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Harman Microsoft CES 2016

CES 2016: Harman and Microsoft will bring Office to cars

Harman Microsoft CES 2016Harman and Microsoft are to work together on bringing products such as Microsoft Office 365 into tomorrow’s connected cars to make them more productive, convenient and useful.

A first for Microsoft, the collaboration with Harman announced at CES 2016 aims to make Office 365 products accessible on the move so drivers can work safely while an autonomous car drives itself.

No longer will commuting time be wasted time.

Potential tasks Harman Connected Car Systems and Microsoft Productivity Services want to bring into the car include:

  • Responding to emails
  • Managing events
  • Scheduling meetings
  • Joining conference calls
  • Holding Skype calls

The two tech firms will work on existing cloud-based products and technologies, but also look to create all-new in-car productivity tools.

“Bringing the power of Office 365 into Harman’s connected car systems will provide new productivity solutions and transform the driving experience,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of business development, Microsoft.

“By ensuring that Office 365 services are seamlessly integrated with car and driver telematics and performance data, we will allow consumers to be more productive during their driving hours, while enjoying far greater convenience, safety and reliability.”

Phil Eyler, president, Harman Connected Car, added: “Drivers want an immersive, and personalised experience in the car. Increasingly, that includes strong demands for richer productivity.

“This collaboration will bring these functionalities to market with, importantly, great reliability, security and minimal driver distraction.”

Ford SYNC 3 Apple CarPlay

CES 2016: Ford Sync gets Apple CarPlay, Android Auto at last

Ford SYNC 3 Apple CarPlayFord has finally installed Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into the latest version of its in-car infotainment system, Sync 3.

It’s a big deal. Ford says there are over 15 million Sync-equipped cars on the road. By 2020, there will be a staggering 43 million.

The long-awaited announcement at CES 2016 thus at last will allow Ford drivers to control their Apple and Android smartphone apps through the colour Sync touchscreen.

It means smartphone maps, messages, music and phone can all be controlled via the car – and it should also offer in-car access to additional apps such as Spotify.

The interface mirrors the smartphone’s too.

Rolling out this year on 2017 cars, for now it’s only on the latest Sync 3 system currently on sale in the United States: Europe still uses the older, fiddlier Sync 2 system.

Wait for a possible announcement at next month’s Worldwide Mobile Congress in Spain on that, hinted a spokesman…

Sync apps

Ford’s also launching a suite of apps for Sync 3, via a new Sync AppLink system.

In the US, this links to apps such as Eventseeker, which hunts down events that fit a user’s preassigned profile as they drive. Another app tracks fuel prices and plans a route to the cheapest.

Similarly smart apps are expected for European owners when the system is launched.

Ford’s proud of the Sync system, which it launched in 2007 as “the industry’s first system to widely and most affordably offer voice-activated technology to control smartphones”.

It’s grown and been honed a lot since then. And at last, now more fully links with the world’s two most widely used smartphone platforms.

Faraday Future

Faraday Future’s Tesla-rivalling electric car is coming to CES 2016

Faraday FutureFaraday Future, a startup car company backed by Chinese internet billionaire Jia Yueting, will reveal a bold new concept car at CES 2016 this week with which it aims to challenge Tesla and the rest of the ‘traditional’ car industry.

And not only will the secretive new Faraday concept car be revealed in Las Vegas’ tech show extravaganza, it will also be built there – in a new $1 billion factory north of the city eventually creating 4,500 jobs.


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Very little is known about the car at the moment, other than it will be fully electric with “smart and seamless connectivity to the outside world”.

Faraday also revealed a teaser image, suggesting it will be a larger, executive-sized car, rather than a roadster or city car.

So who’s creating it? Currently, a team that includes big names from other car companies, including Nick Sampson, Tesla’s former chassis engineering director, and Richard Kim who was the lead designer for BMW’s i3 and i8 concepts. Faraday claims to have more than 400 employees (it hoped to have hit 500 by the end of 2015).

