Car tech preview
Test-driving the car tech of 2007
By Kevin Massy
December 15, 2006
Car tech used to mean an AM radio and electric windows. Not anymore: the 2007 Consumer Electronics Show will see the unveiling of loads of aftermarket gadgets for those wanting to tech their rides.
In-car digital media continues to be a hot market, and we're expecting to see a lot of all-in-one multimedia receivers with the ability to handle everything from DVDs to MP3s to iPods. Jensen's MP6612i and VM9512 are examples of all-in-one aftermarket systems, while Alpine's iDA-X001 was designed with help from Apple to give iPod-wielding drivers an improved interface for streaming their digital audio. For those interested in downloading digital media to their cars, Vizualogic's VMOD entertainment system offers a 40GB hard drive to while away the minutes on the difficult drive home. Also poised to be a big in-car entertainment market in 2007 is HD radio, and Visteon will be displaying its HD Jump as one of the first examples of a dedicated plug-and-play HD radio receiver. And for those who can't leave home without TV, KVH's TracVision A7 Mobile Satellite TV System claims to be first receiver that enables motorists to tune in to live local TV channels from the car.
Along with in-car entertainment, navigation and communication systems are getting more sophisticated, and we're looking forward to getting our hands on the Dash Express, which promises to take digital wayfaring to a new level. Dash Express is the first portable navigation system to have built-in two-way connectivity (cellular and Wi-Fi), giving drivers access to a whole new world of information via the Internet and the network of other Dash-connected users. The unit's two-way connectivity enables it to display real-time traffic data, which comes from the network of other Dash drivers, while Web connectivity gives drivers a points-of-interest database as big as the Internet. Other new navigation systems at the show will include Panasonic's Strada CN-NV905UD, Car Systems' PEM943, and the Pioneer AVIC D3.
Bluetooth is the communications technology of the moment, and we are looking forward to testing out a new speakerphone from BlueAnt, as well as a couple of new Bluetooth hands-free kits from Parrot. Finally, safety is another growing area of the car tech market, and CES 2007 will see a new wireless rear-obstacle-sensing system from Audiovox, a wireless backup camera from Roadmaster, and much more.
Our initial impression: This in-dash car stereo brings in all the functions we would expect to see in a top-of-the-line head unit, then goes a little further. We expect such functions as Bluetooth cell phone integration, navigation, and media playback, which the AVIC Z-1 delivers. But its 30GB hard drive and Microsoft Windows Automotive operating system allow for refinement.
Our hands-on verdict: The Pioneer AVIC Z-1 is an impressive all-in-one aftermarket head unit. It incorporates most of today's in-car technology features, with the added bonus of a built-in 30GB hard drive enabling users to rip CDs to disc to create a mobile media library. Despite a few usability glitches, including the overly cautious requirement to activate the parking brake to program the navigation, it is a competitively priced all-in-one package for major cabin tech.