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Navdy is portable HUD with smart phone integration and a sense of humor

08/06/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Aftermarket, Tech, Videos, Infotainment

Navdy Portable HUD

Automotive head-up displays were once limited to high-end luxury sedans and sports cars, but in recent years they have started trickling down to affordable models like the latest Mini Cooper and Mazda3. Navdy, a startup from San Francisco, is aiming to broaden this tech even more with its new, portable device that combines all of the features of a HUD with apps and smartphone controls.

The Navdy sits on a vehicle's dashboard and has a tiny screen that seemingly projects information about six feet in front of the car. It plugs into the model's OBDII port for data and syncs with Android 4.3+ or iOS 7+ smartphones. When driving normally, Navdy displays important info like speed and direction, but with hand gesture and voice recognition the user can also control apps, take calls and dictate text messages.

Navdy is pitched as much for its safety benefits than as a cool toy. According to the company, it keeps your focus on the road and eliminates the need to look down at a phone. The device already supports popular apps like Google Maps, Spotify and iTunes Music and can read text messages.

"Touchscreen-based apps force you to take your eyes off the road. So we started by completely rethinking what the experience of using apps behind the wheel should be like," said company co-founder and CEO Doug Simpson in the company's release.

Pre-orders for the Navdy are available now with shipments starting in early 2015, and for the first 30 days it's priced at $299 - $499 after that. The company is also borrowing from Kickstarter and allowing early-bird customers to vote on what apps and features the device should support later. The company's humorous video showing off the product (above) has some funny Easter eggs - check out the logo on the Ford Fusion.

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Cellphone bans don't reduce accidents, research finds

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Government/Legal, Safety, Tech, Infotainment

October 27, 2008 - A driver talks on his cell phone while smoking a cigarette and driving eastbound

"It was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents" - Daniel Kaffine

Common sense says that talking on a cellphone while driving is not a particularly safe thing to do. But recent studies have found banning cellphone use while behind the wheel is not leading to a decrease in accidents.

The results are somewhat surprising and have left researchers and regulators scratching their heads, especially given that 13 states, the District of Columbia and several US territories have hand-held cellphone bans. Additionally, 44 states specifically outlaw texting while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The most recent study, published this summer in the journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, analyzed California's cellphone ban for drivers in 2008. Researchers found the number of accidents only dropped from 66.7 per day to 65.2 per day statewide, a statistically minor decline. The results were mirrored in many of the state's major cities, including San Francisco, though Los Angeles did experience a slight decrease in accidents. Researchers looked at the six-month periods before and after the ban went into place on July 1, 2008.

"We went in there expecting to see something," Daniel Kaffine, one of the study's authors, told Autoblog. "[But] it was pretty clear to us that there was no compelling evidence of a decrease in accidents."

Though offsetting for safety advocates, Kaffine's research is in line with other findings. The Highway Loss Data Institute, the research arm of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, studied insurance claims rates in 2009 and 2010 studies, and found no link that bans helped decrease crashes.

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Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally lands on Google board

07/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Hirings/Firings, Tech, Ford, Infotainment

Alan Mulally

Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally often referred to the Blue Oval as a technology company when he led the automaker. Now he'll be offering guidance to a different kind of technology firm: Google.

Mulally was appointed to Google's board of directors July 9, and late Tuesday, it was announced that he will serve on the company's audit committee. The veteran executive led Ford from September 2006 until he retired in June, succeeded by Mark Fields.

While Mulally will act as a board member - rather than in a managerial role - his presence adds credibility to Google's recently announced plans to produce an autonomous car. The ambitious program calls for 100 prototypes to begin testing later this summer. Production of the car is rumored to be in collaboration with a Detroit area performance company, Roush.

"I am honored to serve on the board of a global iconic company that is dedicated to enhancing our lives," Mulally said in a statement. "I look forward to working together with the Google board and management team to continue to deliver their compelling vision."

Mulally is widely credited with turning around Ford, reversing its long sales slide and strengthening its product portfolio even as its traditional Detroit competitors General Motors and Chrysler stumbled into bankruptcy in 2009. Ford was the only one of the Detroit Three that did not take federal assistance amid the global economic downturn of 2008-09 that also felled the financial and housing sectors.

Mulally, 68, joined Ford after a nearly 37-year career at Boeing, where he rose to head its massive commercial plane business. This year, Mulally was also rumored to be a candidate for the chief executive job at software giant Microsoft.

"Alan brings a wealth of proven business and technology leadership experience," Larry Page, Google CEO, said in a statement. "I am so pleased that Alan is now joining Google's board!"

Scroll down for Google's official press release.

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Submit your questions for Autoblog Podcast #387 LIVE!

