Interesting move by Infiniti.
Not necessarily smart--but interesting. The new 2007 G Sedan
will apparently have an audio system that can rip CDs to an internal 9.5GB hard drive, making it the first production car to be so equipped. Details are scarce regarding codecs and file format, but that drive could hold up to 125 CDs' worth of music on the high end. It still doesn't make sense, though. Consumers don't want to manage yet a third
set of their favorite tunes; we already have a set on our PC and another on our MP3 player. What we need is wireless in cars to access our lockers à la Rhapsody and Napster and use that little hard drive as a cache for when the signal is spotty.
Speaking of which, Samsung just announced
it will build the first commercial mobile WiMAX network in North America--in Muskegon County, Michigan, of all places--early next year. Among the benefits will be hot zones,
which are much larger than hot spots and could be a revolutionary way for cars to access a broadband Net connection while moving. Even if you never use WiMAX in a car, you'll be glad it's there as a competitive market alternative to keep wireless carriers honest as they pitch us 3G cellular for car connectivity.
Another dumb move. Kia isn't making a lot of them these days, but it joined a number of carmakers in making this one: Sirius will be the only form of satellite radio factory-installed in Kia cars. That's a tidy little disincentive to Kia ownership for the 6 million-plus XM devotees who don't want to hang a kludgey aftermarket adapter on their dash. Going even further, this deal requires Kia to make Sirius a standard feature in all its cars, starting with the 2009 models. Hmm, either Kia has some unannounced plans to sharply upscale its demographics in the next two years or someone is doing some seriously wishful thinking. Sat radio is at the high end of its sector, while Kia is at the low end of its segment.
Oh please, God, just one last crank. Everyone's pious when their battery is dead. You get in your car, turn the key, and hear nothing but the flutter of a starter solenoid. Your battery is just about dead, with enough power to flip a relay but not enough to crank the motor. It's going to be a long day. The newish gadget Battery Brain monitors your car's battery, and if it gets close to being dead, Battery Brain disconnects it while it still has one start left. It's a little electronic box you attach in-line on the positive terminal of your battery. It's useful for cars you don't drive a lot or for when you leave the headlights on. Ironically, Battery Brain creates its own headache, since disconnecting it may make your car stereo think it's been stolen. Keep that radio code handy if you buy this thing.
Job with no future: radio traffic reporter. XM, Clear Channel, and now, CBS Radio all offer live-traffic data services for display on navigation devices and/or PDAs. No amount of "traffic on the 10s" can compare to getting a live display of conditions where you're headed on demand. CBS Radio is the latest to put such feeds on its radio transmitters, using the RDS subchannel that is typically used (and sloppily, in most cases) to show artist and track title.
Are you in favor of any of the decisions made by Infiniti, BMW, or Kia?
Where is that drunk little speeder? Let's be honest--that's the question on millions of parents' minds every Friday and Saturday night across this country as their kids take the car and head out with their friends to "go to the movies." You know they're actually out living a blend of The Fast and the Furious and Less Than Zero, but where? Here comes your answer in the form of the cheerily named Sprint Family Locator, which lets you use a phone or a PC to locate your kid on a map right down to an address and surrounding landmarks. It's all based on your kid carrying one of 30 GPS-enabled Sprint phones--and not turning it off (most kids consider that to be unbearable, so there's nothing to worry about). The downside: The kid gets a text message each time you plot their location, "ensuring open communication." (Does Dr. Phil moonlight by writing these press releases?) This little NSA-in-your-pocket costs $9.99 a month to snoop on up to four phones.
Now that's the ultimate driving machine. BMW is done making bigger engines and will rely solely on technology to make its cars more powerful, according to an interview published in Automotive News. Turbos, adaptive valve trains, and smarter engine software--and not more cubic inches--will be the source of all future BMW brawn. In fact, 2007 BMWs delivered in Europe will all have engine-stop technology, which turns off the motor when you come to a stop--a whimsically green feature on a car such as a snarling M5. I take this as evidence that we have finally turned the corner toward smart cars for people who actually like cars. (Gives me faith that one day, SUVs will be purchased only by people who go off-roading.)
Saab is Swedish for sad. That's all I could think as I test-drove the Saab 9-5 a few days ago. I recall pre-GM Saabs having a rather BMW-esque ride to them, sort of a supple tautness. And their design is chic in an austere way that reminds me of a home with really good Scandinavian furniture. This car just feels springy, and the interior looks cheap. And the goofy Saab quirks aren't charming anymore: Why is the ignition on the floor? That's where I'm going to spill my coffee. Why can't I remove the key unless the car is in reverse? Why is there a button to black out everything but the speedometer at night? Why does that radio look suspiciously like the one in the Chevy Impala I rented last month?