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Media post: Features to look for when shopping for a connected car

connected-carConnected vehicles. Picture wired.com

Not long ago, “connectivity” was only available on some of the most expensive automobiles made. Not anymore, today most new cars offer connectivity of some form or another. Problem is that connectivity refers to a wide variety of wireless functions. Thanks to the assistance of the folks at Len Stoler Lexus of Baltimore, a local Lexus dealer in Baltimore, MD, we have a list of some of the functions you should know about.

Telematics

Telematics technically means “the wireless transmission of digital data” but it has become a broader term within the automotive industry. It now refers to the on-board electronic systems in cars and trucks that allow outside digital communication with your vehicle. General Motors OnStar system was one of the first. OnStar allows a central control center to help you in emergency situations, lock/unlock your doors, open/close windows, as well as provide vehicle maintenance reminders and diagnosis.

Bluetooth

Technically Bluetooth refers to a short distance wireless communication but in automobile jargon it refers to the ability to connect devices to a vehicle’s digital system backbone. Today the most common use of Bluetooth is to connect smart phones to on-board, touch screen infotainment systems. This is quite handy because it allows you to use your smartphone while you drive, without having to pick it up and key in text.

Texting

In an increased effort to reduce distracted driving, text messaging functions have been built into some of the newer Bluetooth systems. Some functions include reading incoming messages aloud and offering a list of pre-written replies notifying the sender that you’ll get back to them later. Just recently, system have been released that allow the driver to send custom messages via a voice-to-text feature.

Navigation

Now referred to as “GPS,” on-board navigation systems allow you to do everything that your smartphone does with Google Maps and other GPS applications. Some of these on-board navigation systems offer built-in directories that can search for Points of Interests (POI) such as gas stations, shopping centers and restaurants. When buying, look for systems that can monitor traffic flow and problem spots in real-time, and can reroute you if need.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow you to control certain smart phone applications from a vehicle’s touchscreen, on-board system. This means that drivers can keep their eyes on the road yet can control multiple smartphone apps. Some systems allow voice control of these functions.

Entertainment

And yes, connected car technology centers allow one to enjoy audiophile-quality audio reproduction. Audio sources may include listening to the radio or playback various media and audio files via a USB connector. One difference from the old days is that the on-board systems today are designed for outstanding sound reproduction because they are frequently designed for the specific vehicle they are installed in.

Mobile Apps

Some automakers have added custom app-based control over their vehicles. Here’s an example that parents will especially like. With the manufacturer’s app downloaded to a smartphone, you can set boundaries such volume limits, maximum allowable speed and audible warnings if the car ventures outside a defined area. Apps for electric vehicles (EV) and Plug-In Hybrids can also provide battery charge status, charge time, range, and more.

USB – Charging

Not all USB ports are created equal. Some are not powered and this is great for transferring data but not so good for charging digital devices. Make sure you have a powered USB connector in your car.

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