Tucked away in the way-way-back of the South Hall at CES is Garmin's private meeting room. One section holds the company's current automotive, nautical and aviation systems, while the other is an exhibition of the future.
The only thing we can show you is the image above. No video, no additional pics, just that.
We sampled Garmin's new "Everest" setup, which includes one-shot voice commands and the ability to buy tracks from Amazon while you're listening to them over FM radio. You'll see it in cars later this year. We also sampled their "In2it" eight-way rotary controller (think a tech'd-out iDrive, MMI or COMAND knob), complete with proximity sensors and configurable buttons. Garmin is pitching it to OEMs right now.
But the system that blew our mind is dubbed K2. And the only thing we can show you is the image above. No video, no additional pics, just that.
K2 is a prototype for the next generation of cockpit design and it's the way things are going, like it or not.
Situated in the middle of the dashboard is a 12-inch capacitive touchscreen. It can run either QNX or Linux and it's developed almost entirely in HTML5. The interface design is above and beyond anything we've ever seen from an OEM, let alone a supplier. It's smooth, attractive and we want it in everything. Right. Now.
The interface design is smooth, attractive and we want it in everything. Right. Now.
You can customize every aspect of K2, primarily using an online portal. You set up a profile and choose what features you want, what routes you take on a regular basis, your calendar, your to-dos and your music, and it syncs everything over the air and into your car.
The instrument panel is one elongated, customizable screen, allowing you to change the gauges and get a continuous flow of information on the left side of the screen – weather, stocks, tweets, whatever. But it only displays these things while you're stopped.
Imagine Apple's Siri technology distilled into an automotive grade application and you're not far off.
It does text-to-speech for your calendar, reroutes you based on construction or accidents on your drive to work and then sends a message to your client that you'll be 15 minutes late. When you're driving, the entire interface collapses and simplifies so distractions are kept to a minimum. If you need to interact with the system, it's all about voice commands. Imagine Apple's Siri technology distilled into an automotive-grade application and you're not far off.
And there are knobs. And switches. Something we prayed wouldn't go away in the future. Garmin understands that we don't want to interact with just a touchscreen. We want tactility without giving up features. K2 delivers.
There are knobs. And switches. Something we prayed wouldn't go away in the future.
It also solves one of the most common complaints about most infotainment systems: allowing the passenger to use the system while the vehicle is in motion. Garmin installed a series of capacitive sensors in the steering wheel that detect if the driver's hands are on the wheel. If they are, the system opens up more of its features – from web browsing to navigation input – so the passenger can get things done. It's brilliant and far better than our own solution.
So when's it coming? Garmin reps are showing it off to automakers now, and if one of them bites it could be in cars as soon as 2014 or 2015. On our way out the door, we passed about a dozen Mazda engineers waiting for a demo. Take them up on it Mazda, because if you don't, some other automaker will.