New car technologies will protect and entertain you

Apple's CarPlay highlights tech industry's growing interest in cars

New technologies are coming soon to a ride near you, banking on faster Internet LTE connections and powerful processors to both entertain and enhance safety.

The Geneva Motor Show this week will offer Apple a venue to show off its new CarPlay technology, which will make it easier for people to make calls, use Maps, listen to music and access messages on their iPhone while driving. Users can control CarPlay via their car's native interface or by pushing the voice control button on the steering wheel to activate Siri, according to Apple.

Vehicles from Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz and Volvo with CarPlay will be on display this week, while BMW, Ford, GM, Honda and Hyundai are planning to add the software down the road, according to Apple. CarPlay is available as an update to iOS 7 and works with Lightning-enabled iPhones, such as the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5, it said.

Here are three more advances to look out for in automotive tech:

Open Automotive Alliance Android integration

Apple isn't alone in wanting its OS to be used in cars. Earlier this year Google announced the formation of OAA (Open Automotive Alliance). Companies part of the push are Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia.

The aim is to improve integration between cars and Android devices. Google and its partners are also developing features that will enable the car to become a connected Android device, the company said in an FAQ published on the OAA website.

Google hasn't announced any details on timing beyond promising that something will become available before the end of the year. A good opportunity for the company to say more is at its I/O developer conference which starts on June 25.

Qualcomm Gobi 9x30 with LTE-Advanced

Fast modems are needed to give cars wireless connectivity, and Qualcomm is developing a new chipset that opens the door for using LTE-Advanced. The Gobi 9x30 implements a technology called carrier aggregation to reach a theoretical top speed of 300Mbps (bits per second).

Carrier aggregation allows networks to devote more resources to some users by treating two or more channels in the same or different frequency bands as if they were one. Two channels with 20MHz channels each are needed to reach 300Mbps, but operators are expected implement 20MHz plus 10MHz or two times 10MHz before then, to get download speeds of up to 225Mbps or 150Mbps.

The Gobi modem is available in small volumes to potential customers, according to Qualcomm. But the company hasn't said when the first cars with LTE-Advanced would arrive.

Nvidia Tegra K1

Having a fast and easy-to-use Internet connection is all well and good. But the cars need to be able to handle cool applications and content, as well, which is where the Nvidia's Tegra K1 comes in.

Nvidia wants to see the processor used in smartphones, tablets and cars. The first version uses a quad-core processor based on the latest version of ARM's Cortex A15 CPU. It has four main processors running at up to 2.3GHz and a fifth power-optimized core to handle low performance tasks and help decrease power consumption, something that's important as car makers work to improve fuel economy.

With the K1, Nvidia is putting an emphasis on improved gaming, but the processor is powerful enough to handle so-called advanced driver assistance systems such as pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and street sign recognition. The K1 will also lay the groundwork for self-driving cars, according to Nvidia.

The first devices powered by the processor are expected to arrive during the first half of the year, Nvidia.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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Mikael Ricknäs

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