07/01/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Etc., Tech, BMW, Ford, Diesel, Infotainment

Autoblog podcast graphic

We're set to record Autoblog Podcast #387 this evening. Check out the topics below or drop us your questions and comments via the Q&A module. And don't forget to subscribe to the Autoblog Podcast in iTunes if you haven't already done so. To take it all in live, tune in to our UStream (audio only) channel at 10:00 PM Eastern tonight.

Discussion Topics for Autoblog Podcast Episode #387

  • GM recalls 8.4M more cars in North America
  • Ford Focus ST upgrades and diesel
  • CR says M235i is better than 911

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Google's new Android Autos OS unveiled, will be in cars this year [w/video]

06/26/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Videos, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, Infotainment

Google Conference

Connected cars are coming en-masse. We know this much. How, though, remains something of an open question, especially as two of the world's largest tech companies are preparing to battle for control of your car's dashboard. On the one hand, we have Apple and its CarPlay system. And now, we know what Google has been working on with Auto Link.

Its new name is Android Auto, and yes, it's based off the Android architecture that is the primary challenger to Apple's iOS mobile operating system. Announced at Google's I/O conference today, Android Auto functions similarly to CarPlay - owners will need to plug their smartphones into their cars to access the full breadth of capability.

In Android Auto's case, that means a wealth of voice controls to limit distracted driving. Google's marquee apps will be available when the interface arrives in production models later this year, including Google Play Music, Google Maps and voice-activated texting and text playback. Meanwhile, developers will be able to begin designing custom apps for the new system via an upcoming software development kit.

The technology is nearly as impressive as the roster of manufacturers Google has already enlisted to offer the system. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler are on board, as are Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Volkswagen.

It's not entirely clear which manufacturer will be the first to offer Android Auto in a production model, although Google says it expects the tech to hit the roads before the end of the year. Considering that, you should expect to hear a lot more about this new technology in the coming months.

Take a look below to see Android Auto in action in a brief video.

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Nokia ventures into smart cars after exiting smartphones

05/11/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Infotainment

Nokia Here

Not long ago one of the world's top cellphone makers, Nokia recently completed the sale of its phone unit to Microsoft. Now, it's looking for a new business to focus on, and may have found it in the form of vehicle-to-vehicle communication, mapping and other cutting-edge auto tech.

According to BBC News, the Finnish company has created a $100 million fund to invest in smart vehicle technologies. "Vehicles are becoming a new platform for technology adoption very similar to phones or tablets," said Paul Asel, of Nokia Growth Partners, in a statement obtained by BBC.

Vehicle-to-vehicle tech appears to be the next big breakthrough for automobiles, allowing vehicles to communicate with one another and to share data about their location and speed. It would allow a car to know if there is a hazard around a corner before the driver could see it. Both the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are pushing for standards for the tech.

Nokia has already made some overtures to the automotive market. A few years ago, it attempted to launch Terminal Mode. The operating system would have allowed your car to use apps and features of your phone, somewhat like Apple's iOS in the Car system. However, Nokia's solution never took off. It also operates a cloud-based mapping service called Here (pictured above) for smartphones, and is working with Continental to develop it further.

The company is entering a field with many players. Intel created its own $100 million fund in 2012 to develop vehicle-to-vehicle, vehicle-to-smartphone and vehicle-to-infrastructure systems, plus other automotive technologies, and the segment is growing quickly.

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This is what Microsoft's latest Windows In The Car looks like

04/07/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Tech, Videos, Infotainment

Screencap from a presentation of Microsoft's coming Windows-in-Car interface.

Following Apple's unveiling of CarPlay at this year's Geneva Motor Show, Microsoft used its recent Build developer conference to reveal how it plans to allow the integration of its smartphones with automobiles. Instead of automakers using Microsoft programming to create their own infotainment interfaces, this would port your mobile phone's screen onto the car's touchscreen but with the look of the Windows "Metro" UI.

The system uses the Mirrorlink standard, which is (also) a rival to CarPlay, the major difference between the two being that Mirrorlink can port Windows, Android and Blackberry phone systems, and Google has its own Open Automotive Alliance dedicated to Android integration. Automakers won't have to choose just one, having come together to establish open standards that can incorporate the different systems.

Microsoft's concept provides almost complete control of what's on your phone, throws in GPS data like speed limits and some vehicular controls, and will let developers create apps that adhere to safe driving protocols. The system doesn't have a name or an arrival date yet, but Microsoft is testing it out on the road right now. You can watch it be demonstrated - and yes, crash, since it's pre-production software - in the video below.

Continue reading This is what Microsoft's latest Windows In The Car looks like

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Apple CarPlay drawing early safety concerns [w/video]

03/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Geneva Motor Show, Safety, Tech, Videos, Mercedes Benz, Volvo, Ferrari, Infotainment

Apple CarPlay

Apple's CarPlay infotainment system hasn't made it into a single vehicle yet, and it's already drawing criticism for distracting drivers among safety advocates. The new tech unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show pairs users' iPhones with the car's dashboard display to make calls, dictate messages and listen to music. Some automakers, like Volvo, also let users interact with the HVAC system from the screen.

