At Philly Auto Show, cars are acting like accessories for your smartphone
January 22, 2013By Tom MacDonald
Do you remember your first car radio that had a tape or CD player? How about Internet radio? Not there yet? If you're interested, the Philadelphia Auto Show is featuring lots of new vehicles that put the online world in the dashboard.
All over the floor of the Philadelphia Auto Show, none of the car "radios" look like radios. Almost every car has a big display screen and most link to drivers' phones via Bluetooth to harness all the entertainment options smartphones offer. Matt Hardigree of Jalopnik.com says even inexpensive cars now come with high-tech electronics.
"You can go out and buy a Ford Fiesta now and it won't have a touch screen everything, but it will have a fully-integrated mobile system so you can use your smartphone keep it in your pocket and use all the controls on the dash and on the steering wheel," said Hardigree.
One of the newest systems is being offered for 2014 in Chevrolet and GMC truck prototypes being displayed at the show. These were previously only available for the Buick and Cadillac lines. Roger McCormick, marketing director for GMC, says the touch screen system is the beginning of the end of the traditional in-dash radio.
"People think of it in terms of cars and crossovers, but that same expectation about easy to use and very technologically advanced, in the sense that you have access to your phone list, you have access to your radio and music preferences," said McCormick. "That expectation is there for the pick-up customer just like it is for the rest of the industry and rest of the market."
McCormick says the new truck is billed as a portable office, with multiple USB ports, a standard home power outlet to plug in a laptop, and even a card reader to view pictures. The wide center console can just as easily handle traditional file folders as a tablet computer.
"A pickup buyer has very specific needs that are very specific to a pickup," he said. "However, when they get into a pickup they want to have same kind of comfort, the same kind of technology and access to all of their media and their phones. It might even be more important to some pickup consumers than the general market."
He says for some contractors, this mobile office might be their only office.
Of course, all these gadgets can draw your eyes off the road. Engineering professor Dennis Silage of Temple University believes the distractions could become too great once reliable mobile TV arrives.
"Especially when we have pedestrians and other obstacles to worry about bicyclists in the city for example," said Silage. "I really think although we can do this technologically it becomes a question of 'Is this really prudent?' I would hate to think someone would get into an accident watching Oprah."
Mark Hardigree of Jalopnik.com says voice command and hands free technology are helping cut down on the distractions. Plus, carmakers are relocating screens to places where they can be checked more safely, including right next to the speedometer.
"At the Detroit Auto Show, Hyundai had a system where instead of having to reach down and touch a button or move a knob, you will just move your hand in the middle of the air to adjust the volume, and the system will adjust it accordingly so you don't have to take your eyes off the road," said Hardigree.
If self-driven cars become an option, there would be no limit to behind the wheel entertainment opportunities. Hardigree says he thinks at first it would be limited to when you are stuck in heavy, slow traffic, but one day a self-driving automobile isn't out of the question.