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The Connected Car Picks Up Speed

Wednesday, 6 Jan 2010 | 11:34 AM ET
Ford Sync
Source: fordvehicles.com
Ford Sync

If it's not already apparent, we are quickly heading towards a day when our car will be fully "wired" into our lives and that connectivity opens up a host of opportunities and problems.

The opportunities are endless as we will be able to better communicate, better understand our cars, and perhaps better manage how we use our vehicles.

The potential problems are many that have reared their heads in recent years involving distracted driving and what happens when we are "too connected behind the wheel."

That said; consider what we are hearing about this week.

* Microsoft and Kia are hooking up to offer in car hands-free communication, similar to Ford's Sync system. This is just the start. Many automakers are seeing the value Ford is bringing to the table with Sync, and they want in that action.

* Speaking of Ford and Sync, there will be an upgrade to the system unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Showin Las Vegas. The new system will make it easier for you to interact with your car while you are driving, including how you text and talk over your cell phone hands free.

* GM and OnStar have just announced a new servicethat will allow you to use your cell phone to check on and program the Chevy Volt. The system will tell you how much of charge the electric car has at particular point, how far you can drive it on electric power alone, program when you want it charged up, and whole host of other activities.

This is just the start. For years, cars have been adding more and more electronics. Now, the software is giving us the chance to interact with our car the way we might with our pc or smart phone. In short, the car has become the new frontier for consumer electronics. Perhaps that explains why an auto CEO, Alan Mulally of Ford, is giving the keynote address at the Consumer Electronics Show for a second straight year.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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  • Phil LeBeau is a CNBC auto and airline industry reporter based in the Chicago bureau and editor of the Behind the Wheel section on CNBC.com.

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