Dispatches from CES: The Mobile Tech Stealing the Show Has 4 Wheels
Forget transforming your living room: There are a dozen or so automakers at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas proposing new technologies to transform your living room on the road: your car.
- Ford (F) introduced a new programming interface for its SYNC in-car control system. Coders that register get a kit for writing new dashboard or voice-controlled apps. In an interview, spokesman Gary Strumolo said that the kit also opens the possibility of creating apps that monitor a driver's health. One example: linking a glucose monitor to SYNC via wireless Bluetooth so that a diabetic doesn't go too long without taking needed medicine.
- General Motors (GM) introduced a developer program of its own with an emphasis on adding infotainment apps to a dashboard control system. As with Apple's famously rigorous iTunes screening program, GM must test and approve apps before they're allowed to access the system.
- Audi showed off an automated driving concept for navigating trafficked highways at speeds of up to 40 mph. A spokesperson said the system is planned for release before the end of the decade. Meanwhile, the carmaker already has a connected interface that uses a 3G network to sync between a "My Audi" app and the car. Google (GOOG) is a partner for onboard maps -- save a route in My Audi and the map automatically uploads to the car upon syncing. An Audi spokesperson said its connected car service is available as an option for all models.
- Hyundai (HYMTF) is catering to iPhone 5 owners. The carmaker said its Blue Link in-car system will allow drivers to access Apple's Siri voice control system for finding nearby restaurants, among other things, all without ever touching the phone.
- Fiat's (FIATY) Chrysler took home AOL Autos' Technology of the Year award for its Uconnect in-car infotainment system. It's feature-rich, to be sure, though I'm not nearly so certain as my colleagues that Uconnect's complex interface is worth naming Technology of the Year. Driving needs to be a seamless and safe experience, which means any add-on tech has to be accessible even as it's invisible. Think voice commands over crowded dashboard displays.
Most of us drive a car. What we don't realize is that it's also perhaps the most complex machine we own. And if it isn't now, it's about to be. From sensors that detect how a driver is performing to wireless connectivity, voice controls, and ultimately hands-free driving, our cars are taking over. The least we can do is profit from the shift.