This year the automotive world really stepped it up when it comes to technological breakthroughs, especially when it came to connecting to drivers' personal mobile devices. What we've seen was everything from integration of mobile chipsets into automobile systems to wireless connectivity to smartphones from many of the top car and truck brands across the spectrum. Have a peek at some of the highlights in our 2012 run-down right this minute!
Note: the following set of vehicles and technology is in no particular order - the innovations we're seeing this year are essentially all groundbreaking as we're seeing the dawn of the mobile connectivity age in auto right before our eyes!
Audi A6: Google Maps, NVIDIA Tegra SoC, Bang and Olufsen audio
Back in January of this year we heard direct from Audi that they'd be teaming up with NVIDIA to bring the Tegra 3 quad-core mobile chipset to their automotive lineup. The Audi A6 took the opportunity to work with that processor and bust out a lovely touchscreen panel with 3D Google Earth views that the pilot is able to control on the fly. There's also a touchpad where you can write commands to the vehicle one letter at a time as well as voice controls for next-generation control.
This machine works with Bang & Olufsen audio to keep your beats strong, and Audi assures the user that they've got plans for upgradeable entertainment and graphics modules as well. Keep an eye on our Tegra Portal to see NVIDIA continue working to bring high-powered processing to the market!
Tesla Model S: the year's most infamous electric vehicle
The Tesla Model S has been in the news for months upon months now, gaining a spot up at the top of the "best of 2012" lists for auto publications galore here near the end of the year. This machine is the flagship of the Tesla fleet and works with a collection of massive battery options - have at its birth the longest range of any electric vehicle on the planet.
This machine works with a beastly 17-inch capacitive touch LCD display with built-in navigation (with seven years of free updates if you pick the right package) and connection to a high-definition rear-view camera. This machine is shifting the way we work with cars here in the now, an essential cog in the machine that drives us toward an all-electric vehicle set for humanity.
Fisker Karma: a lot of bad press for a radical plug-in hybrid luxury sports sedan
What we saw with the Fisker Karma this year was nothing short of a negative press nightmare with two major recalls, one starting in December of 2011 and reverberating through the press through 2012, the other logged in August of 2012. The first recall was for a battery fire risk caused by coolant leakage, the second was for a faulty cooling fan unit. Then there were several fires, one of them in May in Fort Bend County, Texas, another in August in Woodside, California. After a single vehicle model has more than a couple incidents with it such as these, the press tends to pick up even the most minor incident - the result was that this futuristic beast had a lot more "negative" visibility than it did positive in 2012.
On the other hand, Fisker hasn't fallen to the press. They're bringing on the Fisker Atlantic EV early in the year and a new $100 million dollar investment round in September. They've also got plans for a less expensive vehicle by the name of Fisker Atlantic which will be appearing no sooner than 2014.
BMW 3 Series and friends: packed tight with technological mainstays
The folks at BMW have brought on a fabulous mix of high-tech features to not just their 3 Series and X3 SUVs, but the BMW X1 Crossover [check out our full review here] as well, most notably with the iconic center control station you see in the photo below. BMW comes correct on more than one model this year with blind spot detection, heads-up displays, lane departure warnings, and both rear and side parking cameras so you'll never miss that rambunctious pet of yours.
BMW brings on adaptive cruise control, auto-high-beams, and internet integration with your center stack display - you'll want to pick up a brand new 3 Series or X3 SUV for every single one of these features should you pick up the right package. It's not going to come on cheap, but BMW created some of the most impressive packages the whole year long.
Ford Focus: an affordable line of forward-thinking vehicles for the whole family
The Ford Focus lineup includes several lovely little beasts pumped full of technological features, including the hatchback, the sedan, Focus ST with EcoBoost engine, C-Max station wagon / MPV coming in two iterations (hybrid and plug-in hybrid), and the fabulous Focus Electric. These vehicles each have their own fabulous feature high-marks like electric power-assist steering, iPod jacks, Bluetooth wireless connectivity to your smartphone, and parking sonar.
With Ford's parking sonar technology ties up with electric power-assist steering to bring on automated self-parking and brings on cross-traffic alerts as well. You can upgrade your Focus in several cases with on-screen navigation, and there's a bit of brand Ford brought forward that'll place a smile on the faces of parents everywhere: MyKey. With MyKey, parents are able to limit how fast a Focus can stop, the on/off and volume of the vehicle's audio system, and crash notifications via the web.
We also got a hands-on look at the AT&T-branded MyFord Mobile app for the 2012 Ford Focus Electric earlier this year that you're going to be able to have a peek at below. This app works on iOS and Android and allows you to jump right into the guts of your vehicle without even being in the same neighborhood - hot stuff!
