Visteon To Debut AutoPC At CES

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Visteon is joining Clarion as the second member of the AutoPC camp, which will offer an aftermarket "car computer" based on Microsoft's Windows CE platform.

Visteon, a "business unit" of Ford, is calling its version of the AutoPC ICES (pronounced Isis) -- which is an acronym for Information, Communication, Entertainment, Safety and Security.

Like Clarion's newest AutoPC, ICES is a second-generation Windows CE-based in-dash computer with a 166MHz Pentium processor. It performs navigation, operates via speech recognition, and has a built-in audio system.

Visteon will sell ICES through the aftermarket and claims that in-car computing will become a major consumer electronics market in the future.

"Car computing is going to be huge," said Nick Difiore, Visteon Product development team leader. "It's really the last place you're not connected today. So we see the in-car environment as the remaining place to be conquered."

The ICES offers Internet access (without the need for a cellular phone) via BellSouth. It allows users to send and receive e-mail and receive personalized information such as stock quotes and local weather while driving.

A key feature of ICES is its advanced speech recognition. Rather than single-word recognition, it allows for "natural speech recognition" where the user can use full sentences and the unit can recognize any user (not just a specific voice for which it has been trained), according to Difiore.

"A user can say `CD, play disc 3 track 7,' and it will immediately do that regardless of the mode it was in at the time," he said. "This is more like voice activation. Initially, the product will be launched in English only, but our technology can be adapted to several languages."

The ICES also incorporates an AM/FM/CD player, has a built-in GPS receiver with antenna, a built-in wireless radio, and a 20-watt x 4 amplifier in a double-DIN chassis. The turn-by-turn navigation system uses dead reckoning and map matching, Visteon said.

The ICES ships with a 5.8-inch active-matrix LCD screen with 640 x 350 resolution. It can accept an optional cradle for a cellular phone.

Visteon, which competes with Delco as a leading provider of car radios, is also working with Palm Computing to develop wireless communication between a Palm device and the ICES.

Clarion, with its second-generation AutoPC debuting here, is adding multimedia capability to in-car computing. Its new unit adds DVD Video and 5.1 audio, as well as MP3 capability.

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