From Vegas to Detroit: CNET On Cars Ep. 10A new day dawns for apps in your dash and we find the most high-tech car at the Detroit auto show - it's not what you think.
-We're on the road this week. In Vegas at the Consumer Electronics Show where I sit you down inside the coolest cockpits you'll drive soon. To Detroit where Ford shows us the next F150, and Cadillac pulls a Cinderella on the Chevy Volt. Time to Check the Tech. We see cars differently. We love them on the road and under the hood, but also Check the Tech and are known for telling it like it is. The good, the bad, the bottom line. This is CNET On Cars. I recall when they said the consumer electronics show was very much about cars because there were car stereos on display. As you can see, the stakes have gotten considerably higher. Hello, everybody. I'm Brian Cooley here in Las Vegas for a special edition of CNET On Cars at the Consumer Electronics Show, and it's a double header. We're gonna start here and blow you away then hop a plane to Detroit, yes in January, to go to the North American International Auto Show in search of tech. It's the biggest auto show in the US. Let's go. We at CNET awarded the best of CES Award in the car tech category to the second generation of Chevy's MyLink. That's their connected head unit technology, and we gave that award, thanks to a lot of refinements since at launch last spring. Let me show you a few fairly simple but practically very useful technology. First of all, I've got my functions here. I can hold and press one of those and then it starts to show me zones where I can drag and rearrange the functions from phone, weather, Pandora settings, what have you, just like a smartphone. How many times have you wanted to rearrange the ergonomics of your car's infotainment system; now with the Chevy product, you can. So let's see. You got something on the main screen that you really wanna see on the center screen between the gauges. Many of the modes here will do that. So if I've got something here on Pandora for example, you clear that down and I wanna put it here. I just flick it there by grabbing, waiting for the beep, and flick that over. Now the next cool thing. Let's say in any mode, you wanna be able to get to settings quickly. I do that a lot on my smartphone for example. I want that to be sticky. Hold the settings icon, wait for the bar to come up, drag it to this top menu and now it's gonna show up almost any mode you're in in the head unit. No digging through screens to get to it. Now here's the last thing. Check this out. These are presets. Typically you'd use them for, let's say a radio station like XM or this broadcast station but notice I've got other presets here that aren't radio tunings at all, directions to the airport here in Las Vegas. Boy, am I ready for that? A shortcut to the navigation function and the phone function, here's how that works. Let's say I go to navigation, I go to destination, I wanna go to my recents, one that I go to a lot might be Starbucks. I hit that, let it come up as a destination, and now it's ready to go. Instead of saying go, I hit save. Watch this. Now instead of pressing go to go there, I pull up this menu right here. There are my presets. Now I can drag this thing down there and make it one of them. And there it is; I just made a preset for directions to my local Starbucks just like I might select a radio station I listen to a lot. Pretty cool, all very intuitive. Oh by the way, this list of presets is not just 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. If I flick this up, you'll see I've got a lot of room here. This will grow to 60 presets of any kind if I keep putting them in there. Okay. What I think maybe the biggest story in car tech coming out of CES is right behind me, Ford and General Motors both announced that they've opened up their cars to developers, just like developers can write apps for your phone. Now they can start writing apps for major automotive maker's cars. Now think about that. That's a big idea. Carmakers running the business of doing apps. They're not that nimble at them, but if you get developers thinking about new ways to make cars digital, connected and more useful and livable, that's a gonna be a big explosion. Ford is offering as you can see behind me here a bunch of app developer kits. There's a physical box that has a Sync head unit or radio in it, all the internal guts. If you're a developer registered with Ford they're gonna send you one of those. It's basically a Ford dashboard on a box, and that's the first step toward getting your app done, debugged, and submitted to Ford. Now there are gonna be some real restrictions on who gets approved because it's a car, not a phone. Folks get hurt when things go wrong here. So they won't be able to access things like braking systems, accelerations, stuff like that. No way. But they can do infotainment, navigation, and communication functions that they have never seen before. Ford is also offering up this App Link developer program to the industry, kind of an open source initiative, not exactly, but they're saying, "Look, we will let this be used by other makers to create more of a broad ecosystem," because they're learning from the CE industry that if you're more open, you tend to be bigger and your own interests as well. So I have to Google about that. Now how will you get these apps? I'd expect the mid to late 2013 at the soonest. Ford will have kind of an app store, but they will not do the distribution. They will send you off to either the Apple store or to the Play store where you get them there, pay for them there if there's a price, and Ford is not taking a cut of the revenue either. They wanna foster apps that sell cars, not make