How GROM’s Innovations Offer Safety and Congruence with California’s New Ban on Distracted Driving

 

Hands Free Car Safety

California has made it clear. If you drive with a steering wheel in one hand and your mobile device in another, you’re breaking the law. Last September, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB-1785. On January 1st, it became the law. This new law, also known as California Vehicle Code Sect. 23123.5, mandates that people may only use their mobile phones while driving if those devices are mounted on their dashboards while set up for voice activation or hands-free use. Aside from an exception for Emergency personnel, violators will be fined $20 for the first offence and increased fines for consecutive violations.

“The whole idea is you don’t have the phone in your hand, period,” said Bill Quirk, the California Assemblyman from Hayward. He believes the law will make it easier for police officers to discourage drivers from dangerous phone use.

Luckily, many manufacturers and retailers have already been designing technology and phone dashboard mounts to prevent distracted driving accidents. These devices ensure drivers are able to access their mobile devices without losing focus on the road.

GROM Audio, in particular as a company, has devoted their mission to offering smarter and safer integration of mobile technology to vehicles. Additionally, they spent time ensuring driver safety is number one in regards to accessing mobile technology. In particular, two ideas they have developed over the last several years have been key in making them innovation leaders in car audio.

After spending years developing their car kits that integrate mobile devices with car stereo systems and allow owners to use their stereos to control their smart phones, GROM looked for new opportunities to develop car tech for driver safety. One of their ideas was DashLinQ.

Hands Free Bluetooth Dashlinq

 

DashLinQ is an app that could be used to access audio, GPS, and other mobile apps while driving. If offers voice activation controls that allow owners to get what they need from their phone—whether music, navigation, phone, or texting functionality. The visual interface offers large icons and a simple display layout, suited for car mounted devices and quick referencing.

GROM also offers car mount solutions, which had been tested and approved.  They work for all smartphones, providing quick and hassle-free mounting to the car.

Hands Free Bluetooth Smartphone Car Mount

 

There are already 14 states that prohibit the use of mobile devices when driving and 46 states along with the District of Columbia that prohibit texting while driving. It’s not surprising.

The New York Times cited a National Highway Safety report that stated that 272 teenagers were killed in 2015 due to distracted driving. Additionally, the study reported that 3,263 of the 3,477 people who died in crashes were distracted while they drove.

GROM Audio has been concerned about distracted driving for years. They have realized that there needs to be solution that allows drivers to access mobile technology not just for entertainment, but also to utilize relevant apps like GPS navigation and road safety alert systems.

One key component in DashLinQ is an integrated Google maps feature that allows users to quickly get where they need to go through simple voice activation commands. Additionally, DashLinQ optimizes Google Maps for drivers using their phone from a dashboard mount.

Through the mount’s magnet system, Xway enables users to quickly and easily attach and remove their device from their dashboard, ensuring that there is no time wasted adjusting their phone while driving.

A recent California Office of Traffic Safety study, cited The Sacramento Bee, reported that one of eight California drivers focuses as much attention on their mobile device as they do on the road. State Road Safety officials have estimated the 80% of all crashes in California involve some kind of distracted driving. Now it is completely against the law.

This makes GROM’s goal to help eliminate distracted driving through tech innovations more urgent and relevant than before. GROM will continue to refine and develop their ideas to make life safer for drivers, passengers, and everyone else on the road.

Bluetooth Car Safety Hands free

Read more here:

Christmas Story Series – Featuring VLine Infotainment System

New Year Festivities

After a long week, Bill was excited. His friend Rommel invited him for five days in the valley at his loft in Los Angeles.  New Year’s plans had been decided.  They were to meet up with Rommel’s friend and finish off the year with a final countdown in Hollywood.  It would be the time of his life.

GROM Audio Blog Holiday

Bill left his apartment in San Diego, hoping to miss the traffic. But the traffic found him. He had signed up to beta test GROM’s new idea, VLine, and it was a great chance to try it out. VLine allowed the owner to  to upgrade the car’s infotainment system to the latest mobile and car technology, and get the access to Google and Waze maps for navigation, and Web Radio, Google Music, Spotify and other apps for in-car entertainment, right from his Lexus IS350 car stereo screen. . Bill had a chance to test VLine for a week already, so he became accustomed in using it.

