Parrot wants a cracker with new in-car Asteroid range

Parrot Asteroid Smart
The Asteroid Smart makes texting while driving much safer

French technology company Parrot , the team behind the A.R Drone, wants to get people talking in the car, launching a new range of Android-powered car entertainment systems in Australia this month.

Although the new Asteroid systems all run Android under the hood, Parrot has customised the user interface and experience - similar to how Amazon customised Android for the Kindle Fire HD - to ensure the systems are all safe to use while driving.

The Asteroid system offers a range of standard car entertainment features, like Bluetooth handsfree, Parrot's voice recognition software for speech to text and music playback.

But by also connecting to the internet via either your smartphone's data connection or a USB dongle, the Asteroid platform also offers access to connected services like Spotify, TuneIn Radio, Deezer, as well as navigation apps iGo and Waze and news services like up to the minute weather information.

Parrot has created a free SDK to get developers in on the action, hoping that there will a selection of apps specifically made to help a driver. Rather than work off a 70/30 profit split like Apple and Google, Parrot is just hoping to create an ecosystem for drivers with a range of apps to make

Smarter than your average asteroid

There are four models in the new asteroid range, all requiring professional installation. Two models - the Asteroid Mini and Asteroid Tablet - connect to your vehicle's current sound system and add an additional touchscreen that mounts on your dashboard for easy viewing of information.

The Mini features a 3.2-inch touchscreen with wireless remote control and starts at $399. The Tablet, meanwhile, increases the screen size to five inches, offers advanced audio settings and is priced at $549.

The other two models - the Asteroid Classic and the Asteroid Smart - replace your car's current head unit, as a single DIN and double DIN screen.

For anyone who bought the 2011 model Asteroid Classic, a firmware update will soon be available to deliver the new connected features.

New Classics will set you back $449, and includes a 3.2-inch colour screen and full audio controls. The double DIN Asteroid Smart, meanwhile, allows you to simultaneously connect two smartphones, controlling the device using your voice or the 6.2-inch touchscreen, and sells for $999.

Having spent the past decade editing some of Australia's leading technology publications, Nick's passion for the latest gadgetry is matched only by his love of watching Australia beat England in the rugby.