LUCA CIFERRI

Google, smartwatches, self-driving cars dominate at CES

Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.Luca Ciferri is Editor of Automotive News Europe.
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There will be more Google in your next car and your first smartwatch might come from an automaker rather than a computer maker. And autonomous driving is on everyone's agenda, but lawmakers can't keep pace with the wizardry coming out of automakers' and suppliers' r&d centers.

Those are some of my takeaways from this year's International CES, the world largest consumer electronic fair that takes place annually in Las Vegas.

Google's reach into the auto industry extended a little further with the announcement of the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA): a group of auto and technology companies that wanted to expand the use of Android systems in vehicles.

In addition to its own effort to develop self-driving vehicles, Google will have an effect on the driving experience of cars from Audi, General Motors, Honda and Hyundai. The automakers have signed up to work with Google and chipmaker NVidia.

Google extended its invitation to other automakers.

Audi Chief Technology Officer Ulrich Hackenberg said Audi teamed up with Google for a simple reason: "Eighty percent of smartphones in the world are Android based."

The aim of the OAA is to create "a common platform that will drive innovation and make technology in the car safer and more intuitive for everyone," the organization said in a release.

The virtual cockpit that Audi debuted at the CES shows how a car's navigation system could benefit when assisted by Google Maps street view. Simply said, this enhancement makes navigation nearly foolproof.

Is the auto world ready to completely switch to Android? Not yet. Honda, Hyundai, and GM are also partners in Apple's Siri Eyes Free program.

In June, Apple said Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, Jaguar, Opel and Chevrolet would offer its solution starting this year.

Siri Eyes Free permits motorists to perform several tasks – such sending an e-mail or text, creating calendar events and reminders – without taking their eyes off the road while driving.

Smartwatches from automakers

Smartwatches are poised to be the next must-have item for tech freaks. These watches let you quickly check e-mail and even make calls without the hassle of having to pull your smartphone out of your pocket.

Automakers such as Nissan and Mercedes-Benz want to be at the forefront of potential craze. Nissan last year announced its Dick Tracy-like device and Mercedes-Benz unveiled its smartwatch this week here at the CES.

These smartwatches offer some special auto-focused features. Nissan's device is designed for use in its performance NISMO models and will provide the owner all sorts of driving data such as vehicle speed, fuel consumption and even the driver's heart rate. I wonder if generation II of the Nissan smartwatch will come with an adrenaline meter?

Mercedes' smartwatch has special functions for use inside and outside the car use. The feature I love most helps you locate your car. With this I will stop immediately thinking my car was stolen just before I forgot where I parked it.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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