Tag Archives: SUVs

Want Siri Eyes Free integration now? Get MediaBridge

With Dice Electronics MediaBridge, many vehicles can integrate iPhones Siri in the car now.

With Dice Electronics MediaBridge, many vehicles can integrate iPhone’s Siri in the car now.

(Credit:
CNET)

Even if you don’t plan on buying a new
car any time soon to take advantage of Apple’s upcoming Eyes Free feature, you may still be able to get Siri in your car. Aftermarket electronics supplier Dice Electronics says that its MediaBridge component already has the capability to integrate Siri with some vehicles’ electronics systems.

MediaBridge is a plug-and-play Bluetooth-enabled hardware “black box” that integrates Apple products with the vehicle’s existing head unit. The device adds Bluetooth and streaming to the audio system, and in some cars, lets you access Siri with steering wheel controls.

Dice debuted MediaBridge early last year at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. As an automotive developer partner with Apple, the company began Siri integration with the release of iOS 4. When Apple launched the
iPhone 4S, Dice engineers started quietly testing this feature with select customers in a beta program, said Dice Vice President Stephen Witt in an interview. The company decided to go public with its Siri integration after Apple announced the Eyes Free feature last week.

MediaBridge works with more than 1,000 models on the road today, including many BMW, Mini, VW, Audi, Bentley, Nissan, Infiniti, Honda, Accura, Toyota, Scion, Lexus, and Mazda vehicles. Dice hosts a tool on its Web site that potential customers can use to determine if MediaBridge will work on their cars. Ironically, many vehicles with the highest-end audio and navigation systems probably won’t work with this component. However, Witt says that MediaBridge is 100 percent compatible with model year 2003 and newer BMW, Mini, and Audi cars equipped with voice-command buttons on the steering wheel.

With MediaBridge fully integrated in a car, drivers have the ability to launch Siri without taking their eyes off the road or touching their iPhones.

MediaBridge is equipped with a Bluetooth circuit that cancels echos, tunes out background noise, and optimizes voice. It’s not perfect, Witt concedes, but it’s at least as good or in some cases better than holding the phone to your mouth to make requests. He explained that many
iPhone 4S users overload Siri by holding the device too close to their mouths, which makes their commands unintelligible. For other vehicles that aren’t 100 percent compatible or aren’t equipped with steering wheel controls, Witt recommends using an inexpensive cradle to put the iPhone within easy reach to launch Siri.

MediaBridge is available for $299 and is typically installed in the glove compartment or behind the center stack console. If you’ve already purchased the product but haven’t updated the firmware in a while, you’d better get on it if you want Siri integration.

(Via: CE Outlook)

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Tesla Model S first drive: Quiet satisfaction

Tesla Model S

Tesla hosted drives of the Model S at its Fremont manufacturing plant to coincide with its first customer deliveries.

(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

FREMONT, Calif.–Lined up before me were 10 examples of the Model S, newly off the production line, the result of years of investment and development. This silent herd awaited a group of journalists eager to finally get their hands on the wheel and foot on the accelerator. We were here to see if Tesla had fulfilled its promise of building an electric
car that could compete with those from likes of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz.

Certainly from the exterior, the car looked desirable. Although it’s billed as a sedan, a hatch sat between the Model S’ big rear fenders, opening up a large cargo space with optional rear-facing seats. Its smooth, sensuous lines and minimal exterior adornment spoke of expensive design.

Body-flush door handles might seems like a styling gimmick, but they actually served the purpose of improving the car’s aerodynamics. Tesla says the Model S makes an astoundingly good .24 coefficient of drag, better than even the Toyota Prius.

Tesla Motors and the robots that build the Model S (pictures)

The cabin also showed a minimalist luxury, emphasizing smooth surfaces. Necessary pieces, such as interior door handles, had unique shapes to give the car its own character.

The dashboard was left very bare, the single 17-inch touch screen dominating the middle, with just one solid button for the emergency flashers. Other automakers have tried putting all cabin controls on a screen, but relented with things such as climate control and volume knobs. Tesla is sticking to the touch-screen paradigm, albeit with a row of climate controls always docked at the bottom of the LCD. And there is volume control on the steering wheel.


Tesla Model S

The charging port sits just back of the side windows, and uses a light ring to indicate status.