Unlike traditional car companies, reckons Faraday, its cars will place “equal emphasis on automotive and technology disciplines”. This means the cars will be user-centric and technology first, rather than traditional cars that have had technology added in.

“If we could forget everything we know about cars, would we invent the same car industry we have today?” poses the firm in its trailer video.

“What would happen if we just started clean?” At CES 2016 this week, we’ll find out what indeed may happen.

BMW CES 2016 AirTouch

BMW to show AirTouch contactless tech at CES 2016

BMW CES 2016 AirTouchBMW will reveal a new forward-looking Vision Car concept at CES 2016 that debuts new contactless touchscreen technology it’s calling AirTouch.

This allows screens to be operated in the same way as a touchscreen – without actually having to touch the screen.

A step on from the Gesture Control seen in the new BMW 7 Series (first previewed at CES 2015), AirTouch uses sensors in the dashboard that, BMW says, permit three-dimensional control.

“A movement of the hand or a gesture activates the surfaces on the large panorama display,” explains the firm – and in the teaser image above, suggests this will be an extra infotainment screen mounted on the passenger side of the dashboard. It’s in addition to the familiar driver-focused central iDrive screen.

AirTouch appears to get round the slightly awkward situation of today’s infotainment tech being based around touchscreens… but BMW’s interiors not being optimised for them.

The brand appears unwilling to change its interior architecture to put the screens within reach of hands: AirTouch instead allows touch-style control without spoiling its design philosophy.

It’s not completely touch-free either. BMW says the Vision Car has a small button on the left rim of the steering wheel, and an additional one on the passenger sill. Both allow inputs to be confirmed.

BMW will reveal more about AirTouch in its CES 2016 showcase next week in Las Vegas. The firm is already hinting that this new tech will be just a small part of the forward-looking tech extravaganza coming to its new Vision Car concept…

How to master the road with a smartphone

How to master the road with a smartphone

How to master the road with a smartphoneThe road can be a difficult place to be. However, aimed with nothing more than a smartphone, you can overcome everything from traffic jams to inconsiderate drivers, and a lot of the apps and tools you need are free to get hold of as well.

Just don’t forget that it’s illegal to operate a smartphone when you’re driving, won’t you…

Tell Google your plans

How to master the road with a smartphone

If you’re using the free Google Now app on Android or iOS, make sure the linked Google Calendar tool includes specific locations for all the places you’re trying to get to during the day — Google’s digital assistant will warn you ahead of time when you need to set off and if there’s a traffic jam on the way.

You can then tap through to get directions to wherever it is you’re heading off to.

Get crowd-sourced information

How to master the road with a smartphone

Waze for Android and iOS is one of the best sat nav apps out there at the moment, and what makes it special is the community aspect of the app.

Any Waze user can report a traffic jam, an accident, a set of roadworks, a police car, a speed camera, a flooded road or anything else you might want to know about. You can of course do your bit for the cause as well, and all the usual sat nav features are included too.

Check in with the RAC (or AA)

How to master the road with a smartphone

The apps offered by the RAC (Android, iOS) and AA (Android, iOS) can do more than summon roadside assistance when you need it.

The apps include up-to-date traffic news, route planners to find the quickest way from A to B, special offers you can take advantage of while on the road, and of course a quick way of signing up for a membership, if you think the price of cover is worth it.

Get a heads up about delays

How to master the road with a smartphone

There are several apps that can warn you about upcoming delays, but we like the clean and clear look of Live Traffic Info (for Android and iOS) — you can even plug into some live Highways Agency traffic cams if you want to check just how clear the road ahead is. I

t only covers motorways and major A roads in England, but this is where most problems crop up, and roadworks and accidents are both covered.

Record the road

How to master the road with a smartphone

You don’t necessarily have to fork out on a dashcam device for your car, because an app like CamOnRoad (Android, iOS) can do the same job for you, silently recording everything that happens while you drive and potentially getting you out of a sticky insurance claim situation.

