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Buying A New Car? There’s An App In That, And Soon It Could Be Twitter

Much like with tablet computers and smartphones, car owners could soon be able to upgrade the electronic systems in their vehicles, allowing them to download apps and even connect with Twitter and Facebook, writes The Sydney Morning Herald.

An early implementation of the technology can already be seen in the Australian-made Ford Territory, whose advanced hardware is the latest in a revolution in car manufacturing which will lead to smartphone interaction, cloud computing, vehicle-specific apps and more.

The Territory includes a USB port that has upgradable architecture, which will allow the company to “provide updates for customers”, and should work in a similar capacity to the iPhone, allowing the use of apps which can be customised and upgraded. This will inevitably include social functionality.

“Certainly, the capability is there and it’s something we’ll look at in future,” says Papadomanolakis. ”You can deploy future functions as they become available. You’ll be able to download updates through the USB.”

The 10-year lifespans of modern vehicles has always presented a problem for manufacturers but if the electronic infrastructure is upgradeable (and the applications therein) the life of the car could be extended whilst still seeming ‘modern’ to the end user. And of course, downloadable apps presents a new revenue stream to the car industry, one that is both unique and ongoing.

‘You no longer have to wait for a model update,” Papadomanolakis says.

Earlier this week, Toyota announced a deal with Microsoft to build a global computer network that would provide Toyota drivers with in-car information, navigation and applications using a cloud computing system that will be accessible around the world.

“’Together, utilising Windows Azure and Microsoft’s vast information infrastructure, we will boost the value of automobiles by making them information terminals, moving beyond today’s GPS navigation and wireless safety communications, while at the same time enhancing driver and traffic safety,” said Toyota president Akio Toyoda.

The futuristic Mercedes-Benz Concept-A Class includes an advanced 3D colour screen that communicates with a smartphone, which means that ”all the applications, services and features of a digital lifestyle can therefore be operated” via the car’s controls.

Access to these applications is expected to work in a similar capacity to sat navs, with voice recognition probable for interaction with Twitter or Facebook, so you might want to switch it off during morning rush hour.

Of greater concern for developers is ensuring that this new functionality doesn’t lead to the car’s electronics system glitching, freezing or rebooting under the additional – and some might argue unnecessary – strain. And some might also say that with Windows under the hood at Toyota, that’s a distinct possibility, certainly for those driving their cars during the kamikaze beta testing stage of the software. Brings a new whole new level to the harsh reality of “crashing constantly”.

So, here’s a free pro tip for Mercedes: given that Steve Jobs has long been a fan of your fine automobiles, perhaps you should give Apple a call?

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