Apps, technology drive industry changes at Chicago Auto Show

2013-02-07T17:18:00Z 2013-02-08T23:57:04Z Apps, technology drive industry changes at Chicago Auto ShowConner Forrest Medill News Service nwitimes.com
February 07, 2013 5:18 pm  • 

CHICAGO | Siri is set to move from the phone in your pocket to the dashboard of your car.

General Motors plans to integrate Apple Inc.'s flagship voice control into existing Bluetooth systems in cars this year, starting with GM's most affordable models.

The 2013 Chicago Auto Show is proof that companies are blurring the line between personal transportation and personal technology.

"What we're starting to see is that people want the connectivity in their car that they would have, almost, in their home," said Seema Bartwaj, a brand manager at Ford Motor Co. "So a sort of roving living room or roving secondary living location because so many people are spending much more time in their cars these days."

With touch screens replacing manual controls on many models, the question of safety also is driving changes in the industry. To eliminate distraction, many companies are limiting or eliminating the use of touch screens when the car is not in park or traveling over a certain speed limit. Lexus brought the largest screen to show, 12.3 inches diagonally, with a surprising twist — you can feel the options instead of seeing them.

"Within the remote touch, there's a haptic feedback. So, as I move across selections on the screen, there's a physical resistance that I feel in the pad of the remote touch. That really allows navigating, moving around the screen, makes it a lot easier. I can keep my focus on the road with my eyes, and once I become familiar with the menus and options on the screen, I can feel my way around it," said Tom Winter, a product specialist with Lexus.

On the heels of the touch screens came the apps. Companies are creating dash screens pre-loaded with apps such as Pandora and Bing, putting some of the functionality of a smart phone in a car. GM even has a global infotainment manager, Junior Barrett, who is heading up the Siri integration.

"We think the Siri integration is going to be very important to our cars, because what it does show is that it shows the first execution of the mobile device working seamlessly in our cars," Barrett said.

Technology also is playing a role in the safety and fuel economy of new vehicles. Companies such as General Motors are building sensors into the body work of the cars, allowing the car to help you avoid getting sideswiped. This same technology will hit the brakes for you if you are about to rear-end the driver in front of you.

Ford has introduced its new generation of the Eco-Boost engine, which brings a synergy of direct injection of fuel and turbo power to lower fuel consumption and emissions while maintaining power. Chevrolet's new Corvette will shut off half of its engine once it reaches cruising speed. Drivers also can choose from five types of fuel delivery in the Corvette.

Consumers have more options per new car than they ever have before, and the Chicago Auto Show brings all the options to one place.

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