Digital revolution in automobiles

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At a time when authorities around the world are trying to put curbs on various distractions while driving, including talking on mobile phone, automotive industry seems to be putting more advanced technologies and gadgets into our automobiles.

Last week’s International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the world’s biggest technology trade show, saw some of the world’s top automakers show off their gesture and voice-controlled innovative technologies for auto enthusiasts to experience what is in store for them in near future.


World’s top automakers have been trying hard to bring a revolution on our driving experience. At CES, illustrations were shown on how they are embracing current computer innovations such as dashboard touch screens and voice-control interfaces, while keeping an eye further down the road as well.

Last month Google had won the first US patent for driverless or autonomous car.

Mercedes-Benz’s vision of the future of driving is complete with augmented-reality and gesture-controlled features. Visitors at the Mercedes booth in CES climbed into a little cockpit and took a brief, interactive and virtual ride through nighttime San Francisco, with the high-tech windshield as a guide. Hologram-style?icons flashed on the windshield as the car approached restaurants, stores and even homes of friends. Upon pointing your hand at those icons, more?details about the place is revealed.

“Gesture is very intuitive. It’s very natural,” said Vera Schmidt, a user-interface designer with Mercedes who led demonstrations of the technology. “You point at something, and you want to know more about it.”

Smartphones and the ‘apps for anything’ culture has been inspiring automotive designers to bring those digital expectations to the auto world.

“Cars are becoming platforms to participate in the digital world in a fully networked sense, just like your tablets can and your phones can,” said Venkatesh Prasad, a senior technical leader with Ford Motor Corporation’s innovation division.

Ford this week introduced five new apps for its pioneering Sync hands-free entertainment system, including Roximity, a daily-deals application that provides real-time discounts relevant to a driver’s location.


Automakers realise they are walking a fine line between convenience and safety. Ford’s technologies are voice-powered technology so as to eliminate chances of the driver getting distracted.

“All of our technology is voice-powered,” Ford product manager Julius Marchwicki told CNN’s sister network HLN. “So instead of fumbling with your phone … you keep your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.”

Ford SYNC? application is an integrated in-vehicle communications and entertainment system that allows users to make hands-free telephone calls and control music and other functions using voice commands. The system consists of applications and user interfaces developed by Ford and third-party developers that run on the Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive operating system.

As per Ford’s website: “SYNC? lets you use your phone, browse and choose music and find your way to just about anywhere – all while keeping your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.”

One of the Sync’s feature called the Applink provides voice control and when integrated with Inrix’s crowd-sourced traffic information provides accurate, real-time traffic and re-routing report of accidents on your planned destination.

Ford also unveiled a daily-deals app ‘Roximity’, that provides real-time discounts relevant to a driver’s location.


Companies like Mercedes, Audi and Kia are working on web-based touchscreen dashboard entertainment systems, which can be controlled by voice.

Experts see possibilities of innovative apps such as one which can monitor driver’s blood glucose level through wireless sensors, help allergy sufferers by monitoring for high-pollen areas and re-circulating air within the vehicle rather than pulling it in air from outside.

Kia is testing a “user-centered driving concept,” which would monitor driver’s eyes using infra-red LED and camera, thereby safeguarding against an accident caused by the driver falling asleep.

As per Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, automobiles have embraced digital revolution and are going beyond what one could possibly imagine.

“We’re working on a new generation of vehicles that truly serve as digital companions,” said Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, in a keynote speech at CES. “They learn your habits, adapt to your choices, predict you moves and interact with your social network.”

Sources: CNN, Ford, Mercedes, Telematic News, AutoBlog






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