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Aston Martin, in collaboration with the young Chinese entertainment company LeTV, unveiled an infotainment concept at CES 2016 that could finally bring the century old British car manufacture up to date in the in-car entertainment stakes.
LeTV, only set up 2004, is best known for it's content streaming services but is branching out into. This endeavour with Aston Martin, which only started last year, has rapidly lead to the first prototype collaboration between the two companies.
From under a sheet, a relatively stock looking, yet still attractive, electric blue Rapide S was revealed, the 4-door supercar which could be described as the most practical car in the Aston Martin stable. A quick glance inside, however, revealed a welcome change to what is now the standard, dated looking interior of all Aston Martins.
A new 13.3 inch touchscreen display replaces almost all of the central console, similar to that in the. The interface has a phone style navigation setup with home, nav, phone and music screens to choose from as well as an additional screen for the in-car systems. The system has been configured to work with the existing audio system Aston Martin install from Bang & Olufsen.
LeTV has specifically designed the system to only control non-essential features. There is no interaction between the system and the engine management software, preventing any chance of the infotainment system adversely affecting the car's ability to drive safely. As there would be plans to open the system out to third party app developers, that could be seen as wise. It does, however, preclude the system being part of any autonomous driving features Aston Martin may want to looking in future.
The new interface also extends to the instrument panel, which replaces the traditional dials with a 12.2-inch thin-thrift-display. The display can be configured to digitally mimic the iconic analogue dials currently found in all Astons or a variety of increasingly futuristic and distinctly un-Astoney versions.
The feature set demonstrated to us did not have anything we haven't seen before, although it did come in an a attractive package. LeTV, though, was eager to point out that one of the key selling points of this system would be how it would form an extension of users digital life outside of the car, giving them access to the same services and interface of their home and portable devices.
At present, LeTV's services are only really available in China. To make such an in-car system appealing to a broader international audience those services would need to be available globally. LeTV wouldn't comment directly when asked about potential roll-out beyond China of these services but accepted that it would be key to the success of a collaboration between itself and Aston Martin.
Aston Martin CEO, Dr Andy Palmer, when asked about how soon such a system could become a reality predicted that we could be seeing this collaboration actually come to market within as little as two years. Considering how the in-car entertainment packages of Aston Martin have been their weakest aspect for years, this can't come soon enough.
Although this is the first automotive project LeTV has been involved in, this is not an exclusive project with Aston Martin. The lessons learned here could very easily find themselves into a platform offered to other manufacturers in future. LeTV only had a limited amount of time to build this prototype, but said it had a great relationship with Aston Martin based on their work together so far. At the very least, we could see a welcome refresh to Aston Martin's interiors in a few years, but potentially this could be the first signs of a whole new automotive in-car technology platform.