Slideshow: Car Tech at CES

Car tech at CES used to mean big boom boxes and bigger boom boxes, but these days it's all about TV, GPS, and communicating digitally without removing your hands from the steering wheel.

Sync: The Sequel

Microsoft's Sync technology (which appears in some Ford vehicles) is getting new features on top of its existing music player and hands-free phone capabilities. The next version, which will be available starting this spring, will provide turn-by-turn driving directions, personalized traffic reports, and news, weather and sports updates--all in response to a driver's voice requests (relayed to Microsoft TellMe servers via Bluetooth-connected cell phone).

The new version of Sync will be available in nearly all 2010 Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury models, and Ford says the services will be provided free of charge for three years with the purchase of a new Sync-enabled vehicle. Existing Sync customers are out of luck since older versions will not be upgradable.

Read more about the latest Sync and Ford's vision for the connected cockpit in the company's news release.

Back-Seat TV for Well-Heeled Couch Potatoes

The next status symbol for the road-trip crowd: AT&T Cruisecast, the most sophisticated rear-seat TV delivery system to date. Due this spring, it's a satellite TV system that at launch is expected to deliver 22 channels of TV and 20 of satellite radio to vehicles equipped with a receiver roughly a foot square. Setup cost is pegged at $1299, while monthly service fees will run $28.

Back-Seat TV for More Budget-Conscious Travelers

Can't afford Cruisecast? Maybe MediaFlo will do. This is the service that broadcasts on UHF channels and is available on some AT&T and Verizon Wireless cell phones. Channel selection isn't as huge, but setup is expected to run about $500. Monthly fees haven't been announced but the phone services run about $15. The photo shows an actual installation that was on the CES show room floor.

Putting ATSC DTV Into Cars

A number of vendors were showing off entertainment system prototypes (such as the one by Visteon shown here) based on the new ATSC Mobile DTV standard candidate announced last month. The Mobile DTV standard not only supports in-car reception of over-the-air DTV signals, it provides a framework for additional services to be delivered via the Internet.

Entertainment Meets GPS in Eclipse AVN Models

For those who want to have their GPS and their sophisticated audio and video too, new AVN (for Audio, Video and Navigation) in-dash models from Eclipse are suitably droolworthy, capable of playing DVDs, CDs, and digital audio from iPods and other sources. The $850 AVN4430 features a detachable TomTom GPS unit that you can use in another car without removing the rest of the entertainment system/hands-free Bluetooth phone kit; the AVN726E (due in April, no price announced) will have a 7-inch high-def screen.

Pioneer's Tag-and-Bag Radio

Any number of car audio systems at CES offer support for iPods and HD and satellite radio. A lot now let you tag songs you hear on HD radio for later purchase on iTunes. But the Pioneer DEH-P710BT is the first to let you also tag songs you hear on good ol' FM radio (or at least the more than 450 stations that support RDS, the technology that lets FM stations send text info along with their regular music signals). The DEH-P710BT will set you back $360.

TomTom Gets Better Connected

TomTom is joining the connected GPS crowd with the Go 740, which comes with a built-in SIM card and a year's worth of free connected services (cheapest fuel prices, map and point of interest database updates, etc.) included in the $499 purchase price. Due this spring, it will have a 4.3-inch touch screen and TomTom's always elegant interface. Sadly missing: Support for user destination data entry via the Web.

Garmin Updates High-End Nuvi Line

Garmin's CES announcements included the $800 Nuvi 885T, with speech recognition, lane assist (detailed guidance on freeways) with junction view, and Doppler weather maps and flight status information on top of existing MSN Direct content (traffic, movie schedules, gas prices, basic weather, local events, stock quotes, news, and support for Web data entry). MSN Direct uses radio airwaves to deliver data to a range of devices. Also available: the $700 Nuvi 855, which has the same on-board features but lacks Bluetooth and MSN Direct support.

Garmin Introduces Fuel Price-Based Route Calculation

Among Garmin's latest GPS technology innovations: route calculation based on fuel cost. The new EcoRoute feature can be added to Nuvi 205 and 705 models.

Mio Moov 700S: Affordable Big-Screen GPS

You don't have to pay a fortune to get a GPS navigation system that's easy on the eyes. Mio Technology's redesigned line of personal navigation devices includes the Mio Moov 700s, which sports a 7-inch touchscreen display for a very reasonable $300. Other features you'd expect to pay more for include text-to-speech directions (it tells you the names of the roads), lane guidance, and an AV input so you can use the screen with other display-ready devices such as a blind-spot view camera.

New Cobra Radar Detectors Feature Updatable Speed-Trap Database

These days, a simple radar detector may not be enough since pesky highway patrol and police officers keep putting their traps in the ground, or in places where you simply can't see them coming. Cobra Electronics' solution: The AURA (Advanced Universal Road Alert) updatable database of GPS coordinates for speed and red-light cameras and other known driving hazard locations. Cobra's new high-end models, including the top-of-the-line $439 XRS R10G shown here, come with lifetime subscriptions to AURA updates, to be offered starting this spring.

Nextar's Solar-Powered Hands-Free Bluetooth Speakers

What could be more politically correct than a hands-free kit for talking on a cell phone when you drive? This: A kit that can recharge using solar power. Nextar is introducing two: The $70 NXBT-002, shown, is rated at 150 hours of standby and 6 hours talk time when fully charged; it features caller name and ID on a super-bright screen. The NXBT-1 offers 250 hours of standby time and 10 hours of talk time (but doesn't do the caller name/ID trick).

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