money on apps. Now both these technologies, they're predicated on you buying a new car that has them, but if a trip to the car dealer is far from your mind, you can still get a connected car. Now with technology today, we're awash in connectors from whatever Apple is using these days to USB in your car a lot, Bluetooth wireless. Here's another connector I want you to think about that has a lot of broad implications. This Delphi product plugs in to what's called the OBD2 port. If your car is made since '96, you have one. Inside this dongle has Bluetooth, GPS, cellular internet and an accelerometer. It can take all that information, combine that with data which the car offers it through that port, and tile that into a smartphone app. That means your smartphone can lock your doors, start your car, locate the car, alert you if it leaves a certain geographical area, even diagnose which trouble code is giving you that annoying check engine lights. Tellingly, they're gonna sell this thing through Verizon Wireless. Seems it's as much a smartphone accessory as a car accessory, and it will have a monthly wireless fee. We talk a lot about tech to deal with the hazards of the road, but don't forget the perils of the parking lot. Our team at State Farm tells us a full 20 percent of crashes take place there. You know how chaotic a lot can be and it's made doubly difficult since you have to both drive and hunt in a sense. Here are 3 parking technologies I've been watching lately that are of interest to the smarter driver. Backing out of a space can be like backing out of a tunnel. You just can't see who's about to T-bone you. Systems like Cross Traffic Alert get double duty out of the car's blind spot sensors by using them to detect cars that are coming down your parking aisle that you may not see as you creep out, and they're too busy looking for a spot to see you doing that. How about this? Do you know someone who parks by touch? Nissan's Carpark Detection technology will dampen or deny accelerator response when you're nudging into a tight spot or approaching that cement wall at the end of one. And over at the park division of Xerox, they're developing a technology that will turn metered street spaces into parking spots you can reserve ahead of time by connecting all those meters to the Cloud. Not having the hunt for a spot would save people a lot of distracted trips around and around the block. My personal favorite tip though is low tech, parking away from other cars. You'll avoid a lifetime of door dings that make your car look nasty, and you'll pick up a few healthy walking sticks. Coming up, I've got more from the Consumer Electronics Show, including a Bentley with a 3D backup camera and a Hyundai that's grown accustomed to my face, if you can imagine that. All this as CNET On Cars, the technology year-opener continues. Welcome back to CNET On Cars. From the Consumer Electronics Show, I'm Brian Cooley, and I sat down in a Bentley customized by QNX, part of the company that makes Blackberry phones. They think cars should innovate as fast as smartphones and will one day. Okay. Now I can sit here in this Bentley all day, but I got a job to do and introduce you to an interesting operating system. You don't often think of that in cars, you know, operating system. There are no Windows or Mac cars, but this kind of is one. This is a Bentley demonstrator vehicle that QNX has put together, with their QNX CAR 2 platform. That is an operating system for vehicles. They love to see everybody use it. Let's take a look at some of the attributes. Now I can't show you the main thing it does which is they have built a very base layer set of tools, just like your computer OS, that allows other services to ride on it like your computer OS allows printers to work easily. This allows for example a DLP projection screen to be integrated without having to reinvent the wheel and do everything from scratch. By the way, come the cool screen, look at this. You see how big it is. You see it's arched which you can't really do with LCDs. It's got infrared sensing. If I put my hand up here, you can see that these functions come up. I didn't touch anything. And how about this wheel which is the only physical control here. If I touch on the center there, I get volume. If I touch on the temperature over here, it changes mode. Now it's a temperature knob and then if I let go, it goes back to the clock which is also video. And of course, the platform like this supports a lot of these kind of all video-rich infotainment interfaces. Check out the camera. That's a regular rearview camera, great big display, push a button and it's 3D, an experimental version. What a great idea for a camera that relies on depth of field. The reason QNX is showing this off is because they would like to get carmakers onto more or less one page at that OS level, so innovation can happen closer to the rate that consumer electronics do it. You know cars really refresh every 3, 4, 5 years, smartphones every 6 months. They're never gonna refresh cars that fast but an OS like this, they think will get them closer to maybe a major refresh every year, and the car you own could be major refreshed alongside the new models that come out as well. Last thing I want you to check out here before we go to Detroit is Hyundai's vision of gesture control in cars. Not happening tomorrow, but it does echo a huge amount of gesture control work being done across all electronics right now. Now no matter how much carmakers integrate connectivity and apps into the cars at the factory, your smartphone is gonna do a lot of the heavy lifting for a number of years to come in most models. Let's check it out some of that here at Hyundai and also get a look at some new