Using Vline‘s voice control, he was able to access the latest version of Google Maps and plot the quickest route through traffic. But according to Google maps, the quickest route to Los Angeles was on Highway 5, which was clogged until he’d reached San Juan Capistrano. He could clearly see on his infotainment screen the red line reaching down to Oceanside and up into the foot of Orange County.

While puttering in traffic on the 5, Bill used his VLine infotainment system to pull up Spotify and play something relaxing. This kept him mellow for forty minutes until he decided to call Rommel and give him an update. Rommel wasn’t around so he left a message. Bill spent the rest of the time sifting through traffic as the road clog continued to maintain its lack of fluidity.

vline_lexus_infotainment_system

By the time Bill was able to pull free of the traffic jam, which last well pasts Capistrano and into the bowels of Orange County, he got a call back from Rommel who told him to meet him and some friends at restaurant called Cascabel in North Hollywood for dinner. Bill used VLine voice control for navigation to get directions from Google and began a journey through Highway 210 then the 134.

By the time he got there, Bill was tired and starving. Unfortunately, Rommel and group had made a change and we’re a couple of blocks away at The Eatery. Bill was a little irritated but Rommel had a beer waiting for him, and Bill was able to order a cheese burger, which is what he’d been craving all day. Afterwards, they hit a bar down the street and killed some more time and relaxed. Later, Bill headed back to Rommel’s place and got some shut eye.

The next day, they spent down in Venus Beach, cruising around and checking out the scene. The sun was raining heat on the concrete. They parked near the Santa Monica Boardwalk and hit the concrete tiles.  With the temperate climate, the beach was packed with travelers, tourists and regulars.

GROM Audio Blog Holiday

They talked about plans for the next day with Rommel’s friends. Where they could go and what parties were happening on Sunset Boulevard. Rommel wanted to just cruise around  and see what was happening. Bill on the other hand wanted to check out this new gastropub that recently opened. Earlier, he had heard about something big they were doing for the final countdown. Rommel did not seem too thrilled about it.

The next day, they picked up Rommel’s friends to hang out.  They drove all around Santa Monica to some local favorites.  As evening fell, they headed toward the strip and drove until dusk fell on Hollywood. Rommel was looking through Bill’s Google Play collection on his VLine infotainment system. They listened to some Trip Hop while searching the strip.  It did not take long before Bill decided to find parking a couple of blocks off the strip to continue their search by foot.  He was the designated driver for the evening and wanted to minimize cruising by car as much as possible.

They found a lounge that everyone agreed upon on Vine and Hollywood Blvd. The place was hopping, and the three friends ordered some drinks to start the night. Bill had some light snacks.  He had to be responsible after all.  After some time of hanging out and giving Bill a hard time, Rommel decided to give Bill a break.  They headed to Avenue A as Bill had suggested earlier.  By the time Bill got them there, Rommel and his friends sobered up a bit, and they were ready for round two.  The new gastropub was by the beach and with a patio to boot.  Rommel and his friends found an open table and they toasted the night away.  Bill went off on his own in search of the patio and found that it was nicely decorated with red and white lights.  There was also some light music.  Pretty soon, Bill found himself dancing and having a good time.  As midnight approached, Rommel and his friends found Bill outside and they wrapped up the year counting down together.

GROM Audio Blog Holiday

The next morning back at the loft, Rommel was no where to be seen.  Bill took advantage of this opportune solo time to finish his packing. His friend, however, did not recover from the previous night’s festivities until well into the afternoon.  They spent the rest of the day chilling and chatting as they watched Hal’s Food Adventures on WebTV before Bill decided to head back.  He sure was glad to have VLine to keep him company for the long drive ahead.

Bring us on the road with you.

For more information on our VLine infotainment system product line, check out our store: http://gromaudio.com/store/vline/.

Nine Tips for a 4th of July Road Trip

The best pleasures are simple ones. Sometimes it’s great to leave everything behind and venture out on your own, or with friends and/or family. During the 4th of July weekend many American’s celebrate their nation’s birth by liberating themselves from their home and normal routine. Some people take the opportunity to pack their car and venture on to the open road. The time is perfect during the hot weather to head towards the wilderness or a local regional lake for camping, hiking, and other outdoor fun. Others take it as a chance to travel by road to a friend or family for a long overdue to visit.

 

travel

Traveling on the road can be challenging, especially with not knowing what to expect on one’s path. Proper planning and preparation can make a long driving trip easy and relaxing, avoiding hazards and time consuming variables. Here are several tips to consider when making your preparations.

