Carmakers court the app-happy in Vegas
LAS VEGAS -- Automakers eager to show off new in-car gadgets and connections to the cloud flocked to the Consumer Electronics Show here last week.
The auto isn't a smartphone on wheels yet -- but it looks like it's getting there fast.
"The car is a mobile application," said Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally, who spoke after unveiling the 2013 Ford Fusion Energi, a plug-in hybrid sedan, at the Las Vegas Convention Center,
"If you want to be connected, use your own smartphone in the car, have it voice-activated, hands on the wheel and eyes on the road -- that's the Ford strategy."
Mulally was the first auto executive to keynote the show four years ago, signaling Ford's awareness of the importance of connectivity to car buyers. Several automakers exhibited here, including such first-timers as Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler Group.
Mulally also announced that Ford is doubling, to 14, the infotainment applications available on Ford vehicles, including applications with National Public Radio; Roximity, an online coupon vendor; and Slacker, a custom Internet radio service.
Applications -- apps, in shorthand -- are programs that operate Web services such as iTunes.
Daimler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche said during a keynote speech that advancements in the company's next-generation telematics system, mbrace2, will allow Mercedes-Benz to send apps and software updates to customers by satellite or over the Internet.
That will save them a trip to the dealership and address a thorny problem for automakers: how to keep customers current with fast-evolving technology, while maintaining control of applications that drivers use in an effort to limit driver distraction.
Starting this spring, with the launch of the redesigned SL class, mbrace2 will be standard on 2013 models.
Chrysler used its first show appearance to show its UConnect in-vehicle communication system, which features new voice recognition for its navigation system. Kia Motors used the show to highlight advancements to its UVO in-car communications system. UVO eServices adds crash notification, diagnostics, maintenance features and other conveniences.
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