Posts tagged with "car"

CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

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Apple Reveals Its Focus on Self-Driving Vehicle Technology

Apple’s famous reputation for secrecy continues to morph. While much of the company’s upcoming products remain shrouded in mystery – as evidenced by the numerous surprises at WWDC last week – other works in progress have voluntarily been thrust into the public eye. Alex Webb and Emily Chang report for Bloomberg on the latest big disclosure:

After years toiling away in secret on its car project, Apple Inc. Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has for the first time laid out exactly what the company is up to in the automotive market: It’s concentrating on self-driving technology.

“We’re focusing on autonomous systems,” Cook said in a June 5 interview on Bloomberg Television that amounted to his most detailed comments yet on Apple’s automotive plans. “It’s a core technology that we view as very important.” He likened the effort to “the mother of all AI projects,” saying it’s “probably one of the most difficult AI projects to work on.”

Apple’s car-related work has been a loosely kept secret to this point due to the various permits and regulatory approvals required to test self-driving vehicles on public roads, but that doesn’t make today’s news any less surprising. It’s one thing to announce a product six months out, or even a year or more out as happened recently with the Mac Pro, but publicly disclosing an entrance into a huge new market – potentially a long while before the product is ready to ship – is a different thing entirely.

Cook at least isn’t giving away the whole story yet. The end of the Bloomberg story notes:

Cook was hesitant to disclose whether Apple will ultimately manufacture its own car. “We’ll see where it takes us,” Cook said. “We’re not really saying from a product point of view what we will do.”

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The First Ferrari FF with CarPlay in Italy

Ferrari:

The first FF equipped with the Apple CarPlay system has gone to an Italian client. Deliveries of the Ferraris sporting the innovative integrated Apple technology commenced over the last few days and the cars are now arriving at their final destinations and will hit the road all over the world. In Europe, they are bound for Germany, Great Britain, France and Switzerland while others have been dispatched to the United States and Japan.

We didn’t get any mention of CarPlay by Apple this week. I think the demo in Ferrari’s video looks pretty good. I wish I had that car to review it.

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2014’s Battle For Dashboard Supremacy

Carmakers have spent years and millions of dollars creating ever-more-advanced infotainment systems and, tragically, none holds a candle to the appeal of any current mobile operating systems. To most consumers, it seems blatantly obvious that the phone should simply handle all the heavy lifting. In 2014 that finally begins to become a reality across the industry, but the issue isn’t as simple as it seems.

This week’s announcement of Apple CarPlay is a good opportunity to learn more about the status of infotainment systems and how consumer electronics companies have been working with auto makers to achieve technical and safety-related standards.

Tim Stevens has an excellent overview at CNET covering CarPlay, MirrorLink, Ford’s AppLink, and Google’s Open Automotive Alliance. When thinking about SDKs for developers to build apps for the car, it’s important to remember that there are safety implications, design challenges, and regulations to consider – which may be why Apple’s initial announcement only includes a few third-party partners.

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CarPlay Demo In A Ferrari FF

Matt Brian of Engadget spoke with an Apple representative at the International Motor Show in Geneva about CarPlay, and he recorded a video of a CarPlay demo in a Ferrari FF coupe.

The video is interesting for several reasons. First, as with Volvo, CarPlay is (unsurprisingly) a feature of the onboard system, as Ferrari is keeping its existing infotainment system and letting drivers with an iPhone access CarPlay separately. There’s an “Apple CarPlay” physical button to load the Apple UI, which, when in the foreground, takes over other physical buttons’ functions – for instance, pressing the “Navi” button when in CarPlay mode will go directly to Apple Maps. The screen appears to be a resistive touch screen: there are no multitouch gestures or swipes in the demo, and horizontal/vertical navigation is always done with software arrows rather than regular scrolling; it’s not clear whether scrolling will be possible on other screens or if it’s a design decision by Apple.

Update: A demo by Volvo shows various instances of scrolling, which suggests Ferrari chose a different implementation of CarPlay navigation for their demo.

The demo shows Apple’s reliance on Siri, which speaks texts and other information (preventing the driver from being distracted by the screen), and it demonstrates how CarPlay looks into email, messages, and calendar appointments for addresses to use in Maps destinations.

Brian also asked about third-party app support: apps that will receive CarPlay integration through the App Store will be automatically transferred from an iPhone to CarPlay and show up on the CarPlay UI, although Apple hasn’t confirmed whether there will be an SDK for developers just yet.

There’s a lot of early details and information to be seen in Brian’s video, which you can watch here.

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Volvo Shows CarPlay Integration for XC90 SUV

In a press release (via setteBIT), Volvo has confirmed that CarPlay – officially announced by Apple today – will be coming to their new XC90 SUV this year, allowing drivers to use Volvo’s on-board system and CarPlay simultaneously on a single, portrait-oriented screen.

