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'Alexa. Why can't you control everything in my car?'

Russ Mitchell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Automotive News

"Play me the Jeff Parker station on Pandora."

"Are the streets going to freeze?"

Yes, that would be great. "And it's coming," said Evangelos Simoudis, venture capitalist and managing director at Synapse Partners.

But not yet. Attendees at the 2017 Los Angeles Auto Show, which opened Friday, are greeted by overwhelming displays of the latest in awesome in-car technology this year, but the words "seamless operation" don't describe any of the systems. "Until this new ecosystem gets sorted out we will have a messy environment," Simoudis said.

Messy, because the automobile industry is facing revolutionary change and everybody wants a piece of what comes next.

For 100 years, the car has been king of personal transportation. The industrial hierarchy was clear: The automakers said jump. Their suppliers said, how high?


Now motor vehicles are on a transformative path that turns them into not just cars and trucks, but mobile network nodes. Bristling with sensors and touch screens, connected via broadband wireless networks to banks of cloud computers powered by machine intelligence, destined to push human beings out of the driver's seat and take full operational control, cars will be ruled by software.

Now car companies, auto suppliers, tech companies, software companies and others are all battling to come out on top -- or not get destroyed.

Voice control is just part of this new ecosystem, but it's one of the most important issues to consumers, for convenience and safety.

About 3,500 highway deaths in the U.S. last year were caused by driver distraction. Part of that is smartphone use, but in-car infotainment systems are to blame too, according to a study funded by the AAA Foundation. Take your eyes off the road for only two seconds and accident risk skyrockets, the study notes -- but researchers found drivers spending 40 seconds or more programming navigation systems or tapping out texts on the car's touchscreen.


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