1. Properly plan your start and end time, and decide how to avoid traffic.

morning_drive

Those of us living in the high density areas are quite familiar how bad the traffic can be at the start of the long weekend. Google recommends taking off early on Saturday morning, as early as before 7am, to beat the traffic. Many people leave work early in hopes of beating traffic, so the traffic starts early on Friday. The traffic will also be bad on the last day of the long weekend as the roads will be packed with the travelers returning back home.

2. Make sure your vehicle is in good condition for a road trip.

car_check

Check your tire pressure, oil, washer fluid. Pack a road safety kit and jumper cables. Get the OBD2 Dongle to read your OBD2 Diagnostic system. The Bluetooth based OBD II scan tool such as GROM’s SmartScan OBD II Dongle is able to diagnose a problem if one of your car’s warning light turn on.

3. Pack cash and old-fashioned paper maps.

maps

Bring at least $100 of paper money in addition to credit and debit cards. You never know when you cards may become inaccessible or lack sufficient funds to pay for vital needs during your journey. Never assume that whatever business you’re buying from will take credit or debit cards.

Pack old-fashioned paper maps! You don’t know when your electronic devices decide not to work and/or are not getting sufficient signal to be useful. This is the best contingency you can offer yourself in such situation.

4. Focus on your driving.

checking_phone

Don’t text and drive, or check Facebook while behind the wheels. Minimize distractions as much as possible. If you have a companion riding along, you can have them change the music, check the maps, or text to your friends. If you are feeling drowsy, pull over and have your passenger take the wheel, or stop for a short nap.

5. Make sure you are going the right way.

offline_area_downloadIt’s easy to focus solely on your driving or assume you’re following the proper path. By frequently checking your GPS navigation device, maps, road signs, and other relevant information; you can avoid retreading back to the proper road or having to use an alternate path. Use the latest navigation apps that are available on your Smartphone, such as Waze and Google Maps. You can get real time traffic updates and properly plan your trip. Additionally, you can download offline content with Google Maps. If you are aware that there will be areas without reception during your road trip, think ahead and download the offline content of those areas to your smartphone. You can do so by going to Maps > Offline Areas on your phone.

6. Stay entertained online or offline.

dashlinq_web_radioTo stay connected, you can get a hotspot with pre-paid data plan, or use your phone’s internet. If you will be traveling to the areas without cellular reception, prepare ahead by uploading some music/audiobooks to a USB stick and connecting it to the GROM-USB3 or GROM-MST4 device. You can also download music on your phone to listen to while you are offline. You can download your purchased music files directly from Google Music or Apple iTunes before you begin your journey. With GROM DashLinQ’s WebRadio plugin you can record your favorite pieces of music while streaming, and listen to them later while offline. If all else fails, dig up some of your old CD’s and pack them in your car.

7. Make sure your phone and other electronic devices are always charged.

car_charger

If you are not traveling alone, you probably have more than one electronic device with you such as a phone. The problem is that there are not enough power outlets in your car. Here are some useful devices that can help:

8. Plan on fueling your car and yourself.

fueling

Always make sure that you’re prepared to pull over to get more gas when you notice you only have a quarter is left. Use GasBuddy or any other smartphone app that will help you to plan for your pit-stops. You may even save some money on gas. Make sure to always carry enough water in your car and replenish your water supplies whenever there is the chance. “When I travel during summer, I always make sure to have the access to the icy water. It helps me to stay energized and hydrated”, says Rodney at GROM Audio.

If you are traveling by electric car, check http://www.plugshare.com/ to plan on your recharging wisely.

9. Get a travel pillow for your passengers .

travel_pillow

If you are the driver you need to make sure to stay focused behind the wheel (unless you are inside the self-driving vehicle). Passengers, on the other hand, can afford such a luxury as taking a nap. Travel pillows and blankets can make your passenger’s life easier, and help to avoid neck pain.

In addition, to these tips, it is also helpful to keep a checklist of everything you need and will be necessary to complete your journey. With the proper foresight and some practical sense, you can ensure that your road trip is both pleasant and hassle free.

Drive happy.

