2019 is definitely the year of Linux on… the dashboard. This Jaguar is the first car I’ve owned with a serious infotainment system, and it’s opened my eyes to a few things, one of which might be a real Google vulnerability: serious competition in the map space.
That’s the main story here, but I’ll tack on a few random observations about the infotainment system for the Jaguar-obsessed that have been reading this series.
About those maps… · At breakfast on my recent road trip, I got some crud in the socket on my Pixel 2 so Android Auto wouldn’t connect, and I was looking for a place in Seattle I’d never been. So I pulled over and puzzled my way through the Jag’s navigation system; this required, among other things, setting up a Here.com account; This is harder than it should be. Since I guess the software is mostly Here.com’s, I’m going to call these the Here maps.
Here.com is an interesting story; the old Navteq, they spent some time in the Nokia portfolio, are now owned by a consortium of car companies and Intel, and now appear in German cars, in Garmin, and at Bing.
Once I got going, I really liked the Here maps. The presentation is way prettier than Google via Android auto, with nicely-rendered geography highlights like buildings and parks. Also, it keeps your position at the bottom of the screen with the area you’re going in front of you. I’m going to guess that there’s a way to switch Android Auto maps away from the default mode where North is at the top and much of the map is filled with area you’ve already traversed, but I’ve not found it.
The Here maps also make terrific use of the fact they’re on two screens. Most times, the little screen behind the steering wheel shows an intelligently-selected subset of the main screen, but then when you’re coming up to a tricky multi-lane corner or freeway exit, the small screen has a picture showing you which lane you need to be in, or a picture of what the freeway exit sign looks like.
As for accuracy, in my small sample size it was fine; there were a couple of odd-feeling routings, but I got where I was going. Any other criticisms? The keyboard for entering destinations is sluggish; but then I haven’t tried the voice search, which apparently is available. Speaking of slow, the nav system is really slow to boot up; you’ll need to wait fifteen seconds or more after turning the car on before it’s ready to take and give directions.
But when I’d cleaned out my phone’s USB (Protip: toothbrush) and Android Auto was working again, I didn’t go back, I stayed with Here. I wonder which of Google and Here has better information about where the traffic jams are?
There’s a widespread perception that Google Maps are unbeatably far ahead; for example check out Justin O’Beirne’s masterful not to say exaustingly exhaustive drill-downs on the relative merits of Google and Apple maps. But, maybe not.
News flash · In the last couple of months I’ve switched from Google to DuckDuckGo for my everyday searching, and from Google to Here for auto navigation. I’m wondering if I’m looking at cracks in the armor.
The rest of the stuff · The Jaguar infotainment software has been panned by several reviewers, who say Tesla and Audi are the gold standard. I’m thinking those guys must be pretty good, because there are a lot of things I like about the I-Pace UX.
Multi-screen is good. As I mentioned, you can put the big-screen maps on the little screen, but then you can also put the big screen audio readout on the little climate-control screen, leaving the big screen free, for maps I guess.
It turns out you don’t have to switch over to the Android Auto screens to do that. The Jag infotainment system recognizes Android Auto as another music source, and will show you what you’re listening to, along with album art, in a visually-pleasing display, way nicer than Google’s.
The reviewers particularly griped about the system being laggy. Yeah, but it just doesn’t bother me. There are one or two corners that are really slow, but they’re fripperies I don’t need. One thing I do is switch from high-regen for city streets to low-regen on the highway. There are a couple of routes to get there, involving both swipes and taps. But neither of them adds up to more than two or three seconds, and glancing at the road between the steps makes me feel safer.
There’s a “favorite” button you can assign loads of different functions to (I picked pause/restart audio) and quite a few other opportunities for customization.
There’s actually a built-in Web browser. It does a great job of displaying ongoing, so it must be OK. There’s also some canned news and financial applications, what I believe on a computer we’d call “bloatware”.
That I-Pace cabin, it’s the nicest car interior I’ve ever spent time in. And it’s not close.