CES 2010: Fiat's Telematic System Has Apps

Last spring my colleague Dave Schneider hacked up a fuel-economy gauge that would work for just about any car, including his ancient and underpowered 1997 Geo Metro (“A Fuel-Economy Gauge for the Rest of Us,” April 2009).

Right around the same time, Fiat and Microsoft announced a collaboration called Blue&Me. It’s similar to the Ford and Chrysler telematic systems that we’ve reported on, but, frankly, seems to do quite a bit less; it’s mainly for connecting your phone and MP3 player to the car’s audio system, as Fiat itself admits: 

Blue&Me The simplest and easiest way to communicate.

Blue&Me, the result of the collaboration between Fiat Auto and Microsoft, will change the way you communicate and listen to music on the move.

Using a series of voice commands, without taking your hands off the wheel you can telephone and listen to incoming SMS messages, interpreted on your Bluetooth Blue&Me mobile phone, consult your phonebook and listen to MP3s. Blue&MeTM supports most mobile phones with Bluetooth technology.

But it has one key feature, a port for a USB thumb drive. According to a rep at the Microsoft Auto area at CES, it’s to allow for updates if, for example, the software in the car doesn't support the phone you buy two years from now. But it’s also to allow you to add widgets or apps that Microsoft or Fiat come up with. And the first app was, you guessed it, a fuel-economy gauge.

Isn’t that great? If you buy a new Fiat, you’re all set. Otherwise, you can follow Dave’s hack. Even if you’re still driving an old Geo Metro.

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