Though this year’s Consumer Electronics Show mirrored the dreary economic times, suppliers in the intertwined consumer and automotive markets continued their efforts to bring more technologies into the vehicle. Television broadcasts are moving to augment telematics and HD radio, which are rapidly gaining momentum.
The automotive section at CES was not as flamboyant as in recent years, following an overall trend at the Las Vegas show. However, the ever-tightening links between the two were on display on the floor and during Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s keynote speech.
Mulally, who was briefly joined onstage by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, described more advances for Sync. He also noted that Ford is now on the same six- to eight-month design cycle as consumer product companies.
Ford expanded the telematics capabilities of its Sync by partnering with Ford Service Delivery Network, which provides personalized traffic and information services. Ford partnered with Inrix, TeleNav, and Airbiquity to augment Sync with navigation and other data.
That sort of partnership formed the core of another telematics announcement. Hughes Telematics implemented a technology-neutral system that will make it simpler for carmakers to adapt to rapidly changing offerings in both content and hardware.
Hughes implemented the Next Generation Telematics Architecture, an open platform that was unveiled at last year’s CES. It was developed by the Next Generation Telematics Protocol working committee, which was spearheaded by BMW.
“We’ve launched an infrastructure that allows our OEM partners to pick and choose elements that they want. They can partner with any content provider,” said Erik Goldman, President of Hughes Telematics.
That type of openness is highly desired by Tier 1 suppliers. “We don’t have partners, our customers set those. We need the flexibility to tie things together,” said Tim Yerdon, Director of Global Innovation and Design for Visteon.
In another interesting area, infotainment options expanded in dramatic fashion when a consortium announced widespread support for television that can be beamed to cars. The Open Mobile Video Coalition received support from 63 television stations in 22 markets that address more than a third of the U.S. population.
Those broadcasters plan to begin broadcasting mobile TV this year. Kenwood demonstrated an in-vehicle receiver, while LG Electronics and Samsung also announced plans to provide receivers. Though cell phones will be a primary target, a consortium spokeswoman noted that automotive applications are expected to emerge rapidly. The technology can be received even at highway speeds, she said.
A handful of suppliers at CES also expanded their HD Radio offerings. JVC Mobile Entertainment unveiled three in-dash CD receivers with HD capability. Ford keynoter Mulally also announced that Ford will begin offering HD Radio in 2010. Kia made a similar announcement during its first appearance at CES.
As automakers adopt more consumer technologies, controlling them safely and efficiently is a critical concern. Though products may come from several vendors, automakers are keenly interested in providing a single approach to control functions.
Visteon used CES to showcase its efforts in this area, which include concepts for creating a more homogeneous appearance. “We’re starting to see more synergies between driver information systems, the center stack, and audio/infotainment,” Yerdon said. “They aren’t so much individual products any more; it’s more of a holistic human-machine interface.