At the LA Auto Show 2012, there was an electric buzz of new tech innovation. Several vehicle manufacturers announced new features that will make traffic congestion more bearable, adjust the suspension in your car for the road ahead, and even enable you to start your car using your voice.
We scoured the show floor looking for the next big tech advancement, and separating the genuinely useful and creative ideas from the dull and pointless gimmicks.
Here are our top picks of the most exciting car tech inventions to emerge from the show, coming to a car near you:
1. Mercedes-Benz Ener-G-Force Concept
Concept cars are usually a big flash of metal with not too much detail about the new tech features. The Ener-G-Force Concept is a bit different. Mercedes explained that this SUV of the future would use new Terra-Scan technology to scan the road ahead and adjust suspension accordingly. On a rough surface patch or angular roads, your vehicle would smartly adjust to keep the ride smooth.
2. New Toyota Rav4 apps
During the press conference for the new Toyota Rav4 electric car, a few interesting nuggets sneaked out. One is that the car will support new apps through the Entune system, including Bing search, movie ticket searches, and the iHeartRadio service. The Rav4 will access these apps through the dash interface, which is similar to the way in which you can access your smartphone through the Ford MyTouch system.
3. Chevy Spark and Siri
We all knew this was coming. Next year, Chevy will enable iPhone users to speak to Siri. The service, which uses natural language search, will work with the Chevy MyLink app. Once connected, you can use a unique Eyes Free mode on the iPhone that blanks the screen and won't do web searches. You can ask basic questions, find out about fuel prices, get directions and send text messages.
4. Chrysler Sprint Velocity
Many in-car computer systems are smart - they can check local weather and direct you to the local shop. Details were scarce, but Sprint Velocity is not only smart but is connected to the city. The idea is to direct drivers along different routes using real-time monitoring, send alerts about accidents, and feed information about sports scores and weather based on your location.
5. Kia UVO 2.0 and speech profiles
Kia is improving its UVO (a sort of shorthand for 'your voice') system, starting with the 2014 Kia Forte. The big change is that each driver can now select a speech profile, and the computer will learn your own speech patterns. UVO was developed originally by Microsoft, and other improvements include a way to set a parking stall reminder from your phone and check vehicle diagnostics such as when your last oil change was.
6. Viper Smart Start 3.0
This remote access app now works with the iPhone's Siri service - you can say "start my car" for a remote start. The app also includes features such as setting an automatic trigger to start your car at a certain low temperature and an alert if you leave your car door open by mistake.
7. Ford MyFord Touch 3.5
Ford announced major improvements to its touchscreen interface, which will debut in the 2014 Ford Fiesta. Engineers on hand at the LA Auto Show wouldn't go into exact detail, but the biggest change will have to do with natural language search. Asked if the car would understand vague expressions such as "find the lowest gas in my area" and "search for pizza places on my route" they said those searches will be possible.
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