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GM's CUE System: A Revolutionary Next Step For Vehicle Interfaces? Page 2

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GM CUE interface - 2013 Cadillac XTS

GM CUE interface - 2013 Cadillac XTS

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One go-to point when you're juggling devices


But like MyFord Touch, CuE combines media connectivity, calling functions, and infotainment, with integrated navigation—including Bluetooth connectivity to up to ten devices. Up to ten smartphones can be paired via Bluetooth, and the system can interact with up to two simultaneously (sending a pre-formatted text reply from one while chatting on another, for instance). That's in addition to USB and SD interfaces.

“Consumers are juggling Blackberries, Androids, iPhones, and they're seeking an ever-greater level of integration and sophistication in the convenience and delivery of all that content,” said Cadillac VP Don Butler, in a keynote address at the CTIA conference in San Diego earlier this week, where CUE was introduced. “It's no surprise that they want that convenience extended into their vehicles, where they may spend hours every day.”

A step ahead of MyFord Touch, others

MyLincoln Touch - 2011 Lincoln MKX

MyLincoln Touch - 2011 Lincoln MKX

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Ford arguably made the first attempt to simplify and connect phones and media devices, with the introduction of its Sync interface about five years ago. MyLincoln Touch and MyFord Touch, introduced this past year, take that a big step forward with a high-contrast, screen-based interface—albeit without the fully capacitive touch screen, gesture recognition, and simplified menus of CUE.

BlueLink, offered in Hyundai models, is much like GM's OnStar and relies on operator assistance, and for some advanced tasks can actually operate as an advanced voice-activated voice agent. Lexus has also followed that path, including some concierge services in its Enform system.

General Motors was the first company to intersect the automotive and wireless industries in 1995, with the creation of OnStar (first offered in the Cadillac STS), originally a security and roadside security service that's grown into a suite of concierge features. GM sees OnStar continuing alongside CUE.

Meanwhile, Toyota's Entune is more like Ford's Sync, aimed at managing information and entertainment through connected devices. Then there are simpler interfaces, such as Mitsubishi's FUSE, that allow media control but with more rudimentary voice controls and a more basic interface.

German luxury automakers have largely resisted touch screens, and maintain different ways of accessing media and information. Audi's MMI interface is now perhaps the most advanced, offering a so-called MMI Touch pad that lets you trace individual characters, while BMW's iDrive and Mercedes-Benz's COMAND are both more intuitive than before but still rely heavily on your understanding (and memorization) of their sometimes-perplexing memory structures.

Are capacitative touch screens, like that featured in CUE, on the way for other such systems? You bet. But we also anticipate that not all automakers will migrate to them.

While the shape and format of interfaces farther off in the future will likely be subject to regulation or results of distraction studies, in the meantime it appears that automotive interfaces will be information hubs that collect information, media, and connectivity from our personal devices and combine them with screen and voice controls that might feel a bit familiar.

And that iPad-like familiarity might actually help keep more people focused on the real task at hand: driving.

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