As in-car features and technology have exploded in recent years, so too has the humble owner’s manual.
What used to be a small pamphlet now is a hundreds-pages long brick of a book, sometimes divided into multiple, smaller books so as not to break bindings.
Hyundai, realizing fewer people than ever want to tackle such a beast when searching for answers on how to perform a specific function, has in recent years been looking toward a world without a physical manual.
With the launch of the Equus luxury sedan in 2010, the car’s owner’s manual also was available as an Apple app.
In 2014, Hyundai duplicated the owner’s manual and made it accessible via a vehicle’s touchscreen.
Now the U.S. arm of the Korean automaker has released a new Virtual Guide update to its free car-care smartphone and tablet app.
Available now for the car-care apps for the ’15 and ’16 Sonata sedan, the Virtual Guide has three key features, all intended to make accessing how-do-I-do-this-in-my-car? information easier to find.
“From an owner’s perspective we want to give them the information they need quickly,” Arthur Morin, Hyundai’s manager of connected-car technology and owner apps, tells WardsAuto. “Most owners live and breathe through their smartphone device, (and a) lot of people want their glovebox space – and owner’s manuals are like 400 pages.”
The most talked-about portion of the Virtual Guide, using 2- and 3-dimensional tracking technology, is its augmented-reality feature, blending six canned 3D overlays with a live image of a particular area of the vehicle seen through a Sonata owner’s phone or tablet camera.
Similar to technology used in the world of dealer training, owners with the app can hover their Internet-connected phones or tablet over their car’s engine bay, center stack, gauge cluster or trunk to reveal how-to info. Numbers appearing on the overlay show the location of key features, such as the windshield-washer port in the engine bay.
“What’s cool about this is it locks you right in and it shows you where it’s located in the engine bay,” Morin says. “We (then) give you a simple 3-step process on how to refill your washer fluid. You can set the device down and you can walk through the steps: lift the cap, throw some (solvent) in it, close the cap, vs. you trying to identify where this is located in the owner’s manual.”
Refilling the washer-fluid reservoir may not be the most difficult thing to do, but pairing a cellphone via Bluetooth to their car’s head unit is something many of today’s vehicle owners find frustrating.
For this task, a Sonata owner with the car-care app on his phone would hover the phone over the center stack for step-by-step directions to this process, too.
“With this point-and-shoot (process) we show you how to do so. You get the information you need quickly,” Morin says.
For those who may not want to stand outside their vehicles in winter weather, phone in hand, trying to locate the washer-fluid reservoir, Hyundai offers 82 tutorial videos hosted on YouTube that are viewable on the app from the comfort of home.
“A lot of (new-vehicle) owners go to YouTube (to figure out) how to use a specific feature or function within the vehicle, so we essentially did the same thing,” Morin says. “We’ll link out to YouTube for videos to keep the app very light and not drag down the owner’s device.”
Another feature of the Virtual Guide is an indicator guide, a reference for icons that illuminate in the car that may be unfamiliar to drivers.
With the indicator guide, the image of a ’15 or ’16 Sonata owner’s specific instrument cluster – there are 12 different trim levels of the car – will be shown with corresponding icons.
“For example, you get your low-tire-pressure indicator on, you drill down and you get the information more quickly (and) you don’t need to…go to a dealership and waste hours out of your day,” Morin says.
The Virtual Guide portion of the car-care app is available only for the ’15 and ’16 Sonata, but Morin says it will spread to car-care apps for other Hyundais, with the app for the Tucson CUV the next to receive Virtual Guide.
While Hyundai is calling the technology an industry-first for a mainstream brand, augmented reality apps exist for other brands. Audi nearly three years ago launched a similar app for the A3, reportedly developed in conjunction with augmented-reality software firm Metaio.
Morin says Hyundai’s app was developed in-house.