Car technology news this week ranged from the autonomous to the ridiculous: A self-driving car completed the first cross-country trip, and an aspect of an April Fools’ prank has a real technology counterpart in development.

News includes factory and aftermarket connected features from Nissan, BMW/Mini, AT&T, Apple, Kia, and Jaguar, as well as new car-buying apps, and more!

Continue reading for all the goodies.

Self-Driving, Cross-Country Road Trip by Delphi Roadrunner

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The first cross-county self-driving autonomous car road trip was a success. A Delphi-equipped Audi SQ5 co-piloted by six engineers drove itself most of the way from San Francisco to New York City via a southern route. The Audi SQ5 was in self-driving mode for 99 percent of the of the 3,400 mile trip, as it made its way through Los Angeles, Phoenix, El Paso, Jackson, Atlanta, Washington D.C., New Jersey and New York. The trip was completed in nine days without driving above the speed limit.

The self-driving system combines computer power with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as radar, scanners, cameras, forward collision warning and lane departure warning. Some of the driving situations the self-driving car (named Roadrunner) had to deal with were aggressive drivers, road construction, bridges, tunnels, four-way stops, mountains, heat, rain and the ultimate test of driving hands-off in Los Angeles traffic. Those engineers must have nerves of steel. Like the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons, this Roadrunner also had to deal with tumbleweed in its path.

The trip generated a following on Twitter (#delphidrive), and was covered by TV news. The system generated three terabytes of data or about 30 percent of the books in the Library of Congress.

OnStar-Style Services for Nissan 2016 with NissanConnect Services by SiriusXM

Nissan and SiriusXM announced concierge telematics services for 2016 Nissan models, NissanConnect Services. There are three levels of services, similar to GM’s OnStar service.

The first level of service is called "NissanConnect Services," and includes basic services of emergency calling, automatic collision alerts, stolen vehicle location and maintenance alerts. The second level of service is "NissanConnect Services Premium," and includes all the basic services and adds remote start, remote door lock/unlock, monitoring alerts (such as the car goes outside a preset boundary), valet alerts and curfew alerts. The third and highest level of service is "NissanConnect Services Premium Plus," and includes all the lower levels of service plus a suite of destination services such as assisted search, connected search and a journey planner.

Prices have not been announced yet for NissanConnect services.

New Connected Car Connections and Services for Older Cars, from AT&T

If you are not ready to buy a new car, but want some diagnostic and emergency services, the AT&T Car Connection app with an OBDII device may be something to consider. AT&T announced it will update its Car Connection app to version 2.0 that works with the OBDII port-connected Audiovox Car Connection Elite. The device adds connected car functions to cars made after 1996, through the OBDII port.
The smartphone app lets users monitor teen drivers, locate the car and receive vehicle health notices. New features of the software update will include emergency roadside assistance and automatic crash response, as well as safe driver features like text blocking, safety zones and driver scoring. The service will also feature stolen vehicle assistance and remote access via the app. Car Connection 2.0 users can also sign up to receive reduced rates from insurance companies if they allow the insurance company to access their driver scores.

The Audiovox Car Connection Elite device is available from AT&T for $99, and would be added to an AT&T Mobile Share or DataConnect plan for $10 a month.

iHeart Radio for BMW

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BMW added iHeart radio to its ConnectedDrive Platform. BMW ConnectedDrive and Mini Connected services will have access to iHeartRadio for iPhone iOS users through the iHeart for Auto App. The iPhone can be connected to the USB port or snap-in adapter. iHeart Radio features access to iHeart Radio stations, recommendations, favorites, browsing and Thumbs up or down. The functions can be controlled through the car’s audio screen or iDrive Controller/Mini Controller.

CarPlay and Android Auto for Kia Optima Shows Up at New York Auto Show

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Some automotive reporters noted that last year, Apple and CarPlay were big players at the New York Auto Show. This year, Apple was a no-show at the New York Auto Show. However, iPhone and Android fans will be able to buy a 2016 Kia Optima with CarPlay and Android Auto to connect their Android smartphones or iPhones via the USB port. Music, messaging, navigation and voice calls are available in the Kia Optiima through the 8-inch touchscreen, steering wheel controls or by voice commands.

Luxury Touchscreen Size Envy at New York Auto Show

Also at the New York Auto Show, luxury automakers revealed the specs of their new infotainment systems. The more luxurious the car, the more powerful and larger the screen is, and with more features. The 2016 Cadillac CT6 and 2016 Jaguar XF, for instance, both offer large screens and new functions.

The 2016 Cadillac CT6 comes equipped with a 10.2-inch, 1280x720 pixel center stack touchscreen with both touchpad and console buttons. The driver can input information and settings in the Cue system with handwriting recognition.

The Jaguar XF can be outfitted with three screens to vie for the driver’s attention. There is an option for a laser heads-up display. A 10.2-inch display in the center stack can show two video feeds at once. The optional 12.3-inch TFT instrument cluster can be customized with themes and navigation. All the screens are powered by fast processors. The Jaguar InControl Touch Pro is more than 10 times faster than the system it replaces.

The Jaguar InControl Touch Pro system can text the estimated time of arrival to a friend, and send text messages to keep the contact up to date if traffic changes. The system will also allow for new app development at Jaguar’s Innovation Incubator project in Portland, Oregon.

Faux April Fools vs Real Social Media Beyond Selfie in Development

As TopSpeed readers know, the Honda HR-V SLF ‘Selfie’ Edition was a great April Fools’ prank. But some automotive reporters thought a car designed to share photos via social media was too real. In fact, Vonsor is a service that is more social media oriented than Honda’s faux "Selfie" car. Vonsor is developing a social media video system through Jaguar’s Innovation Incubator project.
Vonsor allows drivers to edit video feeds from cameras all around the car on the screen of the infotainment system, and then share the videos via social media. Drivers can take live footage from cameras inside or outside the vehicle to save both on- and off-road driving adventures. But parents don’t have to worry about indecent selfies by teens on Spring Break being uploaded from their Jaguars or Land Rovers to Vonsor.
"The videos will be processed through a filter before being uploaded to social media sites like YouTube, Twitter or Facebook," said Vonsor’s president, Justyn Baker.

New Car Selling Apps Tinder-Style

Smartphone apps such as ConnectedDrive are not only important to car owners but also car buyers. Airbnb and the hook-up app Tinder inspired the winners of the "Hackmotive ’15" for car-shopping apps.

The Zipflip app that offers identity verification and a payment system for private car buyers and sellers won first place and the $20,000 grand prize. They called it the "Airbnb for cars." Zipflip verifies the identity of every buyer and all communication is kept private and secure. Every car comes with a one-month or 1,000-mile warranty.

Second place went to Dash, a free app that works with inexpensive OBDII port devices. It seems like consumers like choosing cars Tinder-style because the consumer’s choice award went to Zipflip and Wyper which bills itself as "the Tinder for car shopping by allowing users to swipe cars that they do or do not like on their mobile devices."

If you want to know what car buying apps will be like in the future, the Hackmotive ’15 future shoppers choice award (selected by a class of 8th graders from Maimonides Academy in Los Angeles) was CARmera, an app that displays information about cars instantly from photos taken on a smartphone.

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Source: AUTO Connected Car News’ Editor writes for TopSpeed

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