Cadillac pilots in-vehicle computers

General Motors plans to pick a pilot group to test drive Sevilles equipped with computer systems in the center consoles.

The in-vehicle computer system, designed by Delphi Automotive Systems Corp., could provide users with access to e-mail, Internet-based news, stock, sports and weather information, a memo recorder, a voice-controlled cell phone, a navigation system and connectivity with personal digital assistants. It is not expected to involve word processing.

People can manipulate the computer's screen, which looks similar to the navigation system in current-model Cadillacs, only when the vehicle is parked. When the vehicle is in motion, the system will be operated by voice commands.

Last year, Cadillac said the computer would cost car buyers $2,000.

The system, if put into production, would be offered in addition to OnStar, which is standard in all Cadillacs. With OnStar's Virtual Advisor, Cadillac customers already can have their e-mail read to them.

'OnStar is intended to hit more of the mass market, versus a niche market,' said Debbie Frakes, OnStar spokeswoman.

GM has not decided on the size of the pilot program or who should be included. The pilot's timing also is undetermined, though the system's launch will be later than the automaker initially announced.

GM in April 2000 told journalists at a technology program in Colorado Springs, Colo., that it hoped to offer an in-vehicle computeras an option for its 2001 model-year Cadillac DeVilles and Sevilles. At that time, GM said the system's target audience would be people who spend a lot of time in their vehicles.

'There were a few technical issues that we needed to further investigate and delve into,' said Cadillac spokeswoman Cindy Kamerad.

The technical issues GM continues to study include deciding whether the phone connection to the computer should be analog or digital and verifying that the system will be compatible with other in-vehicle electronics.

Cadillac customers chosen for the pilot group, which could include employees and Cadillac customers, would not be required to pay for the system.

GM also used focus groups to test its Night Vision technology, which debuted on the 2000 DeVille.

Delphi, of Troy, Mich., already has sold a version of its in-vehicle computer system to Portland, Ore., truckmaker Freightliner, a DaimlerChrysler company. Freightliner is scheduled to market a vehicle with the computer system in January 2002.

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