Monica Gostkiewicz

Chicago Automobile Trade Association

CHICAGO (February 14, 2013) – Cutting-edge technology tied to safe driving is one of the chief trends showing up at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show – the nation’s largest. Manufacturers are developing new innovations that comply with road-safety regulations.

In an effort to keep Illinois roads safe, 75 municipalities throughout the state, including Chicago, have banned the use of cell phones while driving. Automakers have long been the leaders in developing hands-free interfaces allowing vehicle occupants to remain connected to their mobile device.

According to Chiago Auto Show Chairman Mike Ettleson, “Hands-free operation and smartphone interconnectivity applications are just some of the new technologies on display here at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.”

Infotainment – described as information-based media content that includes entertainment – is on display in every exhibit and becoming mainstream in today’s cars. Specifically, center console display screens have become increasingly popular in recent years. Although initially offering only general information like outside temperature, radio station and vehicle status, screen features have now expanded to include rearview cameras and apps similar to those found on smartphones. Some manufacturers, such as General Motors, offer technology that can read a driver’s text message aloud without ever needing to reach for their phone.

David Szczepanski, lead connected customer specialist at General Motors notes,”Since 2007, a ton of smartphones have been piling into people’s pockets, so a lot of that technology and a lot of those trends we are seeing have been moving into the vehicles.” In the Chevy Spark, notes Szczepanski, the brain is really the phone. All of the data lives on your phone, the processing happens on the phone, but the screen is how you interact with it.

Szczepanski says that playing around with the new technology is a lot of fun, but that it will also help keep you safe. “If you ask [the technology] a question that it needs you to look at the phone, it will say ‘Sorry, for your safety, I can’t do that.'”

Also moving driver safety to the fore in its infotainment offereings is Kia Motors, according to Kia Motors Executive Vice President of Marketing and Communications Michael Sprague. Kia’s UVO eServices, an in-vehicle communications and infotainment system, allows drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road, says Sprague. “But [drivers can] still access their Blackberry, iPhone, or any other PDA that they bring into the vehicle so you can phone your friends, you can listen to your music, you can schedule service if your vehicle needs it; there’s a whole slew of products that this vehicle can help you communicate with.”

Infotainment and tech amenities have even made their way into trucks – a line of vehicles historically noted for their “work horse” capability and towing and load capacities. Doug Scott, Ford’s truck group marketing manager, said the feature content in a number of Ford trucks rivals that of any vehicle on the road. However, Scott points out that Ford’s concept trucks have even more to offer.

“Next gen LED lighting, toggle switches, a 10-inch screen in the center console…again, stretching the envelope. That’s what you try to do with a design concept is give the customer an idea of what the future might look like and really stretch your boundaries,” said Scott.

Other infotainment and technology features appearing in 2013 cars include:

  • Active and passive safety technology
  • Adaptive cruise control with brake assist
  • Smart phone app integration
  • WiFi hot spot

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