Highlights from the Detroit Auto Show

Highlights from the Detroit Auto Show

The Detroit Auto Show came to a close Sunday after two weeks of exhibitions. Gone were the gloomy discussions of bailouts and bankruptcies, and in their place stood a suite of showroom-ready and concept cars, most of which avoided excessive glitz and glam for practicality and efficiency. The Chevrolet Volt was voted North American Car of the Year. Ford previewed its Ford Focus Electric, set for release late this year, and the Ford Vertrek, a small crossover with a fuel-saving engine start-stop system. Hyundai, on the wings of its Blue Link launch at CES, unveiled the Hyundai Veloster, a three-door crossover with a telematics platform for social networking. Toyota released a new Prius V and C, the latter set for release in 2012.

Toyota Touch & Go

Toyota announced a new multimedia head unit interface, the Toyota Touch & Go. The basic system, Toyota Touch, will incorporate AM/FM radio, a CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, and a USB port for the connection of portable music players. The system can be upgraded to Touch & Go status for an undisclosed fee. With Touch & Go, drivers get a full range of connectivity features, from turn-by-turn navigation to mobile apps to connected services. With a compatible mobile phone, users will get on-board connectivity to Google Local Search and Google Maps. Toyota Europe announced that Toyota Touch & Go will debut on the Verso-S, a compact minivan launching in 2011.

OnStar reboot

General Motors announced that for the fourth time in two years, it will shuffle the leadership of OnStar. Linda Marshall has been appointed president of OnStar, effective February 1, 2011. Marshall succeeds Chris Preuss, who elected to leave the company to launch a communications consultancy practice. GM is eager to keep pace with competitors, whether it be new platforms like Toyota Entune or old stalwarts like Ford Sync, which allows drivers to bring smartphones and music players into the in-car experience and control them via voice command. “As we continue to evolve the OnStar brand and bring new features to our customers, we believe Linda’s deep experience can take the brand and platform to the next level,” said Stephen J. Girsky, GM’s vice chairman, corporate strategy and business development.

Hyundai and Bosch

Hyundai and Bosch signed a memorandum of understanding to develop vehicle powertrain electronic-control technology and infotainment systems. The alliance aims to accelerate development of new powertrains and produce new IT products based on Hyundai technology and Bosch platforms. “The alliance between leading automotive brands means an exciting future for our infotainment systems and our powertrains—the heart of the vehicle,” said Dr. Hyun-Soon Lee, vice chairman at Hyundai’s R&D Center. Bosch has been a two-decade partner with Hyundai in engine development. The companies will now focus their joint attention on Blue Link, Hyundai’s new telematics platform that will offer more than 30 unique connectivity features on future Hyundai models.

MTS Navigator

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the leading telecommunications operator in Russia, launched MTS Navigator, an advanced personal search, mapping, and navigation solution powered by Telmap. The solution provides full Russian language support and includes in-car navigation with 3D moving maps, voice guidance directions that announce street names, and a dedicated pedestrian mode. In addition, MTS Navigator has access to thousands of points of interest across Russia, such as restaurants, bars, and hotels. The MTS Navigator service is supported by numerous GPS-enabled devices and will soon be available on the full range of those devices in Russia. The service will be free to all MTS customers for the first year.

Audi and INRIX

Audi selected INRIX to help further the company’s Audi Connect strategy. INRIX will provide Audi with real-time traffic information for its navigation systems starting with the mid-2011 model year. At a launch event for the 2011 Audi A6, the automaker demonstrated how Audi vehicles that are connected to the Internet via Audi Online Services will use INRIX’s XD Traffic to provide motorists with real-time traffic information, traffic-influenced turn-by-turn directions, and alerts to accidents and other incidents along their route. “Audi is continuously looking for ways to harness the benefits of the latest technologies to improve the driving experience for our customers,” said Ulrich Beeskow, head of development for connected navigation, Audi AG. “Traffic is no exception. The combination of INRIX’s XD Traffic and Connected Services platform helps Audi become the first car manufacturer in the world to deliver a high quality and reliable connected navigation systems our customers can count on to always find the best route and avoid unforeseen delays along the way.”

Sprint’s new M2M Connected Transportation initiative

Sprint announced its new M2M Connected Transportation initiative, which aims to pioneer M2M solutions that reduce environmental impacts, increase public safety, support the smart grid, and reduce distracted driving. Under the initiative, Aeris Communications, a Sprint strategic partner, will leverage Sprint’s national network to provide cellular connectivity to Hyundai’s Blue Link telematics platform launching in 2011. PACCAR, meanwhile, is working with Sprint to introduce a new integrated mobile computing, telematics, navigation, and business system, branded as SmartNav for Peterbilt and NavPlus for Kenworth. Sprint has also teamed up with ECOtality to provide wireless connectivity to more than 15,000 residential and commercial EV charging stations throughout 2011.

“At Sprint, our vision goes beyond connecting millions of cars; we want to provide ‘Connected Transportation’ to trucks, buses, subways, taxis, planes, police cars, and ambulances so that they can be instantly linked through voice, data, and images,” said Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. “These capabilities can turn a vehicle into a multi-dimensional communications center to improve driver performance, help reduce accidents, provide significant safety benefits, enhance fleet management logistics for businesses, and have a potentially profound impact on environmental sustainability.”

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