 

GROM Audio is the developer and manufacturer of state of art USB, Android and Bluetooth car kits to integrate to your factory car stereo for music, GPS and phone calls. http://gromaudio.com

GROM VOL01B3 Bluetooth Car kit for select Volvo 01-07 Review

by David French

Introduction

Recently I “upgraded” my 2008 Volvo V50 to a 2002 V70 model. (Yes, it’s older, but I’m starting to think cars have got too complicated for their own good now… sometimes older can be simpler and more reliable.)
I drive a lot, and in the UK it’s illegal (not to mention dangerous) to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving.

The V50 had a Bluetooth-enabled head unit which worked fine with my iPhone, but this only accepted voice calls. In order to play stereo audio, I bought a separate cigar-lighter Bluetooth receiver which paired with the phone and provided an aux out; however, of course there was no Aux In in the V50 head unit.
The solution was to buy a Sonichi DAB radio, which rebroadcasts the DAB channel onto FM, and handily also has an Aux In feature. So I could play my phone’s audio to the Bluetooth receiver, which then output to the Sonichi, which then rebroadcast over FM to the Volvo head unit… This worked surprisingly well, but the audio quality wasn’t brilliant, and it was a bit of a bodge job really.

The new V70’s head unit, a Volvo HU-603, comes from an era before Bluetooth was widely used, and also doesn’t have an Aux In. I initially set up the same Bluetooth / Sonichi mashup, but this time round I was relying on the Bluetooth unit to handle voice calls too. This was more problematic, as it was unreliable (outgoing calls routed through Bluetooth but not incoming ones), had no external mic, and I had to switch the Sonichi to Aux In every time I wanted to make or receive a call. Time for a rethink.
My original plan was to add a cabled Aux In to the HU-603, which led me by a roundabout route to GROM Audio.

grom-bt3

A few forum users recommended their gear, and a hunt around their website confirmed they supported the Volvo head unit, with a range of products. Of greater interest was the BT3 Bluetooth interface, which is a standard module with leads available to
connect to a variety of manufacturers’ head units. The clincher which attracted my order was the option to add a cabled Aux In to the Bluetooth module. (It actually accepts up to two external inputs in addition to the Bluetooth functionality.) £120 including shipping later, and my GROM BT3 was on the way, complete with Volvo HU adapter and external USB out and Aux In.

Out Of The Box
The GROM arrived in a jiffy bag, containing:
• The main BT3 Bluetooth unit
• A cable specific to my Volvo HU head unit
• An external microphone, which was of surprisingly good quality with plenty of cable and a 3M sticky mount & bracket
• The additional cable I’d ordered with USB output (female) and Aux In (headphone jack, male)
• A set of instructions covering the Volvo HU cable, and a user manual for the BT3

Installation
The GROM user manual was of refreshingly good quality compared to a lot of manuals you get, which are often translated from Chinese or Japanese quite badly. The first task I faced was removing the Volvo head unit. This isn’t simply a case of sticking a couple of bits of wire down the side and pulling it out, as with many head units. Instead you have to remove the pen holder at the base of the dashboard, then the heating / air conditioning control panel, and finally the head unit.

Fortunately I found a video on YouTube which explained this in all the necessary detail. It’s not entirely surprising that the GROM instructions don’t aim to cover head unit removal details for all potential models and head units, but a huge amount of information is available on YouTube. At this point I made my one mistake. My V70 is an Auto model, and the gearstick was in the way of removing the aircon control panel fully, so I turned the ignition to Position II in order to release the gearstick. Unfortunately the ECU panicked at not being able to see the aircon ECU, and immediately stuck an “Airbag / SRS Fault” warning on the dashboard. Ultimately I had to visit a Volvo independent service center to get this warning reset, which kindly they did at no charge. DIY installer beware. Once the head unit was out, the HU cable connected directly to the CD auto changer DIN connector, and also needed splicing into a permanent live feed in the head unit harness.

GROM provide clear and unambiguous instructions on how to do this, and also a proprietary connector to intercept the live cable without having to cut it or damage it irreversibly. Finally, the cable needed to be earthed; this was simply a case of screwing the supplied spade connector to a spare screw on the head unit. This was the only part of the instructions on which a non-technical user might have been unclear. The HU cable then plugged into the BT3 unit. The cable is long enough to fit the BT3 elsewhere, for example behind the glove box as GROM recommend, but in the V70 there was enough space around the back of the head unit to leave it there. I nestled it to one side behind the dashboard; the manual refers to securing it with Velcro strips, but these weren’t provided with mine.

