Companies Take Technology on the Road
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
On some vehicles, electronics now make up as much as 20 percent of the sticker price. Computers control everything from your engine to your radio. Now companies are hoping that your vehicle will become yet another place where you can check e-mail or watch satellite TV. Paul Eisenstein, publisher of TheCarConnection.com and a regular guest on this program, says you are about to be very connected on the road.
PAUL EISENSTEIN (TheCarConnection.com): The next step is all sorts of very high-tech infotainment connecting you with the Internet, for example, connecting the car to that portable Bluetooth-equipped phone that you have in your pocket.
INSKEEP: And if you get tired of speaking on the phone or checking e-mail, you'll be able to watch TV. General Motors will soon offer DirecTV in its cars beamed in to a disk-shaped antenna, and antenna so big currently that it can only fit on the roof of a Cadillac or a big SUV. The in-vehicle television is designed to be watched by the passengers, but Eisenstein says some drivers have been illegally installing TVs in their steering wheels to take the boredom out of sitting in traffic.
EISENSTEIN: One of the very popular after-market items right now is a monitor that can replace the air bag in your steering wheel, quite illegal, and the police are sometimes impounding vehicles when they find that you have made that substitution.
INSKEEP: Other technology may make driving less dangerous. Automakers have come out with electronic improvement in their safety systems, and Eisenstein says a new Lexus model improves on a feature that can sense when you're about to crash.
EISENSTEIN: You are surrounding your car, if you will, in a microwave cocoon that is watching for the possibility of a collision, and if it senses you are about to hit somebody or be hit by another car, it may take steps such as sitting your seat up straight and tightening your seat belts.
INSKEEP: OK. So even as they work to develop markets for all kinds of technology that may distract you from the road, companies are also developing markets for even more technology to keep you from crashing.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
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