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Toyota, Ford, BMW and Audi Lead Mobile Auto Innovation

by jody on January 7, 2011

It’s an exciting time to for car and tech enthusiasts.  Car manufacturers are adding mobile and bluetooth to their models to answer consumers’ demands for more.  Some of the latest innovations include…

Toyota Unveils Entune

At the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Toyota announced the Entune Multimedia System.  Entune is similar to Ford’s Sync but with a leg up — over-the-air software updates.  Over-the-air updates save owners from performing the update manually — either by downloading to a USB device or bringing their car into the dealer.  Instead, owners get up-to-date software just by updating their mobile app.  The next time their phone connects to the car it will automatically upgrade the car’s firmware.

Entune uses your phone’s data plan so owners will need to ensure they have an adequate plan.  Entune mobile apps are available for iOS, Android and Blackberry.

Entune’s line-up of features is impressive:

  • Bing integration for GPS, live search and points of interest.  And since Entune uses your smartphone’s data plan, streets and points of interest are constantly updated.  My Acura’s GPS can be updated once a year for $150.  You bet I’ll be looking for mobile app integration when I buy my next car.
  • Open Table for finding and making restaurant reservations.
  • to buy tickets and read recent reviews.
  • Mobile apps to check sports scores, stock quotes, traffic, news, weather and compare fuel prices.
  • Music – iheartradio (over 750 radio stations) and pandora.
  • And the best part – all the apps integrate with bing so you can make a restaurant reservation, buy movie tickets and get directions all from your car’s console.

Ford Sync Continues to Add Features

Sync has been on the market for a few years now but that doesn’t mean the features are stale.  Ford has been releasing frequent updates, including the release of Sync Destinations just last month.

Sync’s current feature set includes…

  • Audible text messages – no need to wait for a light or risk life and limb to read that “important” text.
  • Hands-free calling – make a call, browse your phonebook and answer a call.
  • Turn-by-turn directions – get audio directions, store favorites and perform a business search of more than 14 million US businesses.  This is where Entune has Sync beat by using the owner’s data plan to access up-to-date maps and businesses.
  • Vehicle Health Report – diagnostics, read scheduled maintenance, view recall info and schedule service.
  • Personalized Daily Info – configure Sync to show news, sports, weather, horoscopes, stocks and movies.

Get the full list and watch demo videos at Ford’s Sync site.

BMW ConnectedDrive Adds Email and Text Messaging

Also at this year’s CES, BMW debuted the world’s “first in-vehicle mobile office integration” — allowing drivers to access email and text messages.  ConnectedDrive uses the new Bluetooth Message Application Protocol (MAP), currently available only on select Blackberry devices.  For safety, drivers can read messages only while stationary.  While moving ConnectedDrive allows users to listen to messages via a text-to-voice translation.

ConnectedDrive is powered by QNX, a subsidiary BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM).

Audi Multi Media Interface (MMI)

Audi adds a touchscreen with multi-touch action – that two-fingered pinching you can do with an iPhone.  MMI brings entertainment, navigation and other features into a single platform.  MMI is powered by the Nvidia Tegra processor – the same name powering many notebooks and tablets.  Speculation is that a future release could include 3D maps with Google Earth.  MMI is expected to be released in select 2013 Audi models.

What’s Next?

As you can see, tech innovation has become an imperative for car manufacturers.  Consumers are demanding it and are willing to pay for it.  This is the edge Detroit and others needed – increased consumer satisfaction and higher transaction prices.  And while manufacturers attempt to outpace each other we car buyers get to reap the rewards with fast-moving innovation and just plain cool technology.

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Johnny Mastin
January 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm


Paul Richards January 7, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Great post. I’m curious to see how this will affect aftermarket audio manufacturers like Pioneer and Alpine. As you pointed out, these systems are embedded into the vehicle and control much more than the entertainment.

While I think the smartphone apps are a good place to start, I’d love to see the auto manufacturers provide SDKs to allow 3rd parties and the tech savvy to create their own apps to enhance the overall experience.

Jody Pirrello January 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm

SDKs will be awesome! There are some security requirements they’ll need to work through. For example, they need to lock down certain functionality from developers, create a certification process for developers, or *cringe* something like the iStore.

I do think there’s a market for paid mobile apps that extended a car’s functionality.

jody June 11, 2011 at 6:57 am

another test
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