Infotainment Upgrades, Explained

One of the primary reasons this year's Redpants Tech Day in Austin was cancelled was because Aston Installations were finalizing a major overhaul of their products. They were close enough that we didn't want to go through the huge (huge!) process of the Tech Day just to turn around and offer a completely different product a month or two later.

Up until just recently, all the work they did was bespoke to each car. James and Lenny would create a wiring loom specific to each car they worked on, then install that with the necessary components to provide the functionality the customer wanted. The end result was great - I still use it constantly in my daily-driven grey 2007 V8 Vantage and haven't yet thought about updating my car with their newest kit. But it did present a couple challenges.

First is that the process wasn't scalable. Bespoke products are inherently a low-volume business. Aston Installations have been in huge demand and they quickly realized that they'd need to rethink how they were doing things not only to keep up with existing demand, but to also meet the growing demand from markets around the world. Aston Installations is a two-man shop (with occasional part-time help) based in England. They get inundated with emails and phone calls from around the world, so being tied to a bespoke business model was severely limiting them from helping all the people that came to them. Case in point, this is what James was doing while dictating responses to my messages this morning...

James is a busy man.jpg

Second was that installation was by no means simple. The previous version of their products required the main infotainment console to be pulled from the car, which is not an easy task. Personally, I hate removing those things and try to avoid it at all costs. By redesigning their approach to wiring in their upgrades, Aston Installations were able to eliminate that step entirely. There's no longer a need to touch the control panel at all! That and a few other changes have drastically reduced installation time and difficulty to the point that many people interested in this kit will be able to do the installation themselves.

Aside from the wiring harnesses and manner in which it's integrated, the previous version of Aston Installations used screen mirroring to take apps from a phone and display them onto the car's factory navigation screen. That means whatever is being shown on your phone will also be shown on the nav screen and everything was controlled via the phone. You use your phone as normal, but you also have a display on the nav screen, allowing you to set your phone down and carry one when you don't need to interact with it. Here's a video I did a while back showing this in practice.

Aston Installations worked with a manufacturer to create their own modules to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Rather than projecting a cell phone's screen to another screen, the new version uses the nav screen to display CarPlay/Android Auto itself. Think of it as your nav screen acting as a computer monitor. Once connected, you no longer need to use your phone at all. Rather, a controller (supplied with the kit) allows you to navigate and interact with CarPlay/Android Auto directly. The controller has a physical knob and buttons so you can work with it without ever taking your eyes off the road or fiddling with your phone. The controller can be very quick if you want to zoom through menus. I had to ask James to slow down while navigating the main menu while filming a video showcasing the new setup because it was hard to keep up with what was happening - that's how quick the system works! Here's a video showing the new version of their product.

For all intents and purposes, the new version of Aston Installations' kit provides the same functionality as their previous one. However, it's been revised heavily to allow them to scale production. This lets them offer the kit around the world, something they've never been able to do. And the simplified integration with the OEM infotainment system means customers are saving money on installation costs, whether it's from needing to pay a shop for fewer hours of labor or by the customer doing all the work themselves. And by adding an intuitive controller, it's a safer system to operate while driving.

Redpants Updates

The infotainment upgrades from Aston Installations are now shipping to customers! I'm leaving the product listing as a "pre-order" for the time being even though it no longer is. The reason for this is because the initial demand is enough that I won't be getting them stocked on my shelves for at least a couple weeks as all the incoming inventory is being used to fulfill orders. So really, it isn't so much a pre-order item as it is something with a brief delay to ship to the customer. That... that makes sense in my head. Just go with it.

I've received some DB7 inventory and I've updated the product listings so those of you with a V12 DB7 Vantage can now get oil change packages and engine intake filters. I'm carrying Porterfield R4-S pads for those cars as well, and I'll continue to add DB7 maintenance items as I get to them.

For those of you asking for DB11 and New Vantage products, I have some of those in the works. Most of you are aware that I'm a big fan of VelocityAP. I've been using their products and services for as long as I've been in the Aston Martin scene and they've always been a fantastic company, and one of the few I trust to place their customers' best interests before their own. I got to meet Stuart Dickinson, the President of VelocityAP, last weekend at the AMOC event in Victoria, BC. I've known Stuart for just about a decade now but only through emails, phone calls, and interacting online. Meeting him in person for the first time was pretty fantastic and we got to chat about various projects we each have in the works. It reinforced our relationship and gave me more reason to expand the products I offer through the Redpants online store. Expect to see more VelocityAP products coming soon, like those for the DB11 and New Vantage. I've got a few other things cooking from other manufacturers for those cars as well, and those will be announced when they're ready to go to market.

Speaking of going to Canada - my cell phone did not come back with me from that trip. I’ve got a replacement on the way but until it arrives, I’m leashed to a computer and can only communicate via email or carrier pigeon. Sorry if I haven’t answered your calls or responded to your voicemails.

The GMR supercharger kits are inching closer. There are a few factors outside of our control that are slowing things down, but we are still moving forward. I know a bunch of you are waiting for prices and I'll be getting those announced as soon as I know what they'll be. I created a FAQ section in my GMR Info Page that answers some of the common questions I've been getting about these kits. I'll continue to update that and expand it as more questions come in so I can provide the most complete information possible.

A couple weeks ago I explained in a blog post that I’d been running lean inventory because I was expecting to relocate back to to the Washington, DC, area. I’ve decided to stay in Florida and I’m building my inventory levels back up. It’s a slow process as things have been flying off the shelf. (Yes, it’s a great problem to have!) There have been rushes on a few items that are slow to restock, so please forgive any delayed shipments or sold-out product listings as I get in more and more inventory.

And, lastly, thank you all for the huge amount of support and concern while I was sick. I still have a few unpleasant symptoms but I’m back to eating, drinking, and functioning mostly-normal. I’ve also been able to meet a few of you at events recently and I’m still absolutely floored by the support you’ve given me, and especially the genuine enthusiasm and encouragement for what lays ahead. Truth be told, I’ve been uncertain of what to do and terrified of what could happen. Now, I know what I’m going to do and I’m excited for it.