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Wednesday, 12 October 2011 06:00

Cadillac's Connected Car System Arrives in Style

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Cadillac's Connected Car System Arrives in Style

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — While Ford may be built tough, Cadillac is known best for one thing: Swagger.

So when the company finally debuted its long-awaited connected-car solution in its fleet of luxury sedans, we knew it would be with style.

Cut to “CUE,” Cadillac’s touch-based, in-dash entertainment control system announced on Oct. 12 at the CTIA mobile technology conference in San Diego. It’s essentially a marriage of style and automotive applied science, fit snugly into the dashboard of GM’s most upscale line of automobiles.

The premise is simple: CUE — or “Cadillac User Experience” — builds on the growing adoption of smartphones and tablets in the market, focusing the in-car dashboard electronics system on an 8-inch touch-based LCD interface. Application menu screens are stripped-down, minimalistic and navigable by swipe, as if you were browsing through the different panes of an iPad strapped to your car’s dashboard.

Cadillac strips down the typical cluttered dashboard electronic interface, reducing radio and entertainment controls to four physical buttons. All of the buttons are haptic-feedback enabled, which means you’ll feel a pulse of vibration to let you know that you’ve activated a button. The idea is that the driver spends less time fumbling with the dashboard controls, and more time paying attention to the road.

“We’ve seen things from competitors that are almost like you’ve got a typewriter in your car,” said executive director of interior design Dave Lyon in an interview. “It’s way too distracting.”

To cut down on visual distraction, the app menu screen remains mostly uncluttered when not being manipulated by the driver; a sliding menu bar is anchored to the bottom of the screen, while items like basic music track information may remain in view. When you move your hand toward CUE’s interface to change the station, sensors detect your approach and more icons appear on the screen.

Users can connect their smartphones and other Bluetooth or USB-connected devices into the car, integrating all of the music files from multiple sources into one place.

Cadillac's Connected Car System Arrives in Style

To be sure, Ford is the clear industry leader for in-car connectivity to peripheral devices. While GM led the charge in 1996 with the introduction of OnStar, Ford’s 2007 Sync system upended the automotive industry by allowing consumers to connect smartphones, mp3 players and other compatible devices to their cars via Bluetooth or USB. Last December, Ford added a voice control component to application launching with AppLink, which allows drivers to launch apps like Pandora and Stitcher by naming the desire app out loud.

CUE will also launch with the Pandora and Stitcher apps in tow, but the plan is to open the system up to interaction with more applications from third-party engineers. “We’re actively working with developers and major partners right now,” executive director of global information systems Micky Bly said in an interview. “We’re not announcing anything today, but there’s more to come on the horizon.” Our guess? Wait for CES 2012.

Like Ford, CUE will also rely on Nuance technology for voice recognition commands, though Cadillac says its software trumps that of its competitors. Instead of using a specific set of verbal instructions to command the applications, CUE will take its cues (so to speak) from contextual clues in your speech patterns.

“Anything you can imagine saying, say it,” GM lead systems engineer Mike Hichme said in an interview. “Natural language isn’t ‘yes or no.’ This uses the idea of topic spotting to identify what you’re saying.” Or, in more recent smartphone innovation parlance, think of it as Siri for your Caddy.

Don’t expect to see CUE in time for the holidays. Cadillac’s 2012 launch of the XTS, ATS and SRX sedans will be the first to come with the CUE system, with Escalades and other models to follow thereafter.

“Within 12 months, you’ll see this in every refreshed Cadillac we make,” Bly said.

Photos courtesy of Cadillac News

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