The next step was to connect the microphone. It’s recommended you fit this away from doors and windows, to avoid road noise. I fitted mine up by the rear view mirror, and it’s easy to run the cable along the headlining and down the rubber seal of the A-post to the dashboard. Once installed, the cable is entirely concealed. The decent length of cable supplied assists with this.

GROM Volvo Bluetooth Integration

Finally I connected the USB Out / Aux In lead, and ran it behind the dashboard to the far side of the steering wheel. In my case I wanted to use the USB Out to power my Sonichi DAB radio, and the Aux In to take the audio feed from it. This was simple enough – I needed a USB A to Mini USB cable to go from the GROM lead to the Sonichi – and the excess wiring tucked back under the dash beneath the steering wheel.

GROM recommend disconnecting and reconnecting the head unit to make sure it recognizes the BT3, which it will see as a CD autochanger, and it made sense to do this now before reassembling everything, rather than having to take it all apart again later. I also tested everything was working before refitting the head unit, aircon controls and pen holder. On power-up the head unit saw the GROM as a CD auto changer, and we were in business.

In Use

Pairing between the phone and the head unit is simple; GROM state it has to be done within 3 minutes of powering up the head unit and vehicle, but later I found this wasn’t necessarily the case. Once paired, the BT3 will switch to the Bluetooth audio channel when it detects stereo (A2DP) audio or an active phone call. If it detects no Bluetooth activity, even when the phone is paired and in range, it defaults to the Aux In (in my case the Sonichi DAB radio). This is exactly the behavior which you’d want, and it works well.

The first thing I noticed was the sound quality, which was excellent. Volvo sound systems always punch above their weight, and having audio fed via a cabled input to the head unit, rather than re-transmitted through FM, makes a considerable difference to the clarity and fidelity of the audio. A2DP audio is clear, crisp and undistorted, and the analogue Aux In from the Sonichi was likewise more than satisfactory. At this point I also noticed that the USB Out from the BT3 powered the Sonichi with a smoother supply than the cigar adapter I’d previously used. I’d noticed before that the Sonichi suffers noticeably from interference and dropout when powered by a substandard USB supply.

With the BT3, it’s completely happy with the USB power, leading to a more stable connection with few dropouts. Conveniently, the USB power stays on for a few seconds when the ignition is turned off, before shutting down (which powers off the Sonichi); this means when you restart the engine from warm, you don’t have to keep powering the DAB radio (or whatever USB device you have attached) each time. Little details like this make a difference. I’d hoped the outward quality of the mic would turn out to extend to its innards too, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The audio quality for hands-free calling is excellent, with the third party unable to hear any background noise at all at speeds up to 70mph. I’ve used several in-car phone systems, both OEM and external, and the audio quality of the GROM system beats all others I’ve tried. The steering wheel controls on my V70 allow track forward / back, and this works seamlessly with the phone. Here GROM have thought ahead again: I was unreasonably delighted to find that a double-tap (or long press) on the Scan button on the head unit triggered Siri on the iPhone. This opens up access to proper hands-free use and is invaluable. My head unit doesn’t seem to display track information text, but GROM suggest some head units may allow this if configured to see the BT3 as a minidisc player (although you may then lose steering wheel controls). There have been a couple of issues (once every 8 weeks or so) with the audio not being switched correctly, or the phone not connecting. This is easily solved by power-cycling the unit or re-pairing the devices. An issue with incoming phone calls not routing correctly through the GROM was quickly solved by GROM technical support pointing me towards an Accessibility setting on the phone I didn’t even know existed. What little support I’ve needed has been very good.

Conclusion
The GROM unit isn’t particularly cheap, but in terms of quality you do get what you pay for. As a way to bring a dated head unit into the 21st century, adding on all the functionality you’d expect from a high-end Bluetooth-equipped unit, it’s unbeatable.
Fitting, on this model at least, is well within the reach of anybody who is handy with a basic set of tools. If you’re tempted, go for it – you won’t be dissatisfied.

Image source: GROM Audio

How to Improve Driver Safety with Your SmartPhone

Whether commuting or on a road trip, your phone is always there while you drive, ready to interrupt your concentration and encourage distracted driving risks.

The overabundance of apps available to smart-phones and other hand-held device are a nest of colorful diversions.

