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Friday
Nov182011

Coming Soon: An iPad in Your Car's Center Console?

Alex Stone/ABC News(LOS ANGELES) -- The next car you drive could have a major high-tech upgrade.

The big automakers are giving people a preview of the technological advances they have in the works at the Los Angeles Auto Show, which opened to the public on Friday.

While eco-friendly cars are still popular, they say consumer demand for high-tech vehicles is even bigger.

“They want voice activated controls and they want to be able to customize the interior of their car like they would their tablet device,” says Jim Farley, vice president of sales at Ford.

Ford, General Motors and Toyota have flashy new systems they hope will attract buyers.

At Cadillac, which is owned by GM, engineers have designed a new system called Cue that is equivalent to putting an Apple iPad into the center console of their vehicles.  Drivers can move from screen to screen with the slide of a finger, and the pinch and stretch features popular on the iPad can be used to move maps in the car navigation system.

“We’ve really taken the interface that people are used to using in their everyday consumer electronic products like tablets and brought that user experience into the automotive space,” Stuart Norris, the engineer behind Cadillac’s Cue System, told ABC News Radio.

Toyota’s new system for its cars, premiering in the Camry, will allow users to use their center console screen to make dinner reservations on Open Table or buy tickets.  Apps will be downloaded and available much like they are on an iPhone and stored on the computer system within the car.

At Ford, the automaker is updating its MyFordTouch system, which has been criticized recently by some drivers who have become more accustomed to newer systems for being hard to use or finicky.

“We’re making it simpler, faster to respond and easier to use,” explains Alan Hall, an engineer on MyFordTouch.  “It launches on the new 2013 Escape, and Edge, and Flex.”

Current owners won’t have to take their Ford to a dealer to get updated.  Instead, Ford will be mailing USB drives to current owners of their compatible vehicles so they can update their MyFordTouch system themselves.

There are critics who believe giving drivers too much information and access to services like the Internet while driving is not a good thing.  TrueCar Vice President Jesse Toprak says automakers are walking a very fine line right now of giving customers what they want without giving them too much, such that it will distract their attention from the road.

“How badly do you need to check your Facebook updates while you’re driving?  Can’t you wait until you get home?” asks Toprak.

He also sees the other side of the issue, and says if car companies don’t offer the technology in their vehicles, drivers will seek it out on their phones anyway.

Most of the new iPad-like systems will be launching in the 2013 model year vehicles.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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