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PC World

Car gadgets of the near future

September 21, 1999
Web posted at: 12:13 p.m. EDT (1613 GMT)

by James A. Martin
Car Wars  

(IDG) -- Worried about driving at night? No problem: Keep your eyes on the zoom view of the road superimposed on your windshield.

Wondering what the kids are up to in the back seat? The rear-seat camera lets you monitor their mischief level on a small screen in the driver's instrument panel.

And why not keep the kids entertained so they won't stir up trouble? All you need is an in-car entertainment system, complete with VHS cassette player, TV screen, and Nintendo 64 game player.

These and other Jetson-like automobile accessories were unveiled recently by Visteon, a Ford Motors subsidiary specializing in high-tech systems for in-car safety, entertainment, and communications.
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Among the technologies announced:

  • Visteon Voice Technology, which lets you control the audio, climate, and more using voice recognition that understands continuous and natural speech in six languages, Visteon says. The system is available now in Jaguars. Next year other car owners will be able to use Visteon voice-enabled technologies in the company's ICES in-car computer, based on the Windows CE platform. Using ICES, for instance, you'll be able to ask your car to fetch your e-mail. No price has been set for the ICES system.

  • The Reconfigurable Projected Image Display, an alternative to the conventional instrument panel, can be voice-controlled and integrated with Visteon's in-car audio systems and NavMate GPS navigation system. The kicker: Parents can monitor their children in the back seat using a small screen on their instrument panel and a rear-seat camera. The bummer: This technology is still several years away, acccording to a Visteon spokesperson.

  • NavMate, the company's GPS system, provides turn-by-turn instructions. If you miss your turn, the system will calculate a revised route and advise you of any upcoming detours. NavMate is available now; contact your car dealer for pricing and installation.

  • Rear Seat Entertainment System is a mobile entertainment system designed to keep kids and rear-seat passengers entertained. The system includes an in-console VHS player, plug-and-play capability for Nintendo games and video camera playback, and headphones for the car's stereo system. It's also available now from dealers, priced around $1500.

  • A system (as yet unnamed) for improving visibility for night driving. A near-infrared camera captures the road scene ahead and projects an enhanced image onto the windshield. In the future you'll be able to control the viewing system using Visteon Voice Technology.

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