Auto Electronics

TRG survey finds connectivity vital; hands-free phone a must-have

Bluetooth connections for hands-free phone operation, navigation, and support for digital music devices will be available as standard or optional equipment on the majority of 2008 models according to a recent survey by the Telematics Research Group.

TRG’s survey of 100 2008 models shows nearly 70% of models for sale in North America will offer a voice-activated Bluetooth interface for hands-free phone operation. “Hands-free phone operation with voice recognition is becoming a must have in all segments of the auto industry,” says TRG co-founder and principal analyst Phil Magney.

He added that about 80% of announced MY08 models offer navigation as standard or optional equipment. “This is driven largely by the increasing popularity of portable navigation. OEMs are stacking their navigation systems with additional features that differentiate them from portable navigation devices (PNDs)--feature-rich infotainment solutions that support navigation, camera park assist, Bluetooth hands-free, digital radio, real-time traffic, and music server capability.”

“Connectivity with portable music players is becoming another must have technology,” said Magney. According to TRG’s Technology Availability Index, direct to iPod, auxiliary input, and flash memory interfaces are on most new models with 49%, 90% and 20% availability respectively.

TRG also reports that nearly 60% of MY08 vehicles will offer ultrasonic park assist as standard or optional equipment. Camera-based park assist (using the navigation screen) will be available on 30% of MY08 vehicles. While still in early phase deployment, blind-spot detection will be offered on 4% of MY08 cars. “The cost benefit for safety technologies using sensor technologies is overwhelmingly favorable,” said Magney, who predicts both technologies will be as common as side curtain airbags in a few years.

According to TRG’s Technology Availability Index, the 2008 BMW 5-series is the most technologically advanced vehicle in world, edging out the Lexus LS-460, the leader for the ’07 model year. Chief among its high-tech features are active cruise control with stop-and-go function, camera-based lane departure warning (LDW), night vision, and head up display (HUD).

“BMW has pioneered many new technologies,” said Magney. “They made a bold move with their iDrive controller, introduced five years ago. Now the iDrive is offered on nearly all BMW models while competitive luxury brands have followed suit.”

The TRG Technology Availability Index is based on 32 high-tech criteria of which the new 5-series offers 28. A chart is available at www.telematicsresearch.com/imageArchive/MY07_ vs_MY08.JPG.
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