LAS VEGAS - In-vehicle computers, up to now available only on the aftermarket, will soon be offered to new-car buyers through General Motors dealers.
GM is expected to introduce an OEM in-dash computer this summer as an option on 2001 model Cadillacs.
The fully integrated Communiport device, supplied by Delphi Automotive Systems, will be capable of handling a number of applications such as e-mail, Web-based news reports and navigation.
Last year, Clarion Corp. of America introduced the first aftermarket computer, the Intel and Microsoft-powered Auto PC.
At the Consumer Electronics Show here, Clarion brought out its second-generation unit, which now features DVD video and an MP3 player.
Automotive electronics firms here at the Consumer Electronics Show Jan. 6-9 introduced a variety of devices that do what seemed unthinkable only a few short months ago. They accurately read e-mail with computer-generated voice technology; they receive digital broadcasts beamed from satellites; and they play compressed music data files such as the MP3 format.
Even more remarkable is that electronics engineers are designing these products so they are compatible and able to swap information effortlessly without cable connections.
Using a new radio-based technology called Bluetooth, devices automatically connect when brought within a few feet of each other.
A driver, for example, would be able to use voice commands to dial a cell phone through an in-dash computer without ever taking the cell phone out of his or her pocket.
Dave Wohleen, president of Delphi Delco Electronics Systems, said the automotive electronics business 'is in a period of just completely reinventing itself.'
To prove his point, Wohleen announced at the show that Delphi had booked $2.5 billion in new business from seven automakers that are buying various mobile multimedia and computing devices. All of this new business has been generated in the past 18 months. Most of the new products, marketed under Delphi's Communiport brand, will reach the original equipment market in the next two to three years.
Visteon Automotive Systems introduced its ICES - for Information, Communication, Entertainment, Safety and Security - car computer for the aftermarket at the Las Vegas trade show. The device is equipped with computer-based voice technology that allows drivers to play music, read e-mail and open a navigation program with speech commands. The system, which will be available this summer, uses Microsoft Corp.'s Windows CE operating system and Intel Corp. microprocessors. Pricing was not announced.
Visteon President Craig Muhlhauser predicted that some of the first applications for ICES likely would be for business professionals who need to stay connected to the office, salespeople who spend a lot of time on the road and companies that are looking for a better way to manage fleet operations.
Visteon, the parts unit of Ford Motor Co., also unveiled its Flexible Audio system. The device plays back compressed music files such as the MP3 format. Compressed audio files can be stored on a hard disk, compact disc and other media and arranged into custom-made playlists. Because the music files are compressed, a single CD-ROM can hold as much as 10 conventional CDs. The Flexible Audio device will be available for the original equipment market and the aftermarket in the fourth quarter of this year.
Visteon also showed a satellite radio receiver that it said would be available as an original equipment market option in the 2001 model year. Two new broadcast companies, XM Satellite Radio Inc. and Sirius Satellite Radio, are preparing to introduce radio subscription services in the next 12 to 18 months. Vehicle owners with satellite radio receivers will get up to 100 channels of digital-quality music and informational programming for a $10 monthly subscription fee. BMW announced during the show that it would begin installing the radios next year and selected Sirius as its programming supplier.
DVD, MP3 and iRadio
Aftermarket supplier Clarion Corp. of America introduced its second-generation car computer, the Auto PC. Clarion was the first to market last year with its Microsoft and Intel powered Auto PC. The new version, scheduled to ship late this year, features a digital video disc player and an MP3 player.
Motorola Inc. introduced the iRadio, a prototype product that connects motorists to Web-based information, AM-FM broadcasts, cell communications and satellite transmissions.