Cadillac Computers Come to Their Senses

SAN FRANCISCO (04/11/2000) - Cars will offer e-mail and mapping features, but only when parked.

If it hasn't happened already, it will: Someone at the wheel gets distracted by e-mail on an in-car computer, and boom, there's a five-car freeway pile-up.

That twenty-first century scenario is unlikely to happen in a Cadillac, however.

General Motors has announced an in-dash computer for its 2001 Cadillac Seville and DeVille models that puts safety first. When the car is in motion, the optional Windows CE-based Infotainment radio system reads e-mail messages via built-in voice control technology. Only when the car is stopped or parked can the driver read messages on the approximately 6-inch, in-dash color screen.

Drivers can respond to e-mail using brief text responses they set up in advance, such as "Yes," "No," or "Got your message," according to Mike Hichme, GM's eVehicle manager. For safety's sake, the responses are selected using voice commands while driving.

The Infotainment system will feature a wireless modem for sending and receiving e-mail using cellular networks. Drivers can set up the system to work with any POP3 e-mail service; no special e-mail accounts are needed, Hichme says. In addition, the system will enable drivers to download e-mail to a Palm or other personal digital assistant by using an infrared port.

Pull Over to Look at the Map

The system also will feature GPS navigation and mapping software. As with e-mail, navigation is limited while the car is in motion. Drivers can view maps on screen, but they can't add new destinations to get driving directions unless the car is stopped, Hichme says.

In addition, the Caddy computer will include a Bose audio system, a CD-ROM drive (for mapping software or music CDs), a cell-phone cradle, a voice-memo recorder, and a compact flash slot for portable storage. Pricing has not been set.

GM recently announced it will deliver e-mail and other Internet-based services to select vehicles through OnStar Virtual Advisor, a voice-activated service, by year's end. Drivers will hear the information over the car's audio system.

GM says it will be the first carmaker to offer this type of in-car data service.

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