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Will Automakers Finally Catch Up With The iPhone In 2013?

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Chances are your $700 phone is smarter than your $30,000 car. Which would you go to first if you needed to find a restaurant or a send a message? To get a weather forecast? Even if you’re driving a new “smart” car with a built-in system for looking these things up, there’s a good chance your smart phone is easier to use and/or more capable than your vehicle’s built-in system.

Automakers understand as well as anyone that they’re behind the curve – they know that their cars aren’t as “smart” as a good smart phone…which is why they’re pushing so hard to catch up. The first automaker to figure out how to make their cars as easy to use as an iPhone is going to have a major competitive advantage.

Here’s a look at how automakers are upping their game.

Wi-Fi Hot Spot

Tired of sending emails on your smart phone screen while your laptop sits helpless in the passenger’s seat? Chrysler teamed up with Sprint to turn their vehicles into Wi-Fi hot spots. 2013 Chrysler vehicles will feature on-demand Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity. The service will cost $14.99/day or $49.99/month. Given the price, tech-savvy users will likely tether their iPhones instead, but the concept of vehicles that serve as Wi-Fi hotspots is promising.

Touch Screen LCDs with Integrated Voice Controls

LCD touch screen displays are rapidly becoming a standard of new vehicles, but not until recently the technology wasn’t optimized for web content. Texting while driving is extremely dangerous. Imagine the potential damage caused by motorists fiddling with a tablet strapped to their dash.

Companies like Honda, Subaru, and Cadillac are releasing systems that allow the driver to interact with web-based content through their radio.

Apps

Rather than scrap and read information from the Internet like a bad version of Teddy Ruxpin, integrated cabin units will use apps. Companies like Kardon have turned your favorite sites like Facebook and Twitter into channels. The posts are read through the speakers using text-to-speech.

Web companies are leaping at the chance to integrate their products into cars. Partnerships with Bing!, Google and other search engines mean that many systems will let you search for local information. At the press of the button, Kardon’s Aha will find be able to search through your Yelp preferences and find a good restaurant. Users can expect their favorite iPhone app, Pandora, to also make an appearance.

Cabin integrated technology is becoming less luxury accommodation and more necessity. Twenty-eight percent of car accidents involve people on their cellphones while driving. If automakers can’t step up to the challenge, people will continue to pick up with phones — legally or not.

The need and opportunity means that cabin connectivity technology is expected to advance more rapidly than ever. Until recently, you could purchase a new vehicle with a stereo system five years out-of-date.

Author Jason Lancaster enjoys his iPhone and would like to see his car perform similar capabilities. He works with Blue Springs Ford Parts, an online supplier of genuine Ford parts.

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