PHILADELPHIA—For the last few years, smartphones have become more integrated with our vehicles through Bluetooth connections, hands-off control capabilities and more. Well, get ready, because a whole new assortment of even better car-phone integrations is coming in the new 2015 vehicles from a host of manufacturers.
New in-vehicle wireless charging pads for smartphones, improved navigation, improved in-vehicle infotainment systems and more are on display here at the 2015 Philadelphia Auto Show, where some 70 manufacturers are showing off some 700 car, trucks and SUVs in a 700,000-square-foot area of the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
Here are some of the most interesting and innovative technologies being unveiled at the event.
Wireless Smartphone Charging Pads
A host of manufacturers, including Toyota, GMC and Cadillac, are bringing wireless charging stations, or "pads," to the dashboards or center consoles of many of their vehicles, which will make it easier for drivers and passengers to charge their compatible cell phones in their vehicles without having to plug in a maze of wires. Toyota is introducing the Qi wireless charging pad to its new Camry models after launching the system in Avalon automobiles last year.
4G LTE In-Car, Plus WiFi Hotspots
In-vehicle 4G LTE capabilities, which began appearing in the last couple years, continue to spread into more vehicles, making it easier for drivers and their passengers to get wireless connectivity for their mobile devices from just about anywhere.
GMC's Yukon XL Denali SUV gets 4G LTE capabilities for the first time in its 2015 models, as do most Chevrolet cars and trucks for the first time, as well.
Cadillac also is introducing 4G LTE in its vehicles for 2015 through a deal with AT&T. The service is free for the first 90 days and then consumers have to pay for the connectivity, according to a company spokeswoman.
Interestingly, not all vehicle manufacturers are ready to deploy such systems. Volkswagen, Hyundai and Porsche all say they are working on such capabilities and they might be ready by 2016.
In-Car Infotainment Continues to Mature
In-dash displays are getting larger and more intuitive, while more controls are arriving to give drivers more information, more alerts and more control over what is happening inside and around their vehicles.
Volvo displayed its new 2016 Volvo XC90, which will be released this spring, with a new "human machine interface" dash and controls that bring an improved 12.3-inch touch-screen display, voice activation integration and an app-based system in which drivers can add their own apps to the ones that come pre-installed with the vehicle.
Apple CarPlay is also coming to Volvos this year, as previously announced at the International Consumer Electronics Show earlier in January.
Mini Getting GoPro In-Car Connectivity
The new 2015 Minis are incorporating a new GoPro camera integration that allows drivers to bring their own GoPro video cameras into their cars so that they can capture the moments of the lives and drives through a built-in app. The feature allows drivers to easily add their GoPro cameras to their vehicles in a seamless process.
Jaguar and Land Rover Introduce InControl
With InControl from Jaguar and Land Rover, drivers can access a wide assortment of specialized apps in their cars and then add them to their smartphones so that they can get seamless access to the apps on their mobile devices even when they get out of their cars. InControl Remote then allows drivers to control their cars from afar, including making adjustments to interior air temperatures, checking fuel levels and more. The features are in some vehicles for 2015 and will be in most Jaguars and Land Rovers for 2016.
Cool Innovations in the New Buick Concept Car
Buick may still have a stereotype of being an older person's automobile, but the company's new Avenir concept car (pictured) could change a lot of minds about this historic marque. The Avenir includes a spectacular interior, with multiple displays for front and back seat passengers, unique and futuristic center light bars and an airy cabin that exudes modern luxury. The Avenir is also quite a looker, with sleek, flowing body panels that evoke the shape of a cheetah on the run.