interface technologies to control it all. You know cars they have so many button these days. They're all clustered together. It's hard to even read the label on a lot of them. What about cars with no buttons? Can we get there? Hyundai says maybe. Here's a buck, a mock of an interior where they're showing some new interface technologies that largely go button-free. Let me just show a couple of these. First of all, there's the HVAC panel up on the display, pretty common stuff, but there's no knob to control it, no buttons to change the fan or anything. I use this gesture control device right here on the right side of the wheel. It looks like one of those north-south-east-west controllers but it's not. Here's what I do. Move your hand flat across that and that is mode change. So you see if I move my hand around, I'm changing the different parts of the menu. Then once I get to one of them, a perpendicular swipe is what you use to change that mode from on to off. Same thing would go for any of these other functions I've got. There's the fan setting. If I wanted to change that fan setting up and down, I could do gestures like this. Now obviously we're in a lot of environmental noise here because we have no top, so this thing is getting a lot of input that's making it difficult to operate, but you get the idea. One more thing I wanna show you, notice this eyeball logo down here. If you hit that, you now go into a eye recognition mode, registration, I'm in that mode now. I look at the camera right here for a moment, stare at it. See what's reading me right there. Getting some coordinates and it's gonna also read my eye open position. It's gonna get a lock on me. Okay. Now that it's got a lock on my face and it's figured out who I am, it'll recognize me when I get in the car, that can totally have all my settings attached to it, where my seat goes, what media settings I want, do I want the heated wheel to default on during cold weather. You could program anything to it. And then once you're in that mode, you can also see it has a warning function. -Welcome to safe driving mode. Please look forward. -Okay. Safe driving mode. If you noticed, I wasn't looking forward, I was looking at you. Now I got to look at here. If I don't, if I look down for a while, it'll pick up on that and then it'll warm me. It will put off warning sounds like a klaxon horn going off to tell you. You gotta get your eyes back on the road. And again that could be used to detect any number of errant behaviors. You might just be looking at the car's own interface, but too long, and it would prompt you back to the windshield. Okay. When we come back, a whirlwind tour of the cars that made the difference at America's biggest auto show when CNET On Cars rolls on. Welcome back to our CNET On Cars year-opener. From CES in Vegas and now the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. My colleagues, Wayne Cunningham and Antoine Goodwin, crowd the halls at America's biggest auto show and found a lot. The Ford Atlas is a big place to start. -What's up, guys? This is Antoine Goodwin with CNET.com. We're on the floor at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show, and we're taking a look at the Ford Atlas. Now that's a very strong name for a very strong truck. This is an early preview of what we should expect from the next-generation Ford F series of pickup trucks. Now, the Atlas is powered by a next-generation version of Ford's EcoBoost engine. There's not much detail known beyond that. I would pretty much know if that's gonna use direct injection and turbocharging. It's also gonna use an auto stop-start system to help it save fuel when you're idling at a light. But that's only part of the fuel-saving technology at work here. It actually uses a lot of interesting active shutter technology. There are shutters in the wheels that slam shut when you're at rolling speeds so that you get less turbulence from those spinning spokes and reduce the wind resistance and drag that you pick up when you're rolling. There are active shutters in the front grill that slam shut to reduce a little bit of cooling, but you get a lot more of a slick profile when you're traveling through the wind, and there's also a drop-down lower air dam that slides down from the front bumper, reducing the amount of air that flows underneath the car, again less wind resistance. Ford is also working on a lot of driver aid features for the next generation F series driver including a trailer assist that helps you reverse when you got a trailer on you. A hitch-active assist that helps you line up the trailer hitch the first time every time when you're trying to actually attach the trailer to the truck, and a 360 bird's eye view camera that lets you see all the ground around the vehicle. This is similar to what we've seen in infinity vehicles previously. We've also got retractable side steps that slip up in and under the vehicle when you're rolling, so they're not contributing the drag also, pretty much all of the exterior features of this vehicle are tailor-made towards making this big hunk of metal as slick as possible when traveling through the air at high speeds. The Atlas also uses LED lights all around for the headlights, the tail lights. There even is some LED spotlights in the side mirrors. Inside the cabin we have a very concept car interior with big blocky features and a lot of exposed metal, but the basics of the Ford Sync with App Link system, the Ford MyKey System, the WiFi-enabled dashboard integration, all of that's probably gonna be in place for the next generation of this vehicle. Well, I'm Antoine Goodwin with CNET.com. We've been on the floor taking a look at the Ford Atlas pickup truck concept. -Wayne Cunningham says