The Connected Car: 2013 Edition

At CES 2013, car audio companies and automakers showed that they’re ready to deliver data in almost any form to drivers — from on-demand news and restaurant reviews to location-sharing and even info to create the perfect date — by bringing connectivity and apps into the dashboard.

Alpine’s ICS-X7HD ($600) in-dash “app receiver” dumps the disc drive and is instead designed to deliver cloud-based content through Harman’s Aha Radio app when connected to an iPhone. Aha includes dozens of apps that allow a driver to access streaming music, news, social media, podcasts, audio books, live weather info, and even customizable “Hungry” and “Hotel” apps that can locate nearby restaurants and accommodations. The ICS-X7HD also includes a Eyes Free Mode that integrates Apple’s Siri feature so that voice activation can be used with a compatible iPhone running iOS 6 to ask the impish “intelligent assistant” for almost anything.

JVC introduced three new receivers in its high-end Arsenal series that don’t ditch the CD/DVD drive but include the brand’s App Link Mode that works with a host of iPhone apps. The flagship KW-ADV65BT ($420) allows access to navigation apps such as MotionX-GPS Drive and INRIX Traffic, music streaming services MOG and TuneIn, Cobra’s iRadar detector and almost a half dozen DriveMate vehicle-data recording and “crash cam” apps. Later this year, JVC plans to introduce apps for camcorder control in case you want to record your road trips. The 6.1-inch touchscreen is used to control the apps so that you don’t have to futz with your iPhone while driving.

Kenwood’s DNN990HD ($1,700) features built-in Wi-Fi capability so that it can connect to the Internet to download cloud-based content into the car. It can sync to a Wi-Fi hotspot created by a mobile device or to a home network to share data. Or in a pinch, there’s always the Starbucks parking lot. Once connected to the cloud, the DNN990HD lets the driver send and receive Facebook and Twitter updates hands-free using text-to-speech and speech-to-text processing. The DNN990HD can also perform a cross-platform search to find that perfect song not only stored on discs or other physical media already onboard, but also music available via streaming audio through apps on an Internet-connected smartphone. All of this data-crunching is done by a dedicated Kenwood cloud server, although a $30 yearly subscription is required after a 2-year free trial.

Pioneer blazed a trail in the aftermarket by introducing its original App Radio 2 years ago. And at CES 2013, the brand continued to set the pace by unveiling three new head units that are compatible with the iPhone 5 via an adapter cable for Apple’s Lighting connector. The top-of-the-line AVIC-Z150BH ($1,200) features an AppRadio Mode that also gives Android in addition to iPhone owners some love by allowing access to and control of dozens of apps on both smartphone platforms through the head unit’s 7-inch touchscreen. Compatible apps include INRIX Traffic, Rdio and Pandora Internet radio, Waze and MotionX-GPS DRIVE for navigation, Glympse for location-sharing, and Parkopedia to find the perfect spot for your ride.

Next: Detroit Opens the Dashboard to Developers



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