“Apple’s clean and intuitive user interface is a perfect match with Volvo’s Scandinavian Design approach and our focus on fluid functionality,” says Håkan Samuelsson, President and CEO of Volvo Cars.

The first car to offer Apple CarPlay will be the all new XC90 SUV which will be introduced later in 2014, one of the most anticipated cars of recent years, replacing the original XC90, which redefined the SUV and became the best selling model in Volvo Cars’ history.

In a video released today, Volvo shows how Apple’s CarPlay will essentially become a feature of the existing on-board system, providing drivers with a way to invoke the CarPlay interface manually to show the grid of icons configured to work with an iPhone. As Volvo notes in the press release, this approach removes “the need to switch between a dedicated car and iPhone screen”, and the video shows, for instance, how CarPlay can remain visible in the background while the driver adjusts the climate control through a separate overlay.

In the video, Volvo also demonstrates Siri integration in Messages, Apple Maps for navigation, and there’s a brief appearance of the Spotify app for CarPlay. Various interactions are shown by Volvo, such as the possibility to read and send messages through voice or with large buttons in the middle of the screen, the possibility to scroll through multiple results for map search, and a Siri UI reminiscent of the facelift Apple’s voice assistant received with iOS 7.

Last, Volvo shared a few technical details of their CarPlay implementation in the press release as well:

Apple CarPlay allows connection of the device to the car through a Lightning cable – with Wi-Fi coming in the near future. The connection is based on a streaming H.264 video feed that returns user input from the touchscreen. Apple CarPlay will be available in forthcoming Volvo models based on the new Scalable Product Architecture (SPA), starting with the all-new Volvo XC90 later in 2014.

You can watch Volvo’s video on YouTube here.


Apple’s “iOS in the Car” Renamed CarPlay, Coming This Year

CarPlay

CarPlay

Apple’s “iOS in the Car” initiative, first introduced at WWDC in June 2013, will launch as “CarPlay”, the company announced today in a press release. Premiering with an initial lineup of auto manufacturers that include Ferrari, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz at the Geneva International Motor Show this week, CarPlay will provide a dedicated interface for iOS features in the car, working with existing touch screens, buttons, knobs, and other physical controls to allow drivers to reply to messages, answer phone calls, listen to music, and more. CarPlay is an extension of iOS 7, and will work with the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, and iPhone 5c through the Lightning connector. Read more



The iPad As A GPS Speedometer with Speed

Developed by High Caffeine Content, Speed is one of those apps that wouldn’t have been possible – or at least, nearly as enjoyable – ten years ago. Built for simplicity, elegance, and extreme practicality, Speed is a GPS speedometer that uses the iPad’s location data to tell you how fast you’re traveling. It works with iPads that have GPS available, and it has been designed to take full advantage of the Retina display. With a combination of Google Maps and beautifully represented compass, speedometer, and tripmeter laid out against a lusty black leather texture, Speed won’t replace all the functions of your car’s dashboard, but it also offers a glimpse into the future of car interfaces.

I have always believed that, in the future, car manufacturers and designers would opt for more driver-friendly touch interfaces and displays. Whilst not fully there yet, Speed is a great example of what the basics of this concept may look like a few years from now. A large display, a good-looking interface and menus, touch controls, built-in GPS and data polled directly from Google Maps. More importantly, all packaged into a consumer product that also happens to run an app that looks like a minimal car dashboard. Several car makers have already experimented with modular setups to allow for iOS devices to become a central part of the automobile experience; Speed shows that, with modern technologies, even third-party developers can produce something functional and pleasant.

I actually gave Speed a try in my Polo, driving around Viterbo and up to San Martino al Cimino. Once I switched from mph to kmh (just touch the speedometer), the app started updating my location on the map as I was driving, and it started tracking my speed and trip length. The app is surprisingly fast at detecting changes in speed: I have noticed it takes less than 2 seconds to detect sudden braking or stop. The developers say Speed offers a “a near-accurate representation”, and I can attest that’s absolutely the case here. Even better, because of this slight delay, if you’re keeping a constant speed it’ll seem as if the app really knows how fast you’re driving. The technology and implementation are quite impressive.

Some may deem Speed as a nice demo, but useless. While that’s certainly the case if you’re only looking for a full-time replacement for your car’s dashboard – and honestly, how can you expect an iPad to be 100% ready for that yet? – I think the app is worth checking out for its elegance and solid feature set alone. There are even some settings to adjust to magnetic north, use analog/digital speedometers, and use a speed limiter. On a more practical level, these features and settings make for, say, a pretty sweet solution to monitor trip lengths or check just how fast the local bus driver is traveling. It’d be nice to see the app gaining richer data representations (average speed, mileage history, speed patterns) in a future update.

The opportunity for Post-PC devices to improve existing technologies and appliances is huge. Speed is one of the many examples, and a very well-built one. Get the app here, and check out a video below. Read more