The Consumer Electronics Show is better known for huge LCD TVs and outlandish displays, but the truth is there are actually a lot of great products there for truck people. Doubt us? There are GPS systems, tough netbooks and tablets, robots that will do work around the garage for you, and a lot more cool gadgets and gizmos at CES that make road trips, heavy hauling, and do-it-yourself work easier. More than 3,250 exhibitors will be on display at the Las Vegas Convention center. Here are some of the coolest products and tools that we found at this year's show.



Ford Announces App Developer Program

Ford Opens App Development to Global Tech Community

App development is the big theme among automakers at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Following the announcement of several new apps for its Sync AppLink system, including Aha, Glympse, Kaliki and BeCouply, Ford is launching a full-fledged open mobile app developer program that will allow developers to directly interface with the vehicles to create new apps.

One of the main objectives of the program will be to create more voice-controlled and audible apps that will reduce driver distraction from hand-held use of mobile devices while in the car. For potential developers that have an idea, but need technical assistance in developing an app, the company has designated Michigan-based jacAPPS as its recommended app development house. Although the initial thrust of the initiative will focus on the North American market, Ford will eventually go global with the Developer program, and showcased the Weibo mobile app in collaboration with Chinese software developer Sina, that will develop apps for the mainland China market and global Chinese communities.


General Motors Announces Flexible Application Framework for App Developers

GM Follows Model of Apple App Store for Development & Submission of New Apps

To say that mobile technology has had a disruptive effect on the auto industry would be an understatement. But rather than negative, this shift has mostly been positive, resulting in more choices, more flexibility and lower costs for the consumer. In a major shift from its former, proprietary strategy that often involved integration with its OnStar system, GM has announced a third-party app development framework that will allow third-party developers to develop and submit apps for GM cars.

In addition to apps that mirror mobile device functionality, GM says it will look at apps specifically related to vehicle functionality and ownership, such as apps that optimize driving efficiency or safety. GM foresees the development of a full-fledged app store for its vehicles that will allow them to continually upgrade the functionality and features of future vehicles. The initial apps showcased at the CES show were from iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker, and The Weather Channel. To encourage development and flexibility, the GM framework will support HTML5 and Java Script.


Audi Announces 4G Hotspot Capability, 3-D Sound Development

Audi, in collaboration with Qualcomm, officially unveiled a 2013 A3 with 4G LTE wireless connectivity. The system is powered by Qualcomm's second-generation Gobi multimode 3G/4G LTE chipset. The system is powerful enough to facilitate Internet radio, web services, enhanced navigation, an an in-car Wi-Fi hotspot that can simultaneously accommodate up to eight devices.

Although 4G technology and networks have been out for mobile devices for a few years now, built-in 4G connectivity is taking longer to migrate to cars, with even the ultra high-tech Tesla Model S still using 3G. The 4G option will likely be offered on future Audi models including its Q5 and Q7 crossovers.

Audi also announced its collaboration with famed Danish audio company Bang & Olufsen and German digital audio company Fraunhofer IIS, one of the early pioneers of the MP3 audio format, in developing a 3-D audio system. The system was previewed in a specially equipped Q7 at the show, which featured 23 speakers and individual channels and 1500 watts of power.

The two dashboard-mounted speakers in the system feature Bang & Olufsen's patented "acoustic lens" technology first showcased in the A8 flagship luxury sedan. The technology uniformly disperses high frequencies over 180 degrees while limiting vertical reflections.

As you'd expect, new lighting technology plays a prominent part in Audi's 2013 CES display. Audi Matrix LED headlights don't swivel to see around corners; the automaker says that individual diodes are switched off to accommodate where the most light is needed. To determine which parts of the LED lights should be illuminated, the car gets information from a camera, the navigation system, or other sensors. The lights can fade parts of the high-beam headlights to prevent from blinding oncoming traffic and the automaker says the high beams can rotate to illuminate a curve in the road before the driver has turned the wheel.

But you didn't think Audi would stop by just introducing new LED headlight technology, did you? Laser taillights should make quite an impression when they eventually hit production. The fan-shaped laser taillight shines slightly downward, showing a red line on the pavement. Audi is also experimenting with OLED tech for interior and exterior lighting. The OLEDs are composed of an organic material instead of most LEDs' semiconductor crystals.


Subaru Announces Starlink for 2014 Forester, Rolling Change For Other Models

In-car apps and connectivity are the hot topics at this year's CES show, and Subaru unveiled its new Starlink mobile app platform at this year's CES. Like with many other automakers at this year's show, Aha was the star app. The comprehensive media app gives audible output of content from multiple sources, including National Public Radio podcasts and live streaming, Rhapsody, audio books, TripAdvisor recommendations, Facebook and Twitter news feeds, and Yelp restaurant ratings and recommendations.

