DETROIT -- Microsoft's TBox has a two-button panel that can be placed on the instrument panel or on the steering wheel. The driver pushes one button to activate the system, the other to turn it off.
TBox has no screen; any visual information is presented on the motorist's PDA, cell phone or other portable device. But an automaker could customize a system to include such things as left and right arrows to complement a navigation system.
The TBox is equipped with Bluetooth technology to link itself to the motorist's cell phone, PDA or iPod. Bluetooth is a wireless signal that allows hands-free calling if drivers have a compatible cell phone or PDA.
The motorist uses spoken commands to operate these devices. The driver's commands are picked up by a microphone in the headliner.
For example, the driver can make a hands-free phone call by pushing a button on the panel. Then the motorist would ask the system to dial a name or number stored in the cell phone. The car's radio speakers provide the sound.
Motorists who want to play music stored on a digital music player can plug the device into the TBox's USB port.
The driver can use TBox to get route guidance, too. TBox is equipped with a global positioning system receiver that pinpoints the vehicle's location. Using a cell phone or PDA linked to TBox, the driver can connect to the Internet to get the desired route.
You may e-mail Ralph Kisiel at