Panasonic says 'The phone is the brain'

At the 2014 Detroit auto show, Panasonic demonstrated automotive head units running navigation and entertainment from a connected phone.

Wayne Cunningham Managing 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.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Panasonic uses the phrase 'The phone is the brain' for its phone-powered head unit tech. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

DETROIT -- With shorter life cycles, navigation and other features on phones tend to be more advanced than those found in cars. During the Detroit auto show, Panasonic showed off head unit concepts with navigation and entertainment powered by a connected phone.

Panasonic had on hand a head unit running its own, embedded infotainment system, one showing Android phone integration through MirrorLink, and a third also running navigation from an Android phone, but this one connected through CloudCar.

Panasonic showed this head unit running the CloudCar service, which translates phone output to the head unit screen. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

With both the MirrorLink and CloudCar implementations, navigation and entertainment functions running on the phone were translated to an appropriate interface for the automotive head unit. A driver could control these functions through the head unit's touch screen or voice command. Although the processing would happen on the phone, the driver wouldn't need to touch it, and so the phone wouldn't be a distraction.

A Panasonic spokesperson explained that the MirrorLink standard was more primitive than that offered by CloudCar. The latter uses the H.264 video compression standard, porting and translating the video output from the phone.

Panasonic is also working with Apple on iOS in the Car, announced with iOS 7. However, Apple would not let Panasonic show that implementation, as it is still very much in development.

Catch CNET's coverage of the 2014 North American International Auto Show

For a production vehicle, an automaker would likely implement both iOS in the Car and CloudCar, or one of the other Android implementations, so users of either type of phone would have navigation and entertainment in the car.

Panasonic is one of the largest tier-one suppliers to the automotive industry, offering a variety of infotainment head units to automakers. These phone-powered demonstration units served to show automakers what Panasonic can do. A phone-powered system would likely go into an economy car, which might not have an embedded system.

A Panasonic spokesperson said the likely timeline for implementation of a phone-powered system would be in a 2016-model-year vehicle, which would launch in 2015.