When we started covering car technology in 2005, finding an aux jack in a car earned it extra points. Most models could only manage an MP3-compatible CD drive for digital audio. But times have changed, and more rapidly for the automotive industry than ever before. By 2009, according to iSuppli Corporation's Automotive Technology Availability Index, 58 percent of car models will offer iPod integration, up from 39 percent this year. According to iSuppli, automakers hope to drive sales by offering tech features. Even. It's no surprise that the iPod gets preferential treatment among MP3 players, as it holds more than 70 percent market share.
As for other MP3 players, 33 percent of car models will offer USB connections, although most will only work with USB drives. Microsoft's Automotive Platform, which powers Ford's Sync, currently offers the most universal integration. Bluetooth will be available in a staggering 82 percent of models next year, but this technology will mostly only allow hands-free calling with a cell phone. Bluetooth music streaming will be available in a much smaller percentage of models. According to iSuppli's index, 32 percent of models will offer an onboard hard drive, typically used for music and map storage.
Location-based services refer to data sent to a car's navigation system about specific regions, such as traffic and weather information. Traffic currently accounts for the majority of these services, but weather is catching up, with offerings from Acura, Cadillac, and Lincoln.
As automakers raise their technology bar, we have to constantly re-evaluate the way we rate cars in our reviews. A car that might have been outstanding in 2005 would only be mediocre these days.
(Source: iSuppli Corporation)