It also offers video navigation functionality and automatic alerts for various problems you might come across during your journey.

Understand your car’s diagnostics

How to master the road with a smartphone

Dash (Android, iOS) is an app that can give you a detailed breakdown of the health of your car and help you improve your driving at the same time.

Using a small Bluetooth device plugged straight into car’s diagnostic port (most cars made in the last decade or two are supported), you can get information on everything from the temperature of the engine to how many miles per gallon you’re currently getting.

Let people know where you are

How to master the road with a smartphone

IFTTT (known as just IF on Android and iOS) stands for If This Then That and lets you create ‘recipes’ that connect services together: each recipe has a trigger and a resulting action.

One of those triggers can be your smartphone’s location, and another can be sending a text (or email) to say how far away you are. It’s well worth exploring the many different channels on offer and creating your own recipes.

Keep going without a data signal

How to master the road with a smartphone

TomTom’s apps for Android and iOS don’t exactly come cheap (the former offers in-app purchases rather than an up-front fee) but if you can stomach the price of admission then there are plenty of features to play around with.

One of those is the excellent offline mode — by downloading the maps you need in advance, the TomTom app can continue getting you to your destination even in the middle of nowhere.

Spot speed cameras in advance

How to master the road with a smartphone

Another of the features you might find useful while tootling around with TomTom’s app is the speed camera warning function — it gives you a fair heads-up when you’re approaching one so you can double-check that your speed is what it should be.

Remember to factor in the money saved on speeding fines when you’re wondering whether you should pay up for the full TomTom experience on your smartphone.

Organise your saved places

How to master the road with a smartphone

Having locations bookmarked in advance can save you a lot of screen tapping time when you’re on the road, and Here Maps (Android, iOS) has a better system than most, because it lets you organise your starred or saved places into categories.

They’re called collections, and you could have one collection for business use, one for your favourite ice cream shops, one for hotels you regularly use, and so on.

Keep an eye on the speed limit

How to master the road with a smartphone

Another of the benefits that Here Maps brings is a constant reminder of the speed limit for the road you’re currently driving down.

It’s not a feature that’s exclusive to this app but it’s one that you won’t find everywhere (Google Maps and Apple Maps don’t yet have it) — if you’re approaching a speed camera then being able to see the limit with a quick glance at the screen can prove very useful.

Take the scenic route

How to master the road with a smartphone

You don’t always want to be bombing it down the motorway to reach your destination in the fastest time possible, and Google Maps for Android and iOS (like many other sat nav apps) lets you avoid motorways if you want to — just tap on the Options button once you’ve searched for a particular route.

You also get the option to avoid toll roads and avoid routes that include ferry crossings if necessary.

Switch routes on the fly

How to master the road with a smartphone

As you make your way to your destination, Google Maps automatically keeps an eye on the traffic up ahead — if an alternative route becomes faster, the app tells you about it, and gives you the option to change course with a tap on the screen.

You might also see alternative routes mapped out in grey on the map, together with how much extra time they’ll take, and again you can tap to switch.

Hear yourself think

How to master the road with a smartphone

If you’re an iPhone user who prefers making use of Apple Maps rather than any third-party alternative, again there are a number of handy features to take advantage of: traffic conditions and incidents are shown on screen by default, for example.

Head into the Maps section of Settings and you can adjust the volume of the spoken directions in relation to other audio (such as music or podcasts).

Preview your journey

How to master the road with a smartphone

Back in the old days, you had to work out a journey on a map in advance — while it wasn’t as convenient as the sat nav apps of today, it gave you a better understanding of your route.

In Apple Maps you can tap on the list icon after finding a route to see all the steps involved and the turns you need to take: you could even scout out difficult junctions in advance using Google Street View or something similar.

JLR InControl JustDrive

JLR ‘will be leader in car infotainment within 3 years’

JLR InControl JustDriveJaguar Land Rover’s in-car infotainment technology will become the automotive industry benchmark within three years, engineering director Dr Wolfgang Ziebart has predicted.  Read more