WOODCLIFF LAKE, NEW JERSEY -- I’m as hyped up by infotainment systems and the possibilities of accessing the world’s media from the driver’s seat as the next guy. I love running Amazon Cloud player on my cellphone and jacking into the 95,000 songs I’ve placed in the ether. And I’m always glad to hear what the companies are planning.
Just ahead of the New York International Auto Show, BMW offered a peek into its plans for car-based entertainment, not to mention some apps that will turn the back seat into a mobile office. Honda showed a smartphone app that it said could steer you clear of traffic jams, and Nissan unveiled an energy-efficient Bose stereo for electric cars.
One of the coolest things BMW displayed was the plug-in 4G LTE hotspot adapter, which allows up to four devices to get online in the car. BMW is not the first to go this route—both Ford and Audi have Wi-Fi options, and I once posted a story to MNN from the backseat on an in-motion A8. But BMW is claiming its device is faster able to deliver information at LTE data speeds.
I love this, from CNET, “The adapter includes an eight-digit connection code, preventing other drivers from tailgating so as to leach off the hotspot while on the road.” Can you imagine even thinking of that, let alone trying to execute it at highway speeds?
The adapter hooks up to the BMW’s external antenna, which gives it a pretty good signal—though the effective range is only about 10 feet. It comes with a 30-minute internal battery, so you can snap it out of the built-in holder and run it at your campground—if getting away from it all isn’t really what you’re after. It can also run on wall power, and recharge via USB.
There’s no pricing yet, and the device should be available sometime later this year, BMW said. They haven’t worked out billing yet—it could be hooked in to your family data plan.
BMW is also partnering with Rhapsody, a subscription-based music service ($10 a month) with 16 million songs. Also with MOG, another music service (similarly, $10 a month), which actually lets you download songs but takes them away when your subscription lapses. Frankly, they all have 16 million songs, and it’s getting a bit hard to tell them apart. When the companies work together, you get improved usability at the head end—album cover art, ability to use voice commands and move easily through albums, that kind of thing. But even without a partnership, Bluetooth lets you use most existing services with phone apps.
Another very interesting car-based app BMW loves is Glympse, which is all about location sharing. Say you’re meeting someone for lunch, and you’re late. Your date can connect with you and track your progress, so they’ll know just when to put in that order.
There’s so much happening with infotainment. Just before the New York International Auto Show, I stopped in with Nissan, which was showing off the new made-in-Tennessee Leaf. The car has a number of improvements designed to make it more energy efficient, and thus have greater range (the holy grail of all electric cars).
Would you believe a Bose audio system (in SL and SV Leafs) with a 50 percent reduction in energy use? Admittedly, the stereo is not the biggest use of power in electric cars, but every little bit helps. John Pelliccio of Bose gave me a demonstration, showing how a battery powered conventional radio (as in the Nissan Leaf) ran down far before the Leaf’s system, which also uses smaller tweeters and a compact woofer. That's the demo above.
I’m sure I’ll see many other wonders at the Auto Show this week, but the pre-show was pretty good, too.