Cars as Connected Devices: Are We There Yet?

04Dec09

As I combed the floor of the SF Auto Show earlier this week searching for answers, it was clear that the car is no longer just for driving just like the phone is no longer just for calling. My car runs so well I don’t even need a new car but for the nifty new entertainment and technology options.  I used to be primarily concerned with safety, reliability, comfort and design, I thought I wanted a hybrid, but what I really want is to dock my iPhone, have my car talk to me when it calls, keep me company with directions, play iTunes podcasts, deliver satellite music, video and wifi, entertain the rear with Xbox, call 911 if ever needed, and find my car if ever taken.  Many of the car reps said I wouldn’t find what I was looking for but I did with Jeep now boasting Sirius Video with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney and ESPN, and Verizon’s Autonet soon to be at 4G speeds. VW didn’t have Sirius Video but did score with WiFi. Surprisingly impressive were the options of the tiny two seater Smart Car which at $11,000 offers in-dash Kenwood/Garmin DVD player, iPhone docking, integrated bluetooth, voice activated touch screen navigation, safety cage, 8 cubic feet trunk, 98.4″ wheelbase, 44mpg and green materials throughout. None seemed to have the ability to stream Hulu or Netflix Instant Watch through the rear monitor, and none had download to own apps like AVOD, not yet – but you can see where it’s heading – an indie channel one day perhaps. As for the car show itself, Mario Andretti lent some sparkle on Kids Day signing autographs and Chevron and SF Chronicle tied for Best of Schwag with their awesome toy cars, coloring books and beachball giveaways. There was some drama with the news of GM’s CEO’s resignation but no Robbie the Robot appearances.  After the year the car industry has had, it’s amazing there was any show at all.  Can’t wait to see what next year brings!

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