AOL Autos today announces six finalists for its 2012 Technology of the Year Award, which will be awarded to one Grand Prize winner in January at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In its first year, the AOL Autos Technology of The Year Award panel is judging emerging automotive-industry technology in the categories of telematics, connectivity and passive safety. AOL Autos Editor-in-Chief David Kiley says the time is perfect to start judging automotive technology for consumers. “We are seeing automakers putting more and more new and unfamiliar technology into vehicles, and these new systems are making and breaking the reputations of brands,” says Kiley. “It used to be that noise, interior designs, fits and finish and engine performance were the big differentiators, but we are seeing headline-grabbing quality scores rise and fall based on how seamlessly consumers’ smart-phones connect to the car.” The AOL Autos Technology of the Year judging panel, made up of journalists from AOL Autos, Autoblog and Engadget, received nominations for new or substantially upgraded technology that had to be available in vehicles on sale between September 1, 2011 and September 30, 2012. AOL Autos received more than 30 nominations of new and updated technology. Starting today, the public will be asked to review articles and videos showing each Technology of the Year finalist on Autos.AOL.com/award, and they will be asked to vote on the technology they find the most compelling. The winner of that consumer vote will have the weight of one judge out of 17 judges on the panel. AOL Autos is proud to present the following as finalists for our first Technology of the Year Award: Telematics In the category of telematics, the two finalists are: Cadillac CUE: CUE, offered this year in the all-new XTS and ATS models, as well as the revamped SRX crossover, comprises a glass cockpit with touchscreen, voice control, three USB jacks plus an SD slot. There’s an 8-inch LCD touchscreen in the center stack with a capacitive touch panel below with 14 “buttons.” There are mechanical buttons for flashers and engine start. The LCD display icons in the instrument panel can be moved around, with favorites promoted to the top row, and non-favorites reduced or removed. The CUE system has been a breakthrough for ease of use, Technology of the Year judges agreed. Even while the system represents a leap for Cadillac and GM in terms of change from previous Cadillacs, GM engineers distinguished themselves by delivering a refined system for controlling the car and integrating a smart-phone that is a leader in simplicity and ease-of use. Audi connect with Google Maps Street View: Audi connect was not new for 2012, but the addition of Google Earth imaging into the system was, and it is an upgrade that was met with nearly unanimous votes from the Technology of the Year judging panel. The Google Maps integration allows the driver to see high resolution, 3-D terrain and aerial images of routes. The onboard navigation system combines 3-D terrain models with a detailed street network and it seamlessly calculates routes. Connectivity In the category of connectivity, the two finalists are:
Chrysler Uconnect Access: When the new generation of Uconnect arrived in the 2013 Ram 1500, Technology of the Year judges began chattering on AOL’s instant-messaging system about how easy it was to use, improving on what was already a pretty good system. Uconnect Access offers one-button emergency assistance, voice-controlled texting, the ability to monitor a vehicle’s performance, a smartphone app that allows locked doors to be opened when keys are locked inside and headlights to be flashed in a crowded parking place if drivers lose track of where they’ve parked. There is an on-demand wireless hot-spot. The Bing-powered search app is voice-activated and helps find points of interest, specific destinations, restaurants, gas, etc. And it all worked smoothly for our judges.MyFord Mobile: Controlling our cars, houses and lives through smartphone apps is becoming more and more common. And one of the best we have seen is MyFord Mobile, which launched with the new Ford Focus Electric. One of the Technology of the Year judges experienced one of the benefits when he locked keys in the car, and was able to unlock the doors with his phone. With the Ford Focus Electric, the app also allows the driver/owner to view the EV’s remaining battery charge, control charging (this may be set to charge automatically during the cheapest utility-rate hours), remotely operate and set timers for the climate control, plan trips that get sent to the navigation system, and find charging stations. Active Safety In the category of active safety, the two finalists are: Nissan Tire Pressure Alert & Refill System: Sometimes a car company hits a homerun by swinging soft and easy, and not exactly trying to hit it over the fence. That’s what Nissan did in the 2012 Altima redesign when it spent a few dollars to improve something that most companies took for granted. Not only does the system tell drivers specifically which tire on the car is low and in need of air—a breakthrough compared with most vehicles that just indicates one of the four tires is low. But when the tires are being inflated, the car-horn gives off a quick burst when the tire has arrived at the proper air pressure. It was no doubt inspired by the old air pumps of yesteryear in which a driver set the air pressure desired and the pump would give off a “ding” when reached. Simple can be great. Honda LaneWatch™: Technology of the Year judges said that while we have seen lane-watching systems come out the last few years, Honda really nailed it with its LaneWatch system that debuted on the 2013 Honda Accord sedan. A tiny camera on the passenger –side mirror can be manually or automatically activated when the right indicator is engaged. Live video then displays on the i-MID screen, and it provides a view nearly four times greater than using the passenger-side mirror alone. Among the Technology of the Year judges are AOL Autos editor-in-chief David Kiley; Autoblog editor-in-chief John Neff; Engadget editor-in-chief Tim Stevens; AOL Autos senior editor Sharon Silke Carty; Autoblog executive editor Chris Paukert; Engadget mobile editor Myriam Joire; AOL Autos contributor Lauren (The Car Coach) Fix; and Nest CEO (and former Apple iPod development chief) Tony Fadell.
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