Civic Virtue: With Honda Connect, My First Automotive Love Still Thrills

by Danny Shapiro

When I turned 16, I couldn’t have been more excited. I got my driver’s license, and then a shiny blue Honda Civic. It’s now 30+ years later, but again I couldn’t be more thrilled to get behind the wheel of a new Honda.

Last week at the Paris Motor Show, Honda unveiled the all-new Honda Connect infotainment and navigation system powered by NVIDIA. It’s the world’s first in-vehicle infotainment system to use Android running on Tegra as the operating system.  It’s also a world beyond what I could have dreamed of back then.

It even looks fast standing still.
The new Honda Civic: It even looks fast standing still.

The system features a 7-inch capacitive touch screen that lets you tap, swipe and pinch to control audio, phone, and navigation. You can also use apps downloaded from the Honda App Center such as Aha Radio or Aupeo Personal Radio.

So how does it respond? I got to get my hands on the system at the show. Its Honda-designed interface was easy to use. Yet it also had a familiar feel. It was a lot like using an Android tablet. The system reacted quickly to my taps and swipes on the screen.

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With a simple tap on the screen, you can access the Honda App Center to download apps designed for use inside the car.

In part that’s just smart design – Hondas have always been renowned for their ergonomics. But it’s also because these cars – thanks to our Tegra processors – have the computing power to deliver graphics and applications that are smooth and stutter free. If you’re driving an older car, this is an experience that’s going to make you go ‘wow.’

This is a system that enhances all the things we’ve come to expect in a car, rather than getting in the way. The Audio functionality helps you choose from a wide range of sources including FM, AM, DAB, USB, Bluetooth and CD. It even has an input for HDMI to project videos on the screen. But only, of course, if you keep the car in “Park.”

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Tune into the BBC — or your Facebook page — from your car.

And because this system is connected in ways older systems could never be, you can extend what the system can do. An optional app from Garmin provides navigation. It’s a flexible and cost effective embedded navigation solution. Digital downloads make updates to the maps easy.

I found the system also knows how to mesh with the technology you’re already carrying. Using your smartphone you can hook up Honda Connect to the internet via Bluetooth tethering or Wifi. With a simple tap on the screen, you can access the Honda App Center to download apps designed for use inside the car.

Or, using Google Play or iTunes, you can run appropriate apps on your phone and connect them via MirrorLink to put them on the Honda Connect screen. There’s even a browser available to surf the web – again as along as the vehicle is not in gear.

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An easy-to-use interface helps keep drivers focused on driving.

As you dig a little deeper into Honda Connect, you’ll discover the choice of accessing the system from the Honda designed interface. Or for those familiar with using Android phones or tablets, there’s the familiar Android interface for launching apps and customizing settings. You can even customize the home screen with an image of your own choosing.

Technology has come a long way since that first Civic I drove. One thing has stayed the same, though, this is still a car I’m really excited to drive. We’re looking forward to more innovation with Honda in the future.

For another look at the Honda Connect system, take a look at CNET’s coverage from Paris.