The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) isn’t exactly known for delivering a plethora of automotive goodies for our undivided attention. In fact, this major technology-related trade show has presented some of the greatest tech products such as this year’s immense number of tablets and 4G smartphones. Not exactly our cup of tea, right?
Wrong. This year’s CES was chock full of auto gizmos and gadgets. So much so, that we had to go back and try to cover them all. In researching the products presented at CES, we came across many automakers who chose this tech show, as opposed to actual auto shows, to showcase their technological advancements in car-to-driver communication. Yes, we said communication. Turns out, a computer or a smartphone can provide access to an array of features and notifications for your vehicle, making it that much easier for drivers to check on the charge levels of their electric ride. Other automakers are finding better ways to charge up their electric cars; without a plug.
Sound cool? We thought so too, so hit the jump to check out some of these ahead-of-the-game technological advancements.
The Mini/Pandora Connection
To start off at a more "beginner" level, we’ve opted the Mini/Pandora collaboration. What this duo can provide is a seamless integration of Mini Connected and Pandora radio, offering drivers the chance to listen to some of their favorite Pandora station, add any other stations, and look at the high-res album art (though not while you’re driving, please).
“Integration of Pandora has been highly requested by our existing owners and potential new customers,” said Stephan Durach, Director of the BMW Group Technology Office Palo Alto. “We are pleased that we are able to partner with Pandora and look forward to offering this function across the MINI product range in a way that is simple to access and safer to operate.”
Adding to the Mini Connected is their new MINI Connected PlugIn. This Plug-In is an automotive grade Apple iPod interface that supports Apple’s iPod Out, giving the driver access to all of their playlists with the use of their vehicle’s controls.
The GM/PowerMat Connection
We all thought it was pretty cool when those little rectangular mats came out that charged your smartphone without a plug. That concept gets even cooler when the mat is installed into your car for much easier charging. Together with PowerMat, General Motors is installing those inductive chargers into their Volt model both in the front seat and in the back to offer wireless phone charging. The product should be installed and ready to go in the 2012 Volt, with other automakers considering the technology as well. The mat will more than likely be offered as some type of technological upgrade.
The technology is certainly an investment for GM as their venture-capital company has provided PowerMat with $5 million to get the development going. Of course, GM will more than make that amount up when other automakers catch wind of this little addition. All we need now is to be able to roll the Volt on an even bigger charger mat and we’d be all set.
Fulton Innovations brings wireless car charging to CES
Just when we thought the wireless charging was going to be left solely to the cell phone, Fulton Innovations came in and stole the hearts of electric car owners everywhere with their wireless car charging. Armed with a Tesla Roadster, Fulton demonstrated an 80% efficiency using a receiver coil mounted underneath the front of the car. This coil is then connected to the car’s charging plug with the use of a wire, illustrating that any electric vehicle can make good use of the wireless charging.
The device allows the vehicle to be within a two feet radius of the charger in order to pick up the current and it also allows for data to go back and forth between the car and the charging station which ensures the system will shut off once the car has been fully charged. The best part of all this is that the technology costs less than $100 in raw materials.
With a wall plug providing 96% efficiency and a fully integrated wireless system providing close to 89%, this technology still has a bit to go, but Fulton’s director of advanced technology, Dave Baarman, believes that they could get closer to their target efficiency with more research and development.
Oxygen Audio and the O’Car stereo
Oxygen Audio has taken the smartphone integration once step further with its O’Car stereo built specifically around an iPhone. Using the stereo is rather simple as the iPhone is docked either horizontally or vertically to allow connection to the single-DIN receiver. The connection allows the driver or passenger access to all of the iPhones music choices, as well as traditional stereo options via the iPhone’s display.
Since the iPhone is connected directly to the stereo, the driver can also stream Internet audio, use applications, make hands-free calls via Bluetooth, and provide use of the GPS-enabled applications on the iPhone 3G S and iPhone 4. Another cool feature allows the owner to change the color of the iPhone’s application to match the interior of their car. Oh yeah, and the iPhone charges while it is connected to the stereo. Sweet!
The O’Car stereo is currently on sale for $350 and will be sold in retail stores in the second quarter of 2011.
Continental Automotive and Autolinq
Ford has dominated the in-car connectivity market for awhile now with its Microsoft-based Ford Sync technology, but Continental is now coming into its own with its Android-based AutoLinq. This system works like many other connectivity systems whereas the driver and passenger take full advantage of smartphone application such as making calls or listening to music.
Continental demonstrated a maiden version of the software at the CES and hopes to soon dominate the connectivity market. Their confidence in the product stands behind the fact that the system works very much like any Android so many engineers are already familiar with the inner workings making this product extremely user-friendly.
Continental hopes to see an AutoLinq-equipped vehicle sometime before 2013.
Toyota Entune Infotainment System
Another in-car connectivity project set to take on Ford’s Sync is Toyota’s new Entune Infotainment System. This system, as with all of the others, will allow the driver to access phone services, music, and navigation tools through its use. Take your pick from the many applications available and you can then have access to media such as iheartradio and pandora for music, OpenTable for restaurant reservations, Bing for routing, and MovieTickets.com for, well, movie tickets. The usual stocks, sports, weather, and fuel prices are also available.
Toyota hasn’t announced the launch date for this system as of yet, but they did say that it would be featured in some models later on this year.
Hyundai is arming itself with its own helpful system in the form of an OnStar copycat. The Hyundai BlueLink offers owners "eco coach" to improve efficient driving and "geofence" which sends a text if a driver has "ventured outside of prescribed borders or time constraints." Hyundai’s big sell on the system is that it won’t crowd the driver’s personal space with someone yapping their ear off.
"We believe (our) voice technology offers the same experience level (as OnStar), but it happens at a better price point and more efficiently," said Barry Ratzlaff, Hyundai Motor America director of customer satisfaction and service business development in a phone interview with Inside Line. "Some of our consumer research indicates there are times when people don’t want to talk with a live agent. Some people just prefer privacy and cleaner interaction. They don’t want the chit-chat."
Correct us if we’re wrong, Hyundai, but don’t people get really agitated when they can’t talk to a real person?