(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

I sat in the car with a Tesla minder in the passenger seat and CNET photographer James Martin in the rear. Getting myself situated, I expected the power seat controls just because of the general sense of luxury in the cabin. I was pleased to find a stubby stalk on the steering wheel column that let me adjust its position. Unlike the Nissan Leaf, which minimizes creature comforts to maximize range, Tesla offers the accoutrements one would expect from a premium car.

I happened to be sitting in a Model S with the Signature Performance trim, which meant a larger inverter than the standard model, giving it 0-to-60 mph acceleration of 4.4 seconds. It also had the 85 kilowatt-hour battery pack, which is good for an EPA-rated range of 265 miles.

Put in Drive with the selector stalk, the car began to creep forward, at a slow pace fine for stop-and-go traffic or seeking a space in a crowded parking lot. Then I touched the accelerator. The response was instantaneous. A push of my foot, and the car surged forward. It took very little to make the car move, and in my initial flirtation with the Model S, I felt the accelerator might even be too sensitive, at least for crawling around residential streets at the posted limits.


Tesla Model S

Tesla built a hatch into the rear of the Model S, enhancing practicality.

(Credit:
James Martin/CNET)

Following Tesla’s prescribed route, I took a turn out to a private road near the factory, giving it more pedal to see how it would feel. From the back seat came a shout and the sounds of things tumbling around. I had dislodged James the photographer.

But seeing a straight road ahead I ignored any more backseat noise and let the pedal meet the floor. The Model S felt like a freight train, with inexorable acceleration pushing forward without a break. There were no power peaks — it was all torque all the time.

Tesla Vice President George Blankenship had suggested I could get the car up to 75 mph on this straight. I was passing 85 mph when it came time to start slowing for the next turn. But I did not have to slow too much. When I took my foot off the accelerator, brake regen kicked in, dragging the speed down a bit, but I added some braking to hit this broad sweeper at around 65 mph.

The Model S was completely unruffled. I could have gone faster, but was feeling merciful toward James, especially as he had his camera out, snapping shots of the drive. The steering wheel had a good, solid feel, making the car go where I pointed it. This is, necessarily, an electric power-steering rig, so it doesn’t offer the road feel of a hydraulic system, but it felt fine for the premium sedan class in which the Model S belongs.

The car’s composure was partly due to its weight, at 4,642 pounds definitely on the heavy side. But Tesla’s placement of the battery pack, in a 4-inch slab at the base of the car, keeps the center of gravity extremely low. That weight gave the Model S a unique feeling in the turn, very different from cars in a similar class, which are usually battling with a big, front-mounted engine.

At the same time, the Model S moved along quietly and with little apparent effort. It being electric, there is no internal combustion roar, and the wind noise is also kept to a minimum. Tesla did not skimp on the noise insulation. There is, at low speed, a very slight whine from the power train, but nothing near what the Tesla Roadster produced. An air suspension assisted in the ride quality, although Tesla tuned it to be more rigid than soft. The suspension competently handles rough patches, but doesn’t completely isolate the driver from them. This suspension can be set to different ride heights, and automatically lowers at speed to improve aero performance.

Hands-on with Tesla Motors’ Model S (pictures)

Over a section of quick turns, I was able to throw James around a bit more. Throwing in a little trail-braking for fun, I found the car shows excellent manners, even giving a little rotation in the tight turns. A little tire squealing overcame the wind noise as the car shot through these maneuvers.

Running down a last little section of freeway driving, I settled back into the driver’s seat, and could easily imagine the Model S as a daily driver. It offered an extremely nice, comfortable ride in a cabin with the kind of refinement seen from car companies with a lot more history. And although I, and many journalists before me this day, had been mashing the accelerator and generally driving it hard, the range gauge still said 150 miles.

Inthis top-trim car, Tesla certainly succeeded at what it set out to do. The Model S is a car that can easily compete with the premium sedans of the world. Sure, it will take a lot longer to charge than it would take to fill up the tank of a gas-engined car, but it will also cost a lot less to run.

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Illinois police post video of red light runners on Facebook

The Granite City police department in Illinois posts video of red light violators on Facebook.

The Granite City police department in Illinois posts video of red light violators on Facebook.

