As I wrote in an earlier post, Ford and Microsoft have linked up to offer a Bluetooth-enabled automotive device integration system -- a situation that offers a value-add for both parties involved. Microsoft moves into yet another user space, and Ford gets to outsource a non-core competency. Win-win.
What's especially cool is that Ford decided to introduce this device on its new Focus model, which with its entry level size and price, is itself aimed at a younger market. While some have questioned the sanity of giving young people yet another technological driving distraction, personally I think the dual features of voice-to-text capability and voice recognition systems control (in addition to the menu options available on the steering wheel spoke) actually make the roads safer as they allow for these relatively inexperienced, tech-obsessed drivers to conduct their digital business -- which they're going to do anyway, laws or no laws -- with less hand/eye involvement.
Some other cool auto/tech projects/products, courtesy of Nada Guides:
Collision Warning & Preparation
The 2008 Lexus LS comes equipped with what the automaker calls a "Pre-Collision System" (or PCS). When a front-mounted radar sensor detects that a frontal collision is unavoidable, the PCS springs into action by tightening the front seat belts. It also preps the car's Brake Assist System, a system designed to ensure the vehicle's anti-lock brakes engage.
Blind Spot Assistance & Lane Change Warning
The 2008 Audi A8 comes equipped with lane change and blind spot warning systems. Using sensors and video technology, Audi Lane Assist detects when a driver is outside of traffic lanes and sends a warning via a vibrating steering wheel. Audi Side Assist monitors the sides and the rear of the vehicle to detect if another car is in its blind spot or rapidly approaching from behind. It sends a warning via flashing lights on the exterior mirror.
Various automakers offer parking assistance technology today, including Volvo. The 2008 Volvo C70, for example, offers Park Assist Rear and Park Assist Front -- technologies that use sensors mounted to the front and back bumpers that alert a driver with a special audio signal when an object is within approximately twelve inches of the front or the rear of the vehicle.
The 2008 Acura TL allows drivers to verbally communicate with the navigation system while their hands and eyes stay focused on the road. They press the "Talk" button and state any number of pre-set phrases, such as 'Find Nearest Hospital' or 'Find Nearest Italian Restaurant'. Occupants can also enter a specific address and chances are, the Acura Navigation System will find it, with more than 1.7 million city and street names in its database.
The 2008 Chrysler Sebring comes equipped with MyGIG Multimedia Infotainment and Entertainment systems complete with a free, 12-month subscription to SIRIUS satellite radio, a 6.5-inch full-color touch screen display, DVD playback and an integrated USB 2.0 port that lets you download and store digital media such as photos and music files on a 20-gigabyte hard drive.
Bluetooth Technology, offered in many new cars today, turns your cell phone into a hands-free device by routing incoming calls through your car's stereo speakers and by utilizing voice recognition technology for dialing phone numbers, minimizing driver distraction in the process. The 2008 Mercedes C300 Sport Sedan, for example, comes equipped with Bluetooth for convenient hands-free calling.
Apple iPod Integration
Various new cars currently offer Apple iPod integration technology and General Motors launched its own version in Chevy HHRs called Personal Audio Link (or PAL). This adapter -- about the size of a deck of cards, and concealed within the vehicle's glove compartment -- allows drivers to plug-in their iPods and listen to their own library of music right through the HHR's factory-installed stereo system. PAL also charges the iPod while the vehicle is operating. By year's end, GM expects to make PAL available in a majority of its vehicle models, and in another project, Apple is also developing hi-tech transmission shifter technology for Jaguar.
Some honorable driver tech mentions include keychain ignition systems (which start your car remotely from a particular distance), center console heated and refrigerated cup holders (to keep beverages at the perfect temperature), refrigerated glove compartments, night vision systems (with radar that detects objects beyond a driver's field of vision), and rear-mounted video cameras for added safety and parking convenience.
What does all of this mean? I wouldn't be surprised if, within about 10 years or so, your only chore as "driver" would be to headbang on beat, and not spill the drinks.