Dust off the high-waist jeans and dirty facial hair, Volvo's bringing the ’80s back to the future
You'd not expect to see classic 1980s TV show Knight Rider quoted in a press release issued by commonsense carmaker Volvo, but when it comes to high-tech wristwear it appears those studious Scandinavians have been studying The Hoff's accessories drawer.
The Swedish manufacturer has teamed up with fellow turtleneck sweater-wearers Microsoft to develop a wristband that will allow drivers to interact with their car.
What's more, the technology will be available in some markets in a matter of months, although Kiwis looking forward to yelling "Kitt, I need you!" into their wrists will have to wait until 2018.
Volvo states its new wearable voice control system will allow drivers to "talk" to their car via a Microsoft Band 2 worn on their wrist. The wristband interacts with a mobile app and allows the driver to remotely instruct their Volvo to perform tasks such as setting satellite navigation instructions, starting the heater, locking the doors and ... er, flashing the lights or sounding the horn.
Hmm. Hardly the sort of clever rescue aid that'll get the Volvo owner out of the clutches of Mr Big and his henchmen and away to speedy safety down that alleyway strewn with empty cardboard boxes and those two guys moving that giant pane of glass ...
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Volvo New Zealand national manager Coby Duggan reckons innovations such as the Microsoft Band 2 illustrates Volvo's commitment to making the driving experience as convenient as possible for its customers.
"At Volvo we focus on technologies which can truly benefit our customers' lives.
"Each new innovation has to have a reason for being; that is, to make the drive easier, better, safer or more fun," he said in a press release.
It's certainly a neat innovation and with smart watch wearers already clearing emails, checking the weather and answering phone calls in a similar fashion, setting the temperature level in their car adds another practical element to the technology.
And at least the car that early adopters are communicating with is an interesting, attractively styled Volvo, as opposed to an awful plastic Pontiac Trans Am on tippy-tall suspension, with the AI personality of a sarcastic, uptight butler.
Apple car rumours GEAR up
Slavishly excitable Apple geeks added further fuel to the long-held rumour bonfire that the California-based company is developing an electric, potentially autonomous vehicle when they revealed that Apple registered three car-related domain names last month.
Bloggers at MacRumors.com report Apple has registered apple.car, apple.cars and apple.auto via domain name register MarkMonitor Inc.
There is a possibility the domain name registrations are merely connected to Apple's existing CarPlay software development programme, which is gaining increasing buy-in from car manufacturers. Apple also has a history of acquiring domains and trademarks to prevent third parties trying to cash in on the brand and its products.
But the idea of Apple as a potential carmaker has cemented itself among many pundits. The company has recently hired engineers from the auto industry, including brainiacs from Tesla (much to the chagrin of James Bond villain-esque tycoon Elon Musk). Apple has also reportedly met with the California Department of Motor Vehicles on issues relating to autonomous vehicle regulations.
According to the hipster types that follow this sort of thing, the Apple car -- if it actually exists -- is codenamed "Titan" and will be unveiled sometime around 2019 or 2020. Or at about the same time the iPhone10 becomes available, going on current release cycles.
Toyota races to crossover cool
Want proof that the crossover has conquered all? The Good Oil "Best Racing Team Name Ever" award-winner Toyota Gazoo Racing is going to field a wing-bedecked version of the lumpy Toyota C-HR crossover concept at the 2016 Nurburgring 24-Hours endurance race.
The Nurburgring 24-Hours is a demanding caper, so Toyota is clearly confident of the C-HR's abilities.
Toyota says commitment shown under harsh racing conditions "has a positive impression" on customers; in Toyota corporate speak that roughly translates as "race on Sunday, sell on Monday".
Rather than employ high-flyer insurance sales reps, real estate agents or trendy empty-nester couples these fashion-forward crossovers are aimed at, the C-HR will be driven by racing drivers for the Nurburgring 24-Hours. Kumi Sato and Masahiko Kageyama (along with a third yet-to-be-named driver) will be on duty for Toyota Gazoo Racing during the event, which takes place in May.
The C-HR will take to the track a year after Toyota consolidated its motorsport activities under Gazoo, ending the separate Gazoo Racing, Toyota Racing and Lexus Racing teams.
If the C-HR does well in the race, its success could inject performance grade coolness for crossovers everywhere. Toyota is expected to reveal the production version of the car at the Geneva motor show in March.
The only issue is that the C-HR concept, with its racing hardware attached, looks a heck of a lot like a child's toy.
If Buzz Lightyear were an endurance racer, this'd be the car he'd drive.
The name Gazoo down the sides probably won't help make it look any less like a manically proportioned Hot Wheels model either.