"Any customer can have a car painted any color... so long as it is black."
Still, most forms of personalization are baked in. Once you order a car in, say, Barcelona Red (the color of my new Venza), it's hard to reverse the decision. But imagine the day when you can sit behind the wheel and watch your car's instrument cluster automatically reconfigure itself according to your personal preferences. And imagine if the cluster could do the same for everyone else who uses the car.
That's the kind of future QNX is working to make happen.
But you know what? I'm getting ahead of myself. I promised pictures of the new QNX reference vehicle, so let's look at them — especially since they offer tantalizing examples of what I was just talking about. :-)
Up to now, we've only released teaser images of the reference vehicle, with just enough detail to get people guessing as to what it might be. But enough with the mystery. Here's a full-on shot of the vehicle — a Jeep Wrangler Sahara — in all its off-road glory:
Yes, it's a Jeep
By the way, if you were one of the first 25 people in Canada or the US to guess it was a Jeep during our recent teaser campaign, congratulations! We'll identify the winners shortly.
Once you get behind the wheel, the first thing you'll see is the digital instrument cluster. Let's zoom in so you can get a good look:
The cluster is implemented entirely in software and can reconfigure itself on the fly to display various types of information. Better yet, you can re-skin the cluster at the tap of a touchscreen button, like so:
As you can see, the cluster communicates with the head unit's navigation system to display turn-by-turn directions. Nice touch.
The head unit
Now look to your right, and you'll see the head unit. It supports a whack of functions (note my deft use of technical language), including one-touch pairing with Bluetooth smartphones, hybrid navigation, text-to-speech, natural speech recognition, streaming Internet radio, weather reporting, parking search, and too many other things to mention here.
In this photo, the head unit displays one of my favorite applications, the virtual mechanic. Intrigued? Check out my description of an early version of this app.
You know what else is cool? The unit's media player can post Facebook updates that list the song currently playing — but only when you tell it to, using voice commands. (Personal control over technology. I like that.) To view these updates later today and tomorrow while the Jeep is at Telematics Detroit, check out the QNX Facebook page.
Here's another photo of the head unit, showing its app tray:
What car would be complete without a radio? Mind you, in this case, "radio" includes support for streaming Internet radio from Pandora and TuneIn. And keeping in tune with the personalized listening experience these services offer you, the head unit's radio gives you a choice of skins:
In fact, almost every aspect of the head unit can be easily re-skinned. What's more, the underlying code remains the same: only the user interface, created in HTML5, changes from one skin to another. Which means automotive developers can create a single code base and re-use it across multiple vehicle lines. Doing more with less — what could be bad?
That's all I have for now, but before you go, check out the two press releases QNX issued this morning on the Jeep's personalization and Facebook features. Also, check out the QNX Flickr page for even more photos of the Jeep.