Pretty much all you’ll hear about from CES 2018 this week will relate to self-driving cars and the hardware and software that powers them.
Harman, which was acquired by Samsung early last year, is showing some autonomous car tech at CES this week, but we became captivated by something else it’s working on during an event in Las Vegas prior to the show. The company has been busy developing new digital in-car entertainment systems and showed us some of its most specialized and advanced tech on a couple of Maserati GranCabrio MC Stradale example cars. It might seem like an odd choice to showcase emerging infotainment tech on, but once you get a look at what Harman’s designed, you begin to get the picture.
The Maserati is a good fit to showcase the digital cockpit system for a couple of reasons. For one, the stock car leaves to be desired on the in-car technology front. Second, and more importantly, the exotic makes Harman’s sporty looking digital cockpit seem perfectly at home. The system comprises a digital dashboard, which is joined by a huge dashboard-wide display that looks slim and minimalistic upon first seeing it. Then you hit the button to make arise from the dash, and it becomes a Mercedes-Benz S-Class shaming wonder.
Harman shows us their new digital cockpit at #CES2018 pic.twitter.com/5zh4Mv3WjN
— Sam (@samnrehcaecm) January 9, 2018
The display can show audio controls in the middle, for example, while the passenger watches a YouTube video. The passenger can also set his or her phone down in the wireless charging port in the center console, which will then show a picture and other info from their phone on the screen on their side of the car.
The display is joined by three sleek-looking metal knobs with individual digital displays, which are entirely configurable. Harman’s system is available with a number of in-car digital AI assistants (another huge trend here at CES) including IBM Watson and Amazon Alexa, the latter of which was set to one of the knobs when it was presented to us. The two other knobs were set to the clock and climate control, but you could set a large number of commands or displays to them.
Below the metal knobs is yet another digital display, this one harboring more advanced climate control settings and audio controls. A line of ambient lighting envelops the cabin, spanning the dash and stretching to the doors. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think this high-tech, neatly integrated system was the work of an OEM on a concept car. I asked Michael Radomski, Harman’s global strategy director if Maserati knew what they had done to a couple of their cars. He told me no, and that he was expecting the automaker to see it this week. I had initially suspected their choice of car was the sign of a reinvigorated Samsung-FCA business deal.
The most impressive part about all this? Harman says this exact system is feasible for production within 18 to 24 months. We’d be surprised if an automaker didn’t take up Harman to replicate this system on its future cars — it’s neatly integrated, scalable, developer-friendly and well-designed. Harman says it has also taken safety into consideration in developing it as well.
We hear Maserati is working on a new Gran Turismo, Harman. Just saying.