At the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Harman International demonstrated an Aha app-integrated head unit it developed for Ferrari, featuring Slacker, Yelp, and Twitter.
Wayne CunninghamManaging Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
At the International Motor Show in Frankfurt, Harman International demonstrated Aha app integration it developed for Ferrari. It's a big-name client for a little-known product, and may herald future Aha implementation with other automakers.
Aha gave CNET an exclusive look at the implementation ahead of the Frankfurt auto show.
Using an iPhone running the Aha app and connected to the Ferrari head unit, a number of cloud-based services became available, such as Slacker, Yelp, Twitter, and traffic reports. If you touch the Aha tab on the head unit's audio screen, the list of services appears in a vertical menu.
Choosing Slacker starts up a music stream from the service, and shows an interface through which you can mark favorites or ban the currently playing song. The interface lets you choose one of Slacker's DJ-curated channels or a personalized channel, similar to Pandora.
The Yelp implementation is heavily modified. Rather than let users enter any search term, Aha includes two canned searches, one for restaurants and the other for coffee places. The restaurant search button merely reads, "Hungry," an attempt to make the option more understandable to the majority of users.
And these searches are much smarter than those available from the Yelp iPhone app. Instead of merely showing all results in a radius from the current location, the Aha implementation looks at the car's current direction. It only picks results that are near the car's current path ahead, reading them out loud to the driver. To minimize driver distraction, Aha only returns a handful of results. Once the driver picks a search result, the address enters the navigation system at a touch.
The search for coffee places functions similarly, which suggests how Aha could implement other canned searches useful to a driver.
When the driver hits the traffic button, the system also narrows results to the road ahead, after taking into account the car's direction. The system reads out traffic incidents to the driver.
As with other Aha services, the Aha implementation of Facebook and Twitter focuses on audio content rather than text. When a driver selects Facebook, the head unit will read out status updates while only showing who originally entered the update. The driver would be able to post tweets having to do with the car's current location or other variables.
During the demonstration, an Aha representative said that Ferrari has not announced plans to offer the app-integrated head unit in a production model. But buyer interest in cloud-connected services, Ferrari's lack of expertise in the area, and the demonstration itself make production implementation likely.
Currently, the only Aha app integration is with the Pioneer AVIC-Z130BT aftermarket head unit. But the head unit shown for the Ferrari demonstration used a tabbed interface design very similar to that seen on GM head units.
Aha is owned by Harman International, a major supplier of head units to the automotive industry. It owns brands such as Harman Kardon, JBL, Infinity, and Mark Levinson. That install base gives Aha entry to a large number of automakers.