In-Car Computing The New Frontier of Tech

picture-8Technology shows are full of new ideas and applications. Everything from Internet-ready refrigerators to cell phone antenna-boosting shoes can be seen as the newest breakthroughs in tech. While a Web-enabled fridge might be useful to someone someday, it’s not exactly something that boggles the mind with possibilities.

I mean, what if one day your fridge informs you that you need a new gallon of milk, so you ask to put some Vitamin D on your virtual shopping list. “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that. You only get skim.” Milk Nazi!

The automotive industry has been making huge strides in the smart (computing) technology of the vehicles we drive for years. Your fuel-injected car now has several software components that control all kinds of things going on with your engine’s performance, for instance. New, more obvious tech is hitting the streets nowadays, though.

At the recent International Consumer Electronics Show, Kieran O’Sullivan (VP of Continental Automotive Systems, a vehicle tech firm) touted the new trend towards “always on” cars as the next wave in automotive “sizzle.” She envisions a future where drivers can customize the dash board to their individual taste—much like your computer’s desktop or a cell phone screen.

A panel at the show included executives from Microsoft, Nokia, all three of the “Big 3,” and more. Seen at the forefront of this trend is GM’s OnStar service, which is rumored to be expanding into including Internet access through their network to drivers who subscribe.

Several car companies are already experimenting (and releasing) smart technologies for their vehicle models. Hyundai, for instance, has a prototype camera sensor that detects lane stripes to determine if the car is drifting out of its lane and warns the driver when this happens.

Ford will be releasing a fully-functional dashboard computer (keyboard and all) for use in commercial vehicle sales this spring. Contractors, business folks, and police and emergency responders will be able to use a computer integrated into the car’s dash rather than the usual notebook holding stand that hogs up so much interior space.

This system can be Web-enabled through a subscription fee and utilizes a 6-inch touch screen and runs on Windows. It’s a fully-functioning PC that can run most applications, such as Office and a Web browser. It will even be able to access company networks.

Currently, about half the vehicles sold in the U.S. have plug-and-play setups for common digital music players (iPod/MP3), almost as many have bluetooth hands-free setuford-in-dash-pcps, and nearly all include wireless security devices.

LoJack has been all but replaced by OnStar’s security features which can limit gasoline flow to an engine, cutting the car’s power when stolen. Ford has a similar system called Sync, which includes further features like GPS navigation and traffic alerts.

Other tech coming to automobiles includes infrared cameras to detect pedestrians, in-vehicle satellite TV, vehicle activity recording technologies (for security, fleets, and nervous parents), and force-feedback for the steering wheel.

Welcome to the 21st Century of automotive technology. This could get interesting.

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2 Comments on this Post

  1. Great article G! Not only is the technology, but the things they are inventing to help prevent accidents is amazing!

  2. Great article G! Not only is the technology, but the things they are inventing to help prevent accidents is amazing!


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