Is it time to drop in-house infotainment?

I jumped into one of Infiniti’s sedans earlier this week after hearing something atrocious and had to experience it for myself. A brand new 2020 model Q50 in a beautiful pearl white paint job sat in the company’s section of floor at the LA Auto Show. Infiniti turns 30 this year, and to celebrate, they have launched the Edition 30 model line. According to a recent press release, the Edition 30 model line is comprised of specially equipped vehicles that highlight the company’s 30-year legacy of forward-thinking design

[Editor’s Note: I’ve spoken to Infiniti. The car on the stand was an early pre-production model. It wasn’t there to show off the system, but to serve as a visual example of interior and exterior styling of the vehicle. On a pre-production vehicle, not every bit is going to work correctly. Which is why the issue cannot be replicated by Infiniti on their production models.]

Nothing appeared to be immediately wrong with the car when I jumped in the passenger seat. The car is comfy, beautiful even, but the user experience with the car was completely unacceptable as I was told by fellow Hooniverse contributor, Matt Formica. Matt told me to turn up the volume in the car; a simple task, no? So I gave the knob a good turn.

After receiving significant updating for the 2018 model year, including a refreshed exterior and interior appearance, the popular INFINITI Q50 sports sedan enters 2019 with a streamlined model lineup and the addition of standard Forward Emergency Braking and Predictive Forward Collision Warning.

One second passes.

Nothing happens. Two seconds pass. Still nothing. Three seconds pass. I press the knob down believing the system to be muted. Nothing. More time passes and I turn the volume up further. By the time the tenth second arrives the volume is now at a painful, almost deafening level. I quickly realize what has happened and turn the volume down.

What felt like a small eternity went by before the system finally mutes. I hop out of the car and a representative ends his conversation to ask how I like the sound system. I reply with something along the lines of it certainly being loud, but held back remarks of the infuriatingly long latency of the infotainment system.

How could someone miss this? How could we be in 2019 and be accepting of this level of technological ineptitude? It was as if the system cannot handle two things at once. Automakers often disable certain systems at these shows, that’s not uncommon. So I asked that Infiniti find some cause for this system to absolutely fall on its face. This isn’t 2007; either let Silicon Valley take over vehicle infotainment systems, or get that stuff together yourselves.

Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with that for a week. I would have sent it back to the press fleet. If this isn’t the case, feel free to correct me by handing one over, but no customer today should have to live with that after paying $50,000.

Hooniverse reached out to Infiniti’s communications team for official comment and is waiting to hear back.

10 Comments

  1. everyone here bellyaches about how touch screens blah blah blah physical knobs, and I’m inclined to agree, but bad software is far worse imo. there should be no excuse for lag or unintuitive interfaces and menu structures yet automakers still fuck it up. just spend like 20 more dollars on good hardware, stop doing software design by committee, and offer Android Auto and Apple Carplay standard on everything. I’m making it sound easier than it is but my Ford had this figured out in 2016.

  2. I guess this is the fine (bold?) line between being a professional blooger and being an unpolished member of the commentariat: There’s no way I could have held back my displeasant surprise if a representative had asked me about the faulty feature that had just brought violence upon me.

    1. At first I thought I might post the MTV music video for “Canary in a Coalmine” by The Police, but then I started leaning towards a GIF of Jake Blues telling Elwood to ‘fix the cigarette lighter’ in the new Bluesmobile. Neither seemed to capture it.

      Then I read between the lines. And by that I mean the last paragraph straight through*. “Thank goodness Infinity never offered me a hot-as-fuck Edition 30. Because if Infinity had offered me a hot-as-fuck Edition 30 I would have no choice but to stick to my Car Blogger guns and eviscerate the POS loudly on my meager platform. I’d send it right back to the press fleet, I would, I would. That is, if Infinity ever sent me a hot-as-fuck Edition 30. Which they didn’t. Anyway they’ve got one tit bigger than the other.”

      *Paraphrasing

    1. Can confirm the same for all 3 units in the 6.99-9.99$ price range I have ordered off Alibaba at various occasions.

  3. Another case of inputs signalling a control module rather than being hard-wired, similar to drive-by-wire throttles, or even I suppose turn signals these days. How many lines of code do they have to create this delay? Amazing.

    1. To give you some idea of how interwoven things are these days, in my 2019 5 Series BMW, when my niece and her toddler came to visit we learned that when you put a child-seat in the back seat the rear passenger door on that side deactivates the inside door handle. The audio system has some problems though. BMW has their own system to control music from your phone, nav system, Internet search, news and weather, and voice activation of things. However they have added Apple CarPlay on top of their proprietary system, and the two systems HATE each other. So, for example to see the weather, I have to switch out of Apple CarPlay, but to make a call from my contacts list, I have to switch back to CarPlay. It’s as annoying as Hell.

      1. I can imagine how hard things can get eg clueless people have no idea about child locks existing. I can only imagine how many meetings they had to decide whether to deactivate the handle on one back door or both!

        On the other hand surely vacant have carplay as a separate item in i-drive

  4. I think it’s time to legally mandate that ALL vehicle software be open source. Carplay and Android Auto are not the answer, they’re just a way of locking you into another ecosystem that manufacturers are looking for subsriptions for.

    That goes beyond just infotainment – look at Dieselgate and the continued issues with vehicle code security vulnerabilities, or the moral hazard of over the air updates for manufacturers (or malicious third parties) to make changes to your vehicle that may range from unwanted to dangerous.

    If everyone can see the code, that means 3rd party vendors and enthusiasts can continue to support the vehicle long after the manufacturer has lost interest too. Stuff needs to be non-proprietary.

    You might think this might make things easier for hackers, but it’s the opposite. Having the code out there means a wider pool of people to spot vulnerabilities and you can incentivise this with bug bounties. It becomes easier to build out applications using good practice if you’re all pulling from the same pool of code rather than starting entirely from scratch (e.g. isolating what is run directly as machine code so it can’t crash a processor). Most enterprise systems run on Linux now, even Microsoft stuff, there are more Azure linux machines out there in the cloud than Windows.

    What people also don’t see is the big data centres needed to make all these new services work in your car, which have quite a big data footprint, and a surprisingly large CO2 foot print (online video, just video, not other internet use counts for 1% of global CO2). Efficient code means less network use = lower CO2. I think online services now need to be counted in a cars CO2 output – autonomous vehicles suddenly don’t look green given the terrabytes of network data they will use.

    Open source = better oversight and given that car manufacturers like VW and GM have the moral values of a psychopathic toddler (which is all toddlers really), I think it’s needed.

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