by Bill Howard
CES 2008 Coverage
LAS VEGAS—Most remotes lock and unlock cars. Some start the engine. Delphi's Wireless Vehicle Access software programmed onto an iPhone monitors and controls most every imaginable vehicle function.
It's only a concept at this year's CES, but it shows what an iPhone, smartphone, or Blackberry might do for your car. Delphi has been working on smart key fobs, one using the same inking technology as on the Sony Reader, that presents an image on the fob showing if the car is locked or unlocked, or which door is ajar, before you press the button. From there, Delphi engineers wondered how they could expand the functionality? The result was a Bluetooth link from the phone, to the key fob, to the car, with dozens of functions.
The combination is powerful enough to locate you car and report its status a mile away in a parking garage, which really means, according to Delphi's Craig Tieman, that no matter how deep you are inside your house, the remote will work. If it's hot or cold outside, you can turn on the engine, turn on the climate control, and watch the temperature rise or fall. Or if you don't want to burn gasoline, you can just roll down the windows. If you're concerned someone might have broken into the car and be lying in wait in the back seat—a big fear for some, despite the low odds of it happening—you can see if the car has been broken into before you walk or, if you forgot to lock the car, see if it's occupied.
Delphi showed how you can monitor tire pressure, see if you have enough gas in the tank for the drive to work, even tell the condition of your oil and brake fluid. Type A's will love the remote. Right now, Wireless Vehicle Access—the key fob or the smart phone link—is a working concept. With a little work it could be a real product.
Delphi also used its Monday press conference to describe other technology work it's doing. It has a stop-and-go version of its active cruise control, that uses a video camera in addition to the radar controller, which is far cheaper than ACC using long- and short-distance radar. Active cruise control speeds up and slows down to keep pace with cars in front, but stops working at close range or speeds below 20 mph. The stop and go feature takes you down to 0 and back up to speed again.
Delphi's implementation has the camera do double duty: It's also a lane departure warning camera and could conceivably replace the rain sensor and automatic high-beam control that switches on when it sees oncoming traffic. Delphi says it will be announced shortly on an upcoming car.
Looks like an interesting concept, but who knows when it would come to market, if at all.