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Everyone from app developers to navigation companies to thought leaders are gathering today at the Connected Car Expo (CCE), part of the Los Angeles Auto Show, the first major auto show of the season. The expo precedes the LA Auto Show’s press and trade events at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Nov. 18-19, 2015. 

The CCE, now in its third year, has gathered quite a bit of momentum since its beginnings. “We used to be situated at the Los Angeles Convention Center, but we outgrew it,” Andy Gryc, conference director, CCE. The expo is now being held at the J.W. Marriot L.A. LIVE, the hotel and entertainment complex adjacent to the convention center. The move to the new location has afforded the expo 60,000 square feet of exhibit space and a presentation room with seating for up to 1,500 people.

“Car companies are here because of the auto show so this expo is a natural extension of that,” Gryc said. “We’re showing where the connected car is going and how the industry is evolving.”

Last evening, the CCE hosted a networking reception, but things officially kick off this morning with a welcome address by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti followed by an opening keynote by Lyft co-founder and president John Zimmer.

Not only is the event in a new location, but it’s also drawing a larger number of exhibitors who aren’t involved in manufacturing cars at all—they’re developing the software and services to go in them. The show is offering a diverse mix of more than 40 companies on the show floor.

For instance, OpenCar, an automotive software company, is involved in the development of the world’s first Connected Car ecosystem for automakers. High Mobility is making cars more responsive to a user’s presence. Its software allows cars to communicate with users via wearables. Remoto is a Connected Car platform that helps car owners to manage their cars—start their engine or open/close doors—remotely by Smartphone. HONK is an on-demand mobile app for tow, tire change, jump start, fuel and lock out services from more than 20,000 tow trucks nationwide.

But don’t expect the same old song and dance from the regulars who have booths at the expo. Magellan is showing both its Off-Road Vehicle and SmartGPS Eco connected car navigation. Magellan's Off-Road Vehicle navigation solutions deliver detailed 3D maps, over 44,000 vehicle trails and community generated trails, improved driver safety and a superior user experience. The SmartGPS Eco features the company's cloud platform that brings together automotive quality navigation and routing, content services, iOS and Android smartphone apps, and connected car platforms.

Hyundai is demonstrating its augmented reality owner’s manual app called Virtual Guide. The automaker said it is a “modern take” on the traditional owner’s manual that usually ends up gathering dust in the glove box. This version allows consumers to use their smartphone or tablet to get information on repairs, maintenance and vehicle features. The Hyundai Virtual Guide is compatible with the 2015 Sonata model, and will soon become available for additional models. 

Volvo Cars has something up its sleeve, but is waiting until opening day of the auto show to reveal what it has teased as its concept time machine. The automaker has been working on the concept for the last several years at its Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center in Camarillo, California.

“You won’t be able to go back in time and meet the legends of history, or go into the future and meet your kids,” Anders Tylman-Mikiewicz, General Manager of the Volvo Monitoring and Concept Center, said in a press release, “but when our planned concept is applied to a SPA based vehicle, it has the potential of giving significant time back to drivers.”

The conference program is also expected to be a highlight as it addresses hot-button topics like cyber-security, car sharing and autonomous vehicles, and features a diverse group of speakers from Google to Volkswagen.

 “We’ve taken a lesson from successful conferences and modeled our program after that. We’re going with a short format for our presentations,” said Gryc.

Another key component of the show is the Innovation Zone where the Top 10 start-ups are being recognized. “We’re taking a look at who the next Ubers and Googles are,” Gryc said.

Start-ups were chosen based on their potential to shape the future of the new automotive industry and make cars safer, more accessible and more exciting. The CCE Advisory Board chose the companies based on vision, innovation, unique perspective and the likelihood of technology adoption and success.

Each of the Top 10 are being recognized and have their solutions on display at the show. Among the Top 10 Automotive Startups are Capio, which is developing the next-generation speech recognition and natural language processing technologies that are redefining human computer interaction; Driversiti, which is a cloud-based, situational awareness technology company focused on enabling mobile devices to transform from driving distractors to driver assistance systems; and HopSkipDrive, a ride service for kids, founded by three experienced professionals who are also working moms.

Attendance is expected to be high. According to Gryc, the show could draw anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 attendees which is both a good and not-so-good thing. “We may have outgrown this location before we expected, but I can’t say yet. We’ll just have to see how things go.”

For more information on the show, go to connectedcarexpo.com.

CNET -- Ford introduces the newest generation of its Sync infotainment system this week, Sync 3, with navigation, digital audio, hands-free phone and app support. The new system comes in response to negative feedback about the previous MyFord Touch system.

When Ford launched the first generation of Sync in 2007, it was revolutionary, letting drivers use voice command to makes calls from a Bluetooth-paired phone by contact name and request music from a USB-connected drive by album, artist and track name. Those features have become common in cars today. The second generation of Sync, in conjunction with the MyFord Touch graphic interface, was not so successful, eliciting criticism for cluttered buttons and slow touch response times.

The touchscreen response times proved greatly improved partially due to a hardware change from a resistive to a capacitive touchscreen. Behind the scenes, the system runs on a Texas Instruments OMAP 5 dual-core processor with 2GB of RAM.

The software interface has been completely rewritten. The home screen shows navigation on the left side of the screen, with audio and phone cards stacked on the right side. Touching any of these areas launches the associated function. A menu ribbon running along the bottom of the display also gives access to these functions, along with climate controls and apps. While this homescreen is well-designed, many of the subscreens drop the home button, requiring a few quick presses on back buttons to return.

Read the rest here: http://www.cnet.com/news/new-ford-sync-improves-nav-adds-visual-apps/

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