Intel and Google bring the Web to the dashboard, Motorola’s new phone does the Backflip, a Korean plug-in coffee cart, and more

Intel and Google bring the Web to the dashboard, Motorola’s new phone does the Backflip, a Korean plug-in coffee cart, and more

The show comes at a difficult time for the auto industry, when many manufacturers are being forced to shut down factories, sell off brands, and search for innovative solutions. Thus, the show is an ideal opportunity to showcase innovation.

''The last thing I want to do is convey a sense of complacency, because there's no complacency here,'' said Ford chairman Bill Ford Jr. Ford already has unveiled one of the show’s headliners, the Ford Focus, a small, fuel-efficient, and technologically loaded car to be released worldwide in 2012. Ford, which has sold Land Rover, Jaguar, and Aston-Martin in the downturn, expects the car to be its 21st-century Model T and to make it a global leader in the years to come. Ford SYNC will come as a standard feature on the car.

A new addition to the show this year is “Electric Avenue,” a boulevard lined with environmentally friendly concept cars (like a three-wheeled EV), soon-to-be-released hybrids, and quirky innovations like the Korean-made plug-in coffee cart. Here Audi has released an electric car prototype called the e-tron. Audi says e-tron will be a family of cars in the future a la “Quattro” and “TDI.” Commuter Cars Corp., based in Spokane, Wash., released the Tango, an all-electric vehicle notable for its narrow width: just 39 inches. That means two Tangos fit in a single lane, a fact that CCC is touting as a potential solution to increased crowding on highways around the world.

A new suite of smartphones dominated the Consumer Electronics Show. Google released its much-anticipated Nexus One and Motorola released the Backflip, which folds over so the screen and keyboard both face outward when closed. Microsoft’s Windows Mobile alluded an HTC touch-screen smartphone set for release in Spring 2010 but did not demo it.

Technology giants Intel and Google used the CES to unveil new infotainment systems that will integrate the Internet into cars more seamlessly than ever before. Both companies showed off plans for computer screens that will sit above the gearshift and project high-definition videos, 3-D maps, and Web pages. The systems will appear on the market this year. One from Audi enables drivers to search the Internet for information while they drive. Though the system includes a warning—“Please only use the online services when traffic conditions allow you to do so safely”—the advent of in-car Internet access has caused alarm among safety advocates.

The U.S. Air Force Global Position Systems Wing in conjunction with the 50th Space Wing has announced it will reconfigure the 24+3 GPS constellation plan in the coming 24 months. The reconfiguration will result in more GPS satellites being in view from any point on earth and thus will increase the accuracy of GPS receivers for all users, including civilians walking with an iPhone or using a TomTom in a car. The reconfiguration won’t add more GPS satellites to the system but will streamline the distribution of the current 30 satellites that orbit Earth.

Atheros Communications introduced a new third-generation, single-chip GPS receiver, the AR1520, which delivers improved navigation accuracy, speedier location fixes, and lower power consumption. The receiver was released with a companion suite of software, Atheros FYX 1.0, and offers a cutting-edge solution for personal navigation devices, smartphones, media players, and netbooks. The receiver works off a dual-engine design that handles fast searching on one engine and accurate navigation tracking on the other.

Finally, Sprint announced that its innovative Gobi embedded router—the Top Global MB7900, powered by its 3G network—has received certification. The router is a Qualcomm technology and allows customers secure Internet connectivity on the Sprint 3G Mobile Broadband network virtually worldwide. As the newest of Sprint’s M2M solutions, the router offers an excellent option for a broad-range of applications, from homeland security to mobile surveillance to asset management and in-vehicle data connectivity.

Andrew Tolve


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