Subaru said it will add content partners and applications to the Starlink system over time. The platform will debut in the 2014 Forester SUV, and will be incorporated as a running change in 2013 Legacy and Outback models equipped with factory navigation. 2014 Impreza, BRZ and XV Crosstrek models will add Starlink integration this summer.


Clarion Debuts Smart Access Cloud System, Includes iHeart Radio, Waze Traffic, Other Apps

Although the car manufacturers got the lion's share of attention at this year's CES show for their app platforms, they were not the only ones to showcase in-car app integration. Clarion, one of the leader manufacturers for aftermarket audio head units, as well as a major OE supplier, showed off its own line of apps tied to its Smart Access cloud server.

Among the apps offered through Smart Access are iHeartRadio, Waze social-based traffic information, TuneIn radio, Pandora, as well as Clarion's in-house Tweet4car and DriveSuite4Car apps. Like Ford and GM, Clarion is working with third-party developers to broaden the number of apps available for its Smart Access-enabled head units.


Lexus, Toyota Announce HD Radio Traffic & Data

In what appears to be one of many potential threats to the satellite radio business model, Toyota and Lexus have announced that future Lexus and Toyota models will use iBiquity Digital Corp's HD radio technology for real-time traffic and weather services, utilizing mobile phone network information, as well as the enhanced digital HD radio signal to give updated traffic information. The service is a no-charge, subscription-free service. The system will utilize data from Clear Channel's Total Traffic Network (TTN) service.

The system will debut on the all-new 2014 Lexus IS that will be revealed next week at the 2013 Detroit auto show, and will roll out on other Lexus and Toyota models in the future.


Chevrolet MyLink Gives Access to 70,000 Stations Through TuneIn, Siri Eyes-Free Mode

In an effort to give its customers more value for less money, Chevrolet's new MyLink system on the Sonic and Spark concepts leverages more of the app and processing power of smartphones to provide users with entertainment and navigation options, rather than relying on having the capabilities built into the vehicle.

To highlight the capabilities of this new approach, Chevrolet kicked things off with TuneIn radio, an international streaming radio service that gives drivers access to more than 70,000 streaming stations around the world. MyLink also includes Pandora and Stitcher embedded apps. Also part of the MyLink system is Siri eyes-free mode allowing for hands-free commands through voice input. Users can make voice-activated calls, play songs from their iTunes library, switch music sources, and listen to or compose a text message to contacts. While in this mode, the display screen of the iPhone will not illuminate, keeping drivers' eyes focused on the road.

Finally, specific to the Spark and Sonic models, MyLink adds the BringGo navigation app that provides Google local search, 3-D maps, emergency information, and the ability to store map information locally to the user's mobile device, allowing for navigation even when mobile signal strength is low.

Delphi Connected Car Gives Drivers of Older Vehicles High-Tech Security Option

With all the news of in-car apps, streaming radio, and Facebook news feeds and Tweets delivered straight to your car, owners of older vehicles may feel left out in the rush to embrace new technology. Delphi, a major component supplier to the automotive industry, has come up with a way to give high-tech vehicle security options to drivers of vehicles going back as far as 1996.

It starts with a receiver module that plugs into the vehicle's OBD-II port. With the associated app, drivers can use their mobile phones as a virtual enhanced key fob to locate, unlock, receive alerts, and log mileage. The system can also provide vehicle diagnostic data. If you're locked out of your car and you're buried deep in an underground parking garage with no cellular service, once the receiver and mobile device have been paired over a Bluetooth connection, a cellular signal is not needed for the unlocking function. The app is available for Android 2.2 or later, and Apple iOS5 or later operating systems. The data services for the system and app are provided by Verizon Wireless.


Pioneer Showcases Multimedia Receivers, AppRadio, MixTrax Technology

GM, Ford and Subaru all talked about app development and integration at their 2013 CES press conferences, but where does that leave those of us who might not be able to afford a brand-new car, but still want to enjoy the benefits of advanced technology? Pioneer Electronics has stepped up to the plate with a line of single and double-DIN head units that incorporate many of the new features found on current and future new cars, as well as launching their own app developer initiative to add even more features and functions to those it already offers.

The only downside to going the aftermarket route, is that most of the apps require a physical wired connection between the mobile device and head unit via a proprietary cable. But considering the difference of about $600 (plus installation) versus $30,000 for a new car with the latest built-in gadgets, it seems a small sacrifice.

Among the apps supported by Pioneer's AppRadio platform include Aha, Inrix Traffic, Rdio, Pandora, Waze, Beej!, Glympse, Parkopedia, and iHeartAuto. The company's new line of AppRadio head units will be available through authorized retailers in March.

To showcase its new MixTrax technology, Pioneer had Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker's 1951 Chevrolet pickup in its booth. MixTrax is Pioneer's proprietary technology that allows users to insert virtual DJ transitions between songs, or add effects to music played through a portable digital music device or storage medium.



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