Now there is a trend in app design focused on the driver and providing the opposite to the common scenario so far.drive

However, there are apps available to transform your Smartphone into Car Mode.

Their purpose could be described as providing information with easy visual clarity and offering an interface that relies on a minimum amount of attention and effort from the user.

Some of the key function for many of these kinds of apps are:

  • Voice control
  • Odometer/Speedometer/etc.
  • Weather
  • Music/Radio
  • Google Maps Integration
  • GPS Navigation

A key ingredient to ensure the quality of these apps is their layout design as displayed on your smart phone.

One of the biggest mistakes many of these apps make is that they cram too much information on a single screen.

Here’s a straightforward hint about finding a quality dashboard car mode app: if you can’t figure out quickly what’s displayed on the app’s screen, then it failed.

The point of these apps is to make things simple for you to glance at while you’re driving.

If there is too much happening at once, what’s the point of using such an app in the first place?

Another important ingredient is interface enhancement.

Usually, the enhancement is offered via two methods: voice activation and swipe controls/large buttons.

Again, what can cause these apps to fail in their purpose is an over-abundance of information on any given screen.

You cannot navigate through these apps if you cannot find what you’re looking for quickly.

After all, you’re driving your car while doing all this!

Voice activation solves many of these issues, but many times these features don’t function correctly and become more work than using your smart-phone normally, It always important to do your research before deciding on one of these kinds of apps.

Overall, dashboard car mode apps are a great idea and may provide a resource to increase your driving safety, instead creating unsafe disruptions.

A Solution to Distracted Driving

CaptureIn a new post from CEoutlook – a blog covering news in the car audio, video, and navigation industry – the author provides some very insightful and alarming numbers concerning distracted driving.  “Distracted driving is the cause of 10 percent of fatal car crashes in the U.S.” the blog, which was founded in mid-2010 by veteran electronics reporter Amy Gilroy, states.

This figure is also cited by Wired magazine in its article, “Oh Look, More Evidence Humans Shouldn’t Be Driving.” The CEoutlook blog post goes on to say that distracted driving has “killed more than 3,330 people in the US in 2012.”

These very grim statements underline how serious a hazard distract driving is for the public.

Distracted Driving, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is exactly what it seems to be: driving while focusing on something else and not paying attention. Avoiding distraction is something that can be very hard to do for many commuters, especially when sitting in traffic.

GROM Audio has followed this topic for quite a while and has earnestly sought a solution to this very urgent problem, especially since many of its customers spend a good portion of their time commuting.

“On average, those who live near cities have a 25.8 minute commute,” as stated in the CEoutlook post, “That’s 10 hours a month, more than a full work day.”

Sitting in traffic is never fun and on a work-day basis the urge to invest your attention on some kind of distraction is powerful. Music can be a relaxing and stimulating past-time while driving in commuter traffic; however, focusing your attention on your hand-held device while you find something to listen to is both dangerous and consequential.lexus2

GROM Audio’s car kits allow drivers to listen to music through their hand-held device (Smart phones, IPods, etc.) via existing car stereo system. In addition, we have added additional features that allow hand-held to devices to be accessed through steering-wheel controls and voice activation.

Because many Americans are spending more hours on the road commuting, the opportunity for distracted driving has increased.

The dangers are well documented. Using your phone to read your email or browsing your web is an obvious hazard while driving, as is browsing your hand-held device to find something to listen to while sitting on the freeway.

The best solution to distracted driving is giving almost all of your attention to the road and next to nothing on everything else. Until self-driving cars are a practical reality, in-car commuters have a full-time position driving safely to and from work.

GROM is on board to ensure that in-car entertainment and communication is safer by developing safe and convenient solutions.

Infotainment: Successes and Challenges

In reviewing the 10 best car infotainment systems, AutoGuide gave high marks for Ford for its MyFord Touch system. Specifically, they praised the voice activation feature, saying that it “practically makes every function of the infotainment system accessible to you without having to take your hands off the steering wheel or your eyes off the road.”

Infotainment Systems are those little computer screens and buttons on the dashboard between the driver and passenger side of your car. Usually they provide electronic mapping and GPS direction information for drivers, along with offering connectivity to internet radio, mp3, and other entertainment features for everyone riding in the vehicle. This fusion of information and entertainment has led to the creation of the term “infotainment.”

Most automakers offer infotainment systems in their latest models. Each system, though having the same basic design, are none the less different from another. They offer different features and providing varying quality on different elements of the overall design of an infotainment system.

