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CES 2013: The hottest car tech in Vegas

Consumer Reports News: January 11, 2013 04:38 PM

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There was a lot of cool stuff on display at CES. In fact, there was a lot of stuff, period. Trying to find a single standout isn't easy, especially when it is near-impossible to even see everything at the massive event. But there were a number of products and technologies that did get us excited.

Of course, the radio-controlled flying drone Parrot showed is pretty cool, as were balls that roll themselves around. But in the automotive realm, there was notable new technology and gadgets, even without a flying car.

Here's my picks for the hottest car tech at CES:

Autonomous cars with the potential to drive themselves from Audi and Lexus got a fair bit of buzz, and Audi even did demos of a car parking itself with nobody in it. Valets of the world, start looking for work.

Qualcomm showed inductive electric car charging. Currently being fleet-tested in London, the inductive system recharges an electric car that parks atop a three-foot-square pad by transmitting power to a receiver mounted on the underside of the vehicle. No plugs, no fuss. A company rep said it works in all kinds of weather, even if covered in snow and ice.

Digital Light Processing technology, or DLP, allows for more vivid and colorful dashboard and heads-up windshield displays. DLP was showcased by Johnson Controls, MHL, and Visteon, giving a look at car displays of the near future. Johnson also showed a 3D rearview camera,and an onboard navigation system that can update maps and point-of-interest information from a smart phone, rather than requiring a visit to the dealer or just leaving drivers to work with outdated information.

Magellan-SmartGPS-CES-2013.jpgNavigation sales-leaders Garmin and TomTom unveiled new portable navigators and updated traffic services, respectively, but both were trumped by the Magellan SmartGPS. Edging portable navigators as close to smart phones as conceivable, the SmartGPS can provide numerous Internet-based services by tapping a smart-phone data plan via Bluetooth. Where it stands out is being able to download data via WiFi, loading route and points of interest info before starting a journey, without chewing up bandwidth. And it claims to seamlessly share its data and controls with the phone, allowing the user to benefit from local information, such as user reviews for restaurants, when on foot.

Mobile Internet radio is bigger than ever, and now has about as many listeners as satellite radio. Automakers are stepping up with head units that make for seamless Internet radio listening in the car, making it no more complicated than tuning in an FM station. We saw Aha making great strides at the show, catching up with rival Pandora as an integrated music app with in-car and mobile uses. Another benefit of Internet application-based media is ondemand listening. Now a user can catch their favorite segment, rather than only listing to what is broadcast at the time of their commute.

While there were many gadgets vying for our attention, in-car connectivity was the dominant trend at CES, as automakers wrestle with how to give consumers the access they want without adding to driver distraction. The dashboard innovation opened up to the public at CES, with both Ford and General Motors offering free software development kits. It is safe to assume apps will be the rage next year.

Just keep the flying gizmos and motorized balls out of the cockpit.

See our complete CES 2013 coverage featuring digital cameras, TVs, and much more.

Related CES car tech:
CES 2013: Subaru Starlink brings Internet-ready infotainment, finally
CES 2013: TomTom navigation HD traffic gains resolution
CES 2013: Mobileye 560 gives older cars new safety features
CES 2013: Parking cost, location info coming to navigation devices
CES 2013: Leaf-based Visteon eBee offers a look at the connected car of the future
CES 2013: Aha radio is coming soon to a car near you
CES 2013: Magellan SmartGPS shows that portable navigators can get smarter
CES 2013: General Motors invites programmers to hack their ride
CES 2013: Texas Instruments previews the car controls of tomorrow
CES 2013: Autonomous Audi gets license and drives itself in Vegas
CES 2013: Hyundai, Kia add Google search to their navigation
CES 2013: Ford wants you to create an in-car app for that
CES 2013: Chrysler Uconnect infotainment system adds apps, dealer-activated navigation
CES 2013: Autonomous Lexus LS shows how smarter cars can be safer
CES 2013: Slick Garmin Nuvi 3597 LMTHD leads a freshened lineup
CES 2013: Vehicle Diagnostics by Delphi lets you track your car, unlock doors, and more with your smart phone

Jim Travers

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