talk was on.