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In-car tech 'to beat iPhones'

2013-06-14 12:00

NEW COOL: General Motors CEO Dan Akerson (inset) says new communications technology will be better than iPhones. Image: General Motors

BOSTON, Massachusetts - In-car technology is taking vehicles to a whole new level, from booking a service to ordering and paying in advance for takeaway do'nuts.

GM CEO Dan Akerson said the car is the next great proving ground for communications technology on Thursday: "The automobile will become a major platform for tech and one with far better battery life than an iPhone."

IN-CAR BILLBOARDS

Developing better in-car technology is critical for automakers to attract younger, tech-savvy buyers. If they can pull it off, the companies will generate new sources of revenue and boost profit margins. One approach may be to sell advertising within the car, Akerson said in May.

In mid-2014, GM will team up with AT&T Inc to sell vehicles with 4G LTE mobile broadband to allow passengers in the backseat to watch streaming video.

Akerson said automakers have no choice as the average US consumer is spending more than two and a half hours a day on their smartphones and tablets, topping the 16 hours spent in cars each week.

"Marry the two and you have a megatrend that we intend to harness for competitive advantage," he said citing a JD Power study that found more than two-thirds of new car buyers own a smartphone, with connectivity strongly influencing which car they buy.

'BREAD AND BUTTER'

He said drivers want hands-free calling, navigation and automatic crash warning, in that order, citing similar studies in China. He called those "the bread and butter" of the company's in-vehicle OnStar service that connects drivers to operators for directions or emergency help. Akerson added GM's features will be integrated to prevent distracted driving.

However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a report on Wednesday (June 12) saying that hands-free technology in cars actually increases driver distraction. AAA urged the auto industry to consider disabling certain social media functions or voice-to-text technologies, so they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.

TAKE-AWAYS ON THE WAY

Akerson said: "Installing 3G Wi-Fi in vehicles only scratches the surface of what's possible. Imagine that your vehicle can predict that it needs a new battery and then automatically schedules a visit to your dealer before it dies on the highway in rush hour.

"How cool would it be to have your car automatically call Dunkin' Donuts when you're a kilometre away, so your coffee and cruller are ready and paid for when you pull up?"

Akerson added the tech features will just be the beginning as GM needs to entice thousands of code writers to come up with apps for its cars and he hopes a GM App Shop will be just as popular as an Apple store some day.
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