"The idea that people want to be on their phones, and therefore let's give them a way to do that -- that's not putting safety first, that's putting convenience and the desire to be in touch first," said Bruce Hamilton, manager of research and communications at the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, to CNN Money.

Distracted driving is a huge concern on modern roads with more vehicles allowing drivers to use their smartphones through Bluetooth and infotainment systems. A Texas A&M study found that drivers' reaction time doubled while dictating text messages, according to CNN Money. The new tech is certainly not making drivers pay more attention.

Apple knows that inattentive drivers are a major cause of concern and addressed it in their press release, saying: "CarPlay lets drivers use their iPhone in the car with minimized distraction." Still, none of the models with the tech are available yet. It's hard to make quality judgments until it is actually on the road.

The new system will debut later this year in some Volvo, Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Apple claims to be working on future deals with BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Jaguar, Land Rover, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota and more. For automakers, the tech means a common standard and potentially less money invested into bespoke infotainment systems. Apple gets even more people using its software. Scroll down for Volvo's video preview of CarPlay.

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Video: See Volvo's integration of Apple CarPlay in action

03/04/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Geneva Motor Show, Tech, Videos, Volvo, Design/Style, Infotainment

Volvo Apple CarPlay

Apple unveiled its new CarPlay touchscreen infotainment system earlier today, and Volvo has just released a video showing the system in action. The Cupertino tech giant is expected to announce partnerships with Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz to license CarPlay, as well, at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show and will be working with even more manufacturers in the future.

The system pairs the driver's iPhone with the car's infotainment system and seamlessly allows them use the smart phone's functions and, at least in Volvo's demonstration, the car's climate control and seat heating systems. According to the video, the new system will be available "in the coming generation Volvo cars," which likely means the upcoming, next-generation Volvo XC90.

However, the system will not work universally. Apple will add functionality through an update to iOS 7 in the future for the iPhone 5, 5C and 5S. At launch other devices won't be supported. Scroll down to watch CarPlay work. We are expecting more details to emerge on the new infotainment system when the Swiss show opens tomorrow.

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Official: Volvo unveils all-new user interface destined for next-gen XC90 [w/video]

02/27/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Geneva Motor Show, Tech, Videos, Volvo, Infotainment

Volvo New User Interface

Take a close look at the cabin of the Volvo Concept Estate shown above. One of the big features on the fancy, brown shooting brake is an all-new user interface called, well, it doesn't really have a name, at least not one Volvo is revealing.

The refreshingly nameless system looks seriously impressive based on the short video that accompany's the system's press release. The jewel of the whole interface is a sizable touchscreen that manages most every in-car function save for a few vital functions like volume, hazard lights and other systems that still demand a more tactile interface.

"The basic idea is to organize controls and information in a perfectly intuitive and user- friendly way. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be, making the drive more enjoyable, efficient, and safe," Thomas Ingenlath, Volvo's Senior Vice President of Design, said in a statement.

Infotainment design is one area where Volvo has struggled mightily in the past.

The system will consist of four "tiles," covering information, navigation, media and phone functions. Above those tiles sits a notification band while climate control functions sit at the bottom of the screen. From the way the press release reads, it sounds sort of like the tiles will function in the same manner as an iPhone's apps, with users able to swipe between tiles and tap individual tiles to "open" them, as well as pinch and zoom functionality as on most phone mapping apps.

"Information, navigation and media are high up and easy to keep an eye on. The phone controls, application icons and climate controls are located low, comfortable to reach and touch. Using the screen is so logical that it will be part of your muscle memory very quickly," said Ingenlath.

It all sounds quite impressive on paper and the video we've attached below makes it seem like a promising addition to a car's cabin. How it will actually function when it gets out in the real world, though, remains to be seen. We've heard many automakers tout these sorts of touchscreen systems, only to suffer at the ratings of initial quality and satisfaction surveys (we're looking at you, MyFord Touch and Cadillac CUE). And we'd be remiss if we didn't note that infotainment design is one area where Volvo has struggled mightily in the past, resorting to awkward solutions like wireless remote controls for navigation functions and hidden multi-way controllers on steering-wheel spokes. To this point, the Swedish automaker has clearly had trouble balancing its emphasis on safety with the advent of newer in-car technologies like navigation and phone integration.

In spite of all this, we're looking forward to testing Volvo's new infotainment approach when it makes its production debut on the next-generation XC90 crossover, slated to arrive later this year. In the near term, we'll try to learn more about the system when see the new Concept Estate at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show next week. Take a look below for a short video on the system, as well as the press release from Volvo.

Continue reading Volvo unveils all-new user interface destined for next-gen XC90 [w/video]

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