2011 Detroit Auto Show: Automakers focus on Car Infotainment, Telematics at CES

By Joel Arellano | January 10, 2011
With the North American International Auto Show just hours away to opening its doors to the media, we thought we'd summarize, briefly, what the automakers unveiled at last week's Consumer Electronics Show. Toyota unveiled entune, its answer to Ford's Sync (now MyFord) and Kia's UVO infotainment systems. While Motor Trend did an excellent job highlighting entune's features, Toyota plans to unveil even more details and features at Detroit. One interesting tidbit about entune is that, according to Toyota, the infotainment system is based off the Internet "cloud". That means entune apps run on servers instead of the vehicle's hard disks. That makes it easy for entune to keep information and apps up to date as well as be adaptive to future telecommunication technologies. Michael Deitz, National Manager - Connected Car for Hyundai, provided both Automotive.com and Motor Trend the lowdown on Blue Link, Hyundai's telematics and infotainment system. One of the most interesting aspects of the system is the use of "live agents" who back up the system's automation 24/7. According to Deitz, such agents review specific voice files when the system is having difficulty understanding the consumer due to speech patterns, softness, or accent. This makes the system more dynamic and simpler to use. He said even more details on Blue Link will be unveiled at the auto show. Ford provided details on its MyKey and MyFord Mobile App for the Ford Focus Electric Vehicle, which debuted at CES. MyKey is a system which allows parents to program restrictions when their teens are driving the family Ford. Some of the restrictions include muting the sound system if the seatbelts haven't been fastened to limiting speed up to 80 mph. Ford has now added a feature that blocks satellite radio stations tagged with explicit content. The MyFord Mobile App, on the other hand, allows owners of the Focus EV to monitor and control their vehicle remotely via their smartphone. Motor Trend, again provides details here and here. (Are we seeing a pattern?) One interesting tidbit about the app: it can indicate if you have enough charge to get to a particular location like a restaurant or movie theater based on your driving habits.
Earlier this year, General Motors introduced and demonstrated its Electric Network Vehicle, or EN-V, concept. We actually had a chance to watch the EN-V in action and ride shotgun. The EN-V uses both vehicle-to-vehicle telecommunications and sensor arrays to be aware of each other, other vehicles, and pedestrians. The EN-Vs prototypes, for example, formed a "platoon" to follow each other using V2V while used sensors to stop (mostly) when one of the staff walked in front of the vehicle. When riding in an EN-V, you could not hear the electric engine. Instead, you heard mostly the plastic creaking almost like an amusement park ride. It will be very interesting to see what technologies from EN-V may make it into production. To Be Continued....