Lifestyle Technosavvy the April 2015 issue

Tech Briefing

From Sedan to Salon: A Living Room on Wheels
By Michael Fitzpatrick Posted on March 25, 2015

Auto technology has moved into the fast lane. Some key developments include integrating smartphones with our cars, all-digital dashboards that eliminate the physical controls, “adaptive cruise control” that assists in braking and steering and, of course, cars that just do it all. The full range of new automotive technology was on display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Apple’s CarPlay puts the smartphone’s apps on a car’s built-in display and works with voice, touch and even the car’s own controls. Google is headed in the same direction with Android Auto. As for automakers, Ford has introduced its upgraded, easier-to-use Sync 3 communication and entertainment system, and GM is enhancing its OnStar system to alert drivers when parts are wearing out and to provide tips and special offers for places to shop, eat or stay. OnStar will also evaluate your driving if you like.

The days are numbered for dashboard knobs and dials. Volkswagen showed off gesture control capabilities to adjust climate controls as well as headlights, windows and sunroofs in its Golf R Touch. The automaker also unveiled a “trained parking” system that enables your car to park itself at home. BMW demonstrated its i3 electric car that can hunt down a parking spot and park itself. Just get out and tap the smartwatch control.

After putting parking valets out of work, the next step for cars is to take over all of the driving.

Automotive supplier Valeo unveiled its “Cruise4U” technology that helps drivers not only keep a steady speed but also brake, accelerate and steer in stop-and-go traffic or on open highways. An Audi A7 prototype drove itself more than 560 miles from California to Las Vegas, but the car still turns control over to humans when things get too busy. For city streets, auto supplier Delphi and software firm Ottomatika showed off an Audi SUV that drove itself around Las Vegas.

The ultimate in self-driving autos came from Mercedes Benz. Its F 015 Luxury in Motion fuel-cell-powered concept car was like a living room on wheels with a plush interior and seats that swivel and can face each other. You don’t have to watch the road, but there is a steering wheel should you feel the need. 

Cool Apps

Emoji!

If you find yourself typing everything twice because you’ve got clumsy fingers or if you’d just rather have a more elegant keyboard for your smartphone, you’ve got choices. Here are some keyboard apps for Apple and Android to make typing words and adding emoticons easier.

SwiftKey is a smart keyboard that learns from you and adapts to the way you type with more powerful next-word prediction and autocorrect as well as hundreds of emoji.

If you want more images with your words, Fleksy ($1-$2) may be the choice. The app lets you customize your keyboard and add GIFs and emojis. You can insert punctuation and edit with just a swipe of your finger.

As its name suggests, Swype ($1) lets you trace a finger across a keyboard to quickly form words rather than hammering them out letter by letter. 

If you’re multilingual and want a keyboard that supports all your languages, check out MultiLing (Android).

Michael Fitzpatrick Technology Editor Read More

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