Volkswagen's chunky Cross Blue concept might be the most high-tech car at the entire show, and he might be right. Check out the litany of what this thing has. -It's got a diesel engine in front, 190-horsepower, and it also has a 54-horsepower electric motor integrated with the double-shift gearbox. That's a 6-speed gearbox so that makes it a hybrid power train, but there's more. It also has a 114-horsepower electric motor on the rear wheels. So that actually gives it all-wheel drive, actually 4-wheel drive when you consider they can shift the torque around any way they want. They can throw a bunch of torque to the back, front. They can be working at the same time. They can drive in different modes. They can drive them all-wheel drive mode, 4-wheel drive mode and also just front-wheel drive mode if they just wanna economize as much as possible. Now it's also a plug-in hybrid. We see the plug right here. It's got a 9.8 kilowatt hour lithium ion battery and it can drive from 14 miles on electric power alone. VW estimates it's gonna get about 89 miles per gallon equivalent, that's taking the electric power train into consideration, or 35 miles per gallon just working as the hybrid. It's an interesting form factor too. VW designed this specifically for the North American market. They're calling it an SUV. I'm thinking more like a minivan or crossover. We see a pretty robust hood here, a pretty squared off hood. We have these vents on the top of the hood. That's having like Land Rovers done in the past. We also have these LED headlights, and that's more of a concept car element. Probably won't see that come through production. It's actually a 6-seater. There's 3 rows of seats inside, front row, middle row with 2 independent seats, and a rear row with 2 independent seats as well, although VW says when it comes to the market, it can also have a rear bench and seat 7 passengers. The rear seats really come into the rear cargo area so you wanna fold those down. They actually fold flat to maximize the rear cargo space. There'd been a few tricks inside too with the tech. They've got a couple of mini iPads mounted in the backs of the headrests for the second row passengers. Then the front seat has a 10.2-inch touchscreen LCD. Also the instrument cluster is an LCD panel, and they've got these metal rings in it that kind of set aside the gauges, make the tachometer and the speedometer look like they're actual analogue gauges. Although it will also change theme depending on what kind of mode you're driving in. It's got EcoSport, that sort of thing. If Volkswagen puts this into production, it'll slot between the Tiguan and the Touareg. It'll be one of their newest cars, and they're just trying to figure out if they can make it work right now. -If you wanna make the Chevy Volt sell better, and I suspect GM does, how about putting it into a package that can be called cool by more than just green geeks. Cadillac did it. -What's up, guys? I'm Antoine Goodwin with CNET.com, and we're on the floor of the 2013 Detroit Motor Show taking a look at what happens when a Chevy Volt and a Cadillac CTS Coupe make sweet, sweet love. This is the Cadillac ELR, and it is a coupe with a 2 plus 2 seating configuration. And underneath its hood is pretty much the exact Voltec power train out of the Chevy Volt. So you're looking at about 40 miles of electric-only range from its batteries packed before the gasoline engine has to jump in and extend your range up to about 300 miles of cruising. Again like the Volt, it's kind of the best of both worlds. You can commute under all electric power but still take this car on a road trip. Inside the cabin, we've got a very high-quality Cadillac interior with a very angled dashboard that sort of slopes towards the driver and the infotainment system is handled by Cadillac's new CUE system that we've seen in previous vehicles before. So if you're in the market for a Volt for you're looking for something a little bit more upscale and you are really a fan of Cadillac's art and science design language, you should probably take a look at the Cadillac ELR which would be hitting the market soon. I'm Antoine Goodwin of CNET.com on the floor at the 2013 Detroit Auto Show. -And if you somehow missed the loudest and reddest noise from Detroit, it was indeed the arrival of C7, the 7th generation Vette. -Chevrolet has brought back the Stingray badge for this new Corvette. They think it's that impressive. Now underneath this hood, we've got a 6.2-liter V8 that uses direct injection technology to make 450-horsepower and 450 pound feet of torque. That power is gonna exit all of it through the rear wheel by way of a 7-speed manual transmission that uses an interesting active rev matching technology, sort of what we saw on the Nissan 370Z, so you either press the clutch and change gears, you're gonna get a little blip from the engine's computer to match the engine speed to the wheel speed for a smoother shift, sort of the best of both worlds between a manual gearbox and an automatic transmission. We used some lightweight technology here including a full aluminum frame and carbon fiber on the hood and on the roof. Those are both stock features. The point here is to reduce the weight and to keep the center of mass low for more nimble vehicle. Now we're expecting the new Corvette to go on sale in the 3rd quarter of 2013, and this is probably one of the most hotly anticipated cars of the Detroit Motor Show. -Hope you enjoyed this blast of new car tech that promises to shape what's going on behind the wheel in 2013 and beyond. You can find more of our coverage from CES at CES. CNET.com and from the Detroit Show at Cars. CNET.com. I'm Brian Cooley. I'll see you next time when we Check the Tech.