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Tech Industry

Auto makers add PC technology

Top names in automobile manufacturing and computer design are currently working together to bring about the convergence of the car and the PC.

Car email is closer than you think.

Some of the biggest names in automobile manufacturing and computer design are currently working together to bring about the convergence of the car and the PC.

Wireless, cellular, and voice recognition technology will allow manufacturers to insert PCs into cars, they claim. The next step lays in integrating these developments into a driver-friendly environment.

The "Network Vehicle", demonstrated today at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), is at the forefront of this development. Designed by IBM, Netscape, Delphi Automotive Systems, and Saab, the concept car features heads-up displays showing real-time stock tickers, global-positioning navigation aides, and travel information. The car also makes extensive use of Java's "write once, run anywhere" technology, essentially running the vehicle's various hardware platforms on a Network Computer.

Delphi also introduced a Saab Personal Productivity Vehicle at the SAE show today, based on Microsoft's Windows CE-based Auto PC platform.

The Auto PC platform provides voice-recognition, CD-ROM, and address and navigation software, with Delphi providing the displays and cellular modem connection. Users of Windows CE devices like Palm PCs can ship address and phone information to the Auto PC via an infrared data link.

Saab estimates that nearly one-third of Saab owners are online, and could be using their drive-time more "productively." Perhaps taking into consideration a recent round of studies demonstrating the hazards involved in using cellular phones while driving, much of the technology announced today involves no use of the hands, depending heavily on voice-recognition technology.

Auto PC will also eventually be sold by third parties like Clarion as an add-on, Microsoft said today, as well as by automotive makers like Saab in their new models.