The value of MyFord Touch voice activation system is in the ease of use—the user doesn’t have touch anything or take his eyes off the road to use it. As a driver, this can be the most important feature to look for when evaluating infotainment systems.

Another example would be BMW’s iDrive system. The infotainment screen offers high-resolution visuals, 1280×480 pixels, along with 3D maps and sliding animations. The controls for the system are accessed through a small knob with surrounding buttons located by the gear shift for ease of use.

There are also challenges that many of these systems face, among them are slow response to user commands and system errors.

Looking at MyFord Touch again, although the voice activation feature is well regarded; it is also plagued with malfunctions and errors, leading to negative feedback and complaints from owners. Kia’s infotainment system, UVO, has also developed a reputation, according to AutoGuide, as “frustratingly slow to respond.”

Another problem for driver’s with these systems are interfaces that can be complicated and confusing for the driver.

Infiniti’s InTouch system; which is well regarded because of features that allow drivers to access email, social media, and Google apps; has a dual screen system where one display is controlled via a touch-screen, while the other is controlled via a knob. This has been cited as both confusing and distracting.

Likewise, Mazda’s Connect system, which has very positive marks for its interface that includes both a touch-screen and knob setup, unfortunately also it has complaints for some of its basic functions that have been cited as needlessly complicated in light of other automaker systems.

dashlinq blogAt GROM Audio, we are constantly looking at these details in infotainment systems. The successes and challenges in those systems can also be reflected in our car audio kits. The ability to enhance driver information and entertainment services are a both new and constantly evolving form of technology. This is the case both in on board infotainment systems or external hand-held device, made more accessible through GROM’s car kits.

 

GROM Audio is committed to continually studying this emerging technology to create car kits that offer the best and safest experience for our customers.

The Connected Car and How It will Change Our Future on the Road

CONNECTED ROADIn a recent Hollywood Action film, one of the movie’s heroes is attacked in his SUV by three phony police cars. Luckily, his truck was a highly advanced, armored super-vehicle. The SUV’s on-board computer gave him play-by-play damage updates as the bad guys tried to break into his vehicle and eliminate him. Soon, the hero was able to race away. As he did, the SUV’s computer began informing him about alarming changes in his physical, vital signs… like blood pressure.

With the bad guys right on its tail, the SUV’s computer became aware of a traffic jam from GPS data and informed the hero, who requested an alternate route. The computer told the hero where to go and soon he was able to not only evade oncoming traffic but also his deadly pursuers.

This scene isn’t only a sensational vision of a car’s connected potential, but the future of a typical car’s on-board connected services.

The term “connect car” is slowly moving into the public’s vocabulary. “Connected Car” can be defined as any vehicle that contains devices that connect to other devices within the vehicle’s system, networks, and services outside the car. This includes plug-in devices like mp3 players and smartphones. It also includes online services such as GPS navigation, traffic updates, and regional directories (local business information and so forth).

Envision your next vehicle not only providing mapping and navigation services, but also alerts on changing traffic conditions with alternate routes. Furthermore, consider your next vehicle alerting you to low fuel levels and providing suggestions for local gas stations, along with directions.
The coming generation of vehicles will also provide information about restaurants, stores, and services. Love road trips? Wouldn’t it be great to let your vehicle tell you the best places to get gas, grab lunch, or make sightseeing side-trips? These are also innovations that are being developed for future connected cars.

One can only speculate on advances to entertainment services or your car’s ability to interact with your smartphone or other handheld technologies, from Pandora to your own music library.
At GROM Audio, we are excited about all these future innovations and are constantly looking for ways for our car kits to contribute. Currently, GROM is working with Bluetooth technology to allow our customer’s cars to connect with their handheld devices wirelessly. GROM is also working to develop “hands-free” options, permitting users to safely use their handheld devices through voice activation and other safer options.

GROM Audio has been founded on the concept of the connected car and continually is seeking to be leaders in this area of car technology growth. Whatever Hollywood has envisioned for their heroes, GROM is also working to provide solutions and advantages for their customers

The Motivation of Melodies: the Power of Music in Our Lives

If you’re like many people who use GROM’s car kits, you’re passionate about music, especially while you’re driving. You many even question, like us, what motivates your passion for music and, more importantly, how does music affect your life.

