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The Future of Cars is Coming in 2013

The Future of Cars is Coming in 2013

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The automobile is one of the last bastions of mobile-free life, but not for long as makers such as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler are now embracing in-car apps to build engagement among consumers, add value to their vehicles and improve the driving experience.

Ford – an early forerunner in smart car technology – has launched a scheme letting developers create new apps, or adapt existing smartphone apps for its SYNC in-car entertainment system, which has already received around 4,000 requests from developers to access.

Ford has been working with partners like USA Today and the Wall Street Journal on voice-activated apps that will provide the latest news to drivers, suggesting that voice control will start appearing in cars soon as the primary interface for hands-free commands.

General Motors has announced a similar scheme, with its first suite of apps likely to debut in 2014. Among the operators involved in the GM initiative are The Weather Channel and music services iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Slacker. GM also recently held a hackathon with 450 developers to generate ideas.

Apple has also announced they are in discussion with car companies including BMW, Land Rover, Toyota, Honda, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, General Motors and Audi, revealing that Siri could be in these companies' vehicles as early as May 2013.

Siri within automobiles would enable the driver to use all of its features such as "Turn-By-Turn Navigation" via the Maps app, "Make Reservations At Restaurants” via Open Table and texting and calling via an iPhone.

The advent of apps and voice-control suggest a smart new future for the automobile that is starting to be realised. More manufacturers are moving towards cloud-based systems and are looking to transform their vehicles into context-aware devices for receiving and sharing information.

The next step is inevitably non-obtrusive displays and eye tracking commands, creating a more seamless heads up display for the driver.

In 2012 Mercedes announced its vision for the future of driving; The company imagines a windscreen that appears like a digital dashboard with all the usual gauges, and additional hologram-like overlays for displaying information. It will draw in information from its surroundings such as road conditions, your friends are in the area, how many tables are available at the restaurant your passing, then with the flick of an eye you’ve made a reservation and invited a friend to join you.

Major manufacturers with a similar vision to Mercedes (Ford, BMW, General Motors) predict that fully functional augmented reality windscreens are eight to ten years away from reaching the market.

In the mean time, many of these companies are launching their first generation heads up display units, with more basic functionality concentrating on navigation and collision avoidance.