One of the popular ideas in the Design Your Own 9-5 entry was the inclusion of USB ports in the car in order to connect electronic devices to the car, primarily music players.
There were problems noted with the idea, notably the possible need for drivers to run the devices and the possibility of obsolescence. To me, though, it sounds like a very good idea provided it can be done right.
Some of you will quite possibly already know this, but several cars from the Fiat Group are already running such a system. It was developed in conjunction with Microsoft and it’s called Blue&Me.
The press release about it from Alfa Romeo is below, and you can click here to see their little demo piece.
Fiat Auto will present Blue&MeTM based on Windows Mobile™ for Automotive as a world premiere, alongside executives from Microsoft’s Automotive Business Unit, at the Geneva Motorshow 2006 (February, 28).
This is the first step in the long-term strategic industrial partnership signed in July 2004 with the objective to co-design innovative automotive telematics systems.
Blue&MeTM changes the paradigms of communication and car infotainment. It is a new system, easy to use, accessible and competitive that makes all trips more comfortable and safe.
The system will exclusively be available on new Fiat, Lancia and Alfa Romeo cars as well as on Fiat Light Commercial Vehicles. Grande Punto, Alfa Romeo 159, 159 Sportwagon, Brera and Spider will be equipped this spring, soon to be followed by the other models of Fiat Auto’s product range.
Fiat Auto’s Blue&MeTM based on Windows MobileTM for Automotive relies on an open system which is always up-to-date, upgradeable, and flexible. It is content modular, and can be matched with a wide service offer.
Instead of costly and rigid hardware, Fiat Auto and Microsoft – with the support of Magneti Marelli – will offer a platform that can be adapted to most mobile phones, digital media players and other mobile devices. The customer is free to change them with new models without compromising compatibility with the car.
Blue&MeTM guarantees maximum security levels and user-friendliness. The voice-activated system, the complete integration of steering wheel control buttons and information on the dashboard display will allow users to utilize any Bluetooth ® based mobile phone – also if this is in a pocket or handbag – without removing hands from the steering wheel.
Thanks to a modern voice-recognition system, no preliminary voice training is needed, and even incoming SMS are visualized and read.
Among audio functions, it is possible to listen to preferred music stored on a mobile phone, in the newest smart phones, and in MP3 readers or USB removable sticks. All this thanks to a USB port, in the glove box, which enables the connection to any digital device with the correspondent port.
The collaboration between Fiat and Microsoft allows Blue&MeTM to be based on an open platform, compatible with the largest number of devices such as mobile phones, Palms and MP3 players, with the real benefit of continuously catching up with market innovations, thus maintaining the perfect integration with the car at an entry-level price.
A further short-term evolution will offer a particularly simple and interactive navigation system, and access to a set of services among which are a personal assistant to check addresses, weather and traffic forecasts, satellite localization in case of theft, SOS, and other services currently under development.
This photo, courtesy of Psycho Dave in comments, shows a somewhat cheeky version of what the interface might look like….occasionally