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Tech Takeaways From The New York International Auto Show

NEW YORK — In-vehicle technology had a seat at the New York International Auto Show earlier this month, although it might not have been the front one.

Whereas January’s International CES had keynotes with self-driving cars making their way on the stage, the most talked-about features at the auto makers’ press conferences typically centered on improved and luxurious design details. That’s not to say in-vehicle technology isn’t innovating; nearly every company is bringing such safety features as parking assist further down to the mainstream level. But, interestingly, Subaru didn’t even mention during its press conference it had updated its Starlink infotainment and navigation system, saving that news instead for a press release.

While the tech talk may have played second fiddle, it was no less ubiquitous at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, displayed in the dashes and speakers of the ever-shiny newest Detroit darlings. And, gearheads aside, this is what gets most consumers excited about when it comes to buying a new car.

“Whenever I have a friend who buys a car, it’s not necessarily, ‘What kind of engine does it have?’ or, ‘What’s the entertainment system like?’ ” said Ben Arnold, executive director and industry analyst at market research firm The NPD Group. “It’s, ‘How good is the sound system? Does it have Bluetooth?’ In terms of its importance, regardless of how much time you’re spending a car, those are the types of things that really get consumers excited about their car.”

The car remains one of the last few frontiers that tech has not yet mastered, Arnold noted. “We’re figuring out the body, and we’ve got the home figured out. The car is a special environment, though. You want access to all of your services … but have to balance that with driver safety.”

While built-in technology isn’t going anywhere, the aftermarket category still has plenty of opportunities, Arnold said, in part because consumers are particular about the type of system they use and how it operates with their preexisting devices.

“We’re beginning to get steeped into ecosystems: I’m an Android Guy vs. I’m an Apple Guy. I think people want choice to that extent, and they want to go with the ecosystem that they’re most comfortable with or have experience with,” said Arnold.

Not only does the aftermarket offer that choice, but it also provides an easy way to retrofit a vehicle if the consumer doesn’t go with the built-in system provided by the auto maker, and it provides additional choices even beyond just the system ecosystem.

“You talk about the OEM side as sort of that hook that gets consumers interested and really sparks the imagination, but it is still kind of a slow rollout of these updated electronics,” he added.

Slow rollout or not, all bases for in-vehicle tech were covered at the New York International Auto Show — whether navigation, audio or safety — in some way or another. Here is a trio of highlights from the show, and visit for even more coverage.

Chevrolet is rolling out a Teen Driver safety system into the 2016 Malibu. The system, which is not a subscription service, will detect when a seatbelt has not fastened and subsequently mute the audio system. It will also provide a “report card” to parents with speeds and distance driven and how many times various safety features, such as antilock brakes, were activated during a trip.

Parents will also be able to activate certain safety features — such as front and rear park assist, forward collision alert and side blind zone alert — and prevent them from being manually switched off.

Cadillac’s first CT6 full-size luxury sedan will feature the first OEM Bose sound system incorporating 34 drivers, articulated-array tweeters and linearray speakers. The optional Bose Panaray audio system, exclusive to the 2016 CT6, will be Bose’s highest performance sound system to date, and it will mark the global debut of Bose’s new line of Advanced Technology Series sound systems.

The series uses technologies and design elements from Bose’s home entertainment and professional audio products.

Three levels of Bose sound systems will be available in the CT6 as part of options packages: an eight-speaker system, a 10-speaker system and the Panaray system. In each front headrest, a pair of embedded “ultranearfield” stereo speakers driven by TrueSpace signal processing delivers a more immersive experience, the company said.

Subaru’s updated Starlink in-vehicle platform, which will debut in the 2016 Forester, features hands-free connectivity, entertainment and safety services provided by Sirius XM Connected Vehicle Services. The system will soon offer AT&T 4G LTE capability and will include stolen vehicle recovery, automatic collision notification, remote lock/unlock via smartphones, and monthly diagnostic reports. Its emergency roadside assistance will connect the driver with someone at Starlink if the airbags are deployed, and drivers will also have access to an SOS button for help.

The system will also work with such apps as Pandora and iHeartRadio, display text messages, provide live traffic alerts, and enable the driver to use voice commands for music and navigation control.
— Additional reporting by Joseph Palenchar