We wanted to know too and decided to find out. What we discovered was both remarkable and exciting!  We discovered that music is motivational and inspiring. It can influence our behavior and set the tone of our emotions.

According to a Halfords survey on playing music while driving, nine out of ten drivers felt that listening to music affected their mood and actions while they drove. 15% said their music choice inspired them to go faster and 5% said they became more aggressive, while 27% said soothing music helped calm them.

In fact, researchers over last several years have found many attributes to the value of music in our lives.

Music can help us alleviate melancholy and stress.music_brain

These moods commonly affect many drivers whiling sitting in gridlock.

A lot of people can relate to sitting in their vehicle in slow moving traffic, aggravated and feeling depleted.

Do you remember a time like this and found yourself turning to your stereo to pep-up and feel better?

Music can improve our cognitive performance and our ability to perform under pressure. Driving requires a lot of our focus and attention. It can be tempting to drift into our thoughts and daydream. At times like these, music could you help us reassert our focus back on our driving and help us become present.

Have you ever created a playlist to help you study or to get you through a long road trip? How many Pandora stations do you listen specifically to help you focus while in a sticky commute?

Here at GROM, we try to be aware of the benefits and risks with listening to music on Smartphones or MP3 players. We hope to facilitate safe listening with safe driving. The benefits of music can be outstanding and play a role in our driving lives; however, without safe technology like GROM car kits, we may be at risk.

This why GROM is constantly working to achieve the optimal design for safe usage and enjoyment from your smart devices. Thank you for being a passionate and consciousness customer!

References:

Calm down dear drivers – listen to the music. (2011, May 13).

Retrieved from Easier Cars:http://www.easier.com/89070-calm-down-dear-drivers-listen-music.html

McCraty, MA, R., Barrios-Chopin, PhD., B., Atkinson, M., & Tomasino, BA, D. (1998, January).

Retrieved from HartFocus: www.hartfocus.nl/UserFiles/Image/Music_Mood_Effects.pdf

Learning to Drive without Texting

Cell phone usage while driving is far too common and very dangerous. Some state and local government agencies have made the use of a cell phone while driving illegal for obvious reasons. If you really need to?  Perhaps consider hands free devices such as voice prompt through Bluetooth technology.

Learning to Drive without Texting – Written by a customer of GROM Audio 

NotextinganddrivingWestUTXI have done it even though I’ve said to myself and others that I wouldn’t. I’ve done it right in the middle of heavy traffic getting off the Bay Bridge and in my own neighborhood. I’ve responded to or sent a text to someone while driving.

In the last several years, America society has become more aware of the dangers and recklessness of texting and driving. Research has proven the dangers. Laws have been passed and violators have been penalized.

It has given me a lot think about while sitting in traffic on the bridge.

These days it is important for me to be more aware of what I am doing while driving, not just texting but general distraction while operating my car. This usually involves not just texting, but playing music on my phone or iPod. I find meandering through songs a soothing action while sitting in traffic, I just needed a way to do it safely.

The simplest solution I’ve found to texting while in my car is to park somewhere safe then text. It doesn’t usually take that long; however, there are times when I am competing with getting to my destination on time and sending an important text message.

Also, the parking alternative is completely useless when I’m on a bridge or the freeway, which more often than not is where I am.

I’ve recently had more success in meeting both needs after buying and installing a GROM Audio car kit, specifically, the GROM-BT3: Bluetooth Hands Free and Audio Car Kit.

Though I’m not able solve the texting issue; this device, which provides integration between my car stereo and my Android phone, has voice activation features that are helpful in other situations.

I can answer and start phone calls through voice activation prompts, a strong substitute to texting/driving. In addition, I use voice activation through the car kit to play music stored on my phone or listen to something through Pandora.

Technology has always grabbed my attention, as with a lot of people. It’s also made my life and the lives of many others more efficient and fun. Unfortunately, there seems to be two sides to every facet of life.

Technology is no different. If I am not conscious of my relationship with my phone while operating a car, I could lead others and myself into trouble. I don’t want that.

By practicing safe behaviors, like pulling over before texting, or incorporating safe technology, like investing in GROM Bluetooth Hands Free and Audio Car Kit, I have been able to change my actions for the safety others and myself.

And, I almost forgot, sometimes I just take the public transportation instead.

Either way, I’ve come a long way from text on the Bay Bridge.

Posted by GROM Audio