(Credit:
Facebook)

An Illinois town’s police department is using social media to spread the word on the dangers of running a red light.

For the past couple of months, the Granite City Police Department in Illinois has posted a weekly video on its Facebook page of red light runners filmed from a traffic video camera. The video shows
car after car running red lights at the lone intersection in the town equipped with the red light camera.

The Facebook posts may hint of public shaming of traffic violators, but license plates aren’t readable from the video, and no descriptions or names are given in the video or on Facebook. A police department official told local TV station KTVI Fox 2 News that the updates are meant to educate drivers on the dangers of this intersection.

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Tesla to begin Model S deliveries this Friday

Friday, June 22, is a big day for Tesla, and possibly a landmark for
the automotive industry as well. It marks the first deliveries of the
all-electric Tesla Model S to customers.

With a range of more than 250 miles for the top-end models, the Model S
comes out as the most practical electric
car yet. Given its range and
luxury sedan packaging, it is likely to become a daily driver for its
owners, who will also benefit from the fact that the car costs about a
tenth to run as a gasoline-engine car.

Tesla will hold an event at its Fremont, Calif., manufacturing facility on
Friday afternoon, where the first customers can pick up their cars.
Tesla will also be showing off the Model S in the 10 colors in which
it will be available.

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How do I boost the audio quality of my convertible’s OEM stereo? (Roadside Assistance)

Today marks the summer solstice; it’s the longest day of the year and the mid-point of the summer. No doubt many of you are planning to enjoy those extra hours of sunshine by dropping the top on a convertible (or maybe just opening the windows or a sunroof). However, with open air motoring comes increased wind and road noise, which can all but drown out the sound from some low-powered OEM audio systems.

That’s why this week, I’m helping a CNET reader to boost the audio quality and quantity of his drop top’s stereo system with one easy mod.


How can I improve my convertible’s stereo without junking up the dashboard?

Hi Antuan,
I’m looking to upgrade the audio system in my
car, a 2 seat convertible. The stock system sounds pretty good with the top up, or with the top down and windows up. But it really needs way more power with the top and windows down. I’d also like to ditch the CD player and have an interface to my
iPhone or
iPod or whatever music device that I can run from the controls on the steering wheel.

My car is a 2003 Thunderbird. I’ve looked at some aftermarket devices, and just don’t see how they won’t look ugly replacing the standard head unit in the dash. Can any or all of this be done “behind the scenes”? Or can aftermarket equipment actually be installed that doesn’t look ugly? I’d hate to spend one or two thousand dollars hoping to get a killer system, then have to stare at a crappy looking dashboard installation.

Thanks for any info,
Peter Bradley

A few weeks ago, I helped another reader upgrade an entire car stereo system and subwoofer. The same basic steps apply for improving your Thunderbird’s audio rig. However, because you’re more concerned with maintaining a close to stock appearance and setup, I’m going to suggest a few modifications to the blueprint.

(Credit:
JBL/Harman)

Instead of starting with an amplifier, speakers, and a subwoofer, I’m going to suggest that you take a look at the JBL MS-8 Digital Signal Processor (DSP). This system plugs in between your stock stereo system and its speakers. Its Logic 7 audio processor then cleans up the audio quality and recalibrates the output based on your car’s measured acoustics. An internal 240-watt amplifier means that the total system power will no doubt be greater than whatever the stock receiver is pushing.

Here’s the part that excites me: the MS-8 features five memory positions for different calibrations, allowing you to save an audio profile for top up driving and recalibrate and save a second profile that’s optimized for top-down motoring.

At $799, there’s may be a bit of sticker shock when considering the JBL MS-8, but it’s an all-in-one solution for improving car audio, but the MS-8 is also a good springboard for further upgrades and will continually adjust should you decide to continue upgrading with better full-range speakers or a powered subwoofer. Just remember to recalibrate after each new addition.


CNET Roadside Assistance is a reader QA column where I, Car Tech editor Antuan Goodwin, answer your automotive and car technology-related questions. If you have a burning car technology question or just need something explained, send me an e-mail at cartech at cnet dot com. Put “Roadside Assistance” in the subject header and you might just see your question answered right here on CNET! You can also find me on Twitter and send me your questions there. Just follow @antgoo.

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