Nissan Altima: it's got two display size options, sure, but it's really all about the tires
The Nissan Altima works with either a 5 or 7-inch display ready to work with your tunes and your backup camera. This display allows you to work with Pandora radio, Google-powered local destination alerts, text messages, and more - though for some of these items you'll need a connected smartphone. You've also got blind spot warnings, lane departure warnings, and moving object detection too. This machine also packs a simple AUX-in port that every modern vehicle should so you can connect your MP3 player or smartphone with a simple headphone-sized audio cord right out of the box.
The most instant-win technology you'll get on this line is Easy Fill. With the technology known as Easy Fill, you fill your tires up with air until the vehicle beeps once when you're near the correct pressure, then again when you're there. Extremely simple feature that we're certain most people would love to have.
Toyota Prius: a hero for the hybrid class gets a big tech upgrade
This year the Toyota Prius blasted forth once again with the new highest-mpg on the road along with the all-new Entune music and smartphone connectivity system. The Prius line carrying Entune works with your Entune account, your compatible smartphone connecting with the official Entune app and Bluetooth (or USB) with apps galore. Bing brings you local points of interest, as does OpenTable - dinner reservations too, Pandora and iheartradio bring on the runes, and MovieTickets.com allows you to pick up tickets for the next big blockbuster from your center console.
Google uses a Prius fleet for their driverless vehicle experiments and tests.
Entune also brings on local Fuel Prices, Stocks, Sports, Traffic, and Weather information too - and of course Entune isn't limited to the Prius, it's hit quite a few of Toyota's 2012 and 2013 models. The Prius line is coming forth with Bluetooth and USB jack standard from now through the foreseeable future, too, Toyota making such connections an expected feature in cars across the industry (so it is expected).
Hyundai Santa Fe Sport: geofencing, smartphone connectivity, and a massive display up front
Earlier this year we had a test drive of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and had a peek at its futuristic insides. This machine brings on an 8-inch color LCD touchscreen with full navigation integration. This vehicle's system includes Bluetooth connectivity to your smartphone for music streaming as well as an iPhone app for remote start, locking, and unlocking. You've also got the option to "geofence" this vehicle digitally, setting physical limits for where this vehicle can drive - drive too far and the whole vehicle shuts down.
2013 Cadillac ATS: with the Cadillac User Experience (CUE) in full effect
We had a close-up peek at the CUE in our 2013 Cadillac ATS Review - it was clear basically immediately that the high-quality interior on this machine was right in step with the competition, starting with its 8-inch capacitive touchscreen and running right through to USB and SD card compatibility. Have a peek at the hands-on video with CUE and feel the excellence in informatics and entertainment - Bluetooth connectivity with up to 10 devices included as well.
This machine works with physical buttons galore as well, pushing information to another 5.7-inch display in the instrument cluster and a heads-up display as well. The audio in this machine works with Bose technology, including a noise-cancellation system to reduce road and engine noise while you're jamming at high speed.
Kia Soul (Eclaim!): bringing the Microsoft UVO Infotainment System to the great outdoors
The Kia Soul comes in several different spec models, as many fine modern vehicles do: our Kia Soul Review from earlier this year went by the name !, or Exclaim! This machine brought on the Microsoft-powered "UVO Infotainment System." This system works with a 7-inch touchscreen in this case, bringing on Bluetooth stereo, USB and aux-in connections for your smartphone, and voice control. You can work with Sirius XM satellite radio right out the gate, and of course there's a back-up camera so you'll be in-line with governmental regulations for many years to come.
Mazda CX-5: with SKYACTIV, this machine may well be the best competition future-friendly electric batteries have
This machine takes on the hybrid and all-electric competition with Mazda's SKYACTIV technology, combining "weight reduction, efficiency improvement and design rethinking", as our Mazda CX-5 Review mentions right up front. This machine also works with three-stage heated front seats, rear-view mirror auto-dimming, and of course, a 5.8-inch LCD display. This display is touch friendly (provided you get the right package) as well as TomTom-powered GPS navigation.
Wireless connectivity with your smartphone is provided by Bluetooth and syncing allows you to access you contacts and make a call from the vehicle's touchscreen. There's a controller down by your parking break called the Multimedia Commander that you can use to scroll through selections on your touchscreen - or you can just use the generally OK voice command system via the dedicated activation button on the vehicle's steering wheel.
SlashGear will continue to be your source for the top technology coverage in automotive through the future with many more high-powered vehicle reviews to come in 2013. Be sure to check out our monstrous [Car Portal] to see the futuristic automobile segment from any angle you do so choose, top to bottom, and get pumped up about the connections you're about to make!