Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 15, 2012

Ahead of the Curve

Delphi shows off latest products at Consumer Electronics Show

By Daniel Human
Tribune business writer

— Delphi Electronics and Safety developments displayed last week at a Las Vegas expo were glimpses at how cars and cell phones — often a risky mix — can marry into safety products.

Innovations that the automotive supplier showed off during the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show demonstrated developments in which Delphi has incorporated growing consumer demand for info-tainment. Those developments pair with a need to limit distractions from electronics while driving.

Company representatives, after a four-year hiatus, demonstrated more than two dozen developments at the four-day show.

A concept car loaded with smart phone connectivity, voice recognition, brakes that kick in seconds before accidents, traffic sign recognition and about 20 other developments comprised Delphi’s feature display at CES.

Kathy Winter, general director of Advanced Engineering and Software and Services at Delphi, said the biggest thing the company wanted to show off was its products that connect vehicles and hand-held devices.

“There’s a lot of pieces of technology in the vehicles today,” Winter said in a phone interview the week before the expo. “Even at CES, there’s multiple suppliers saying they have Internet in the car. I think the unique thing with Delphi is brining it all together.”

Some of the key developments on display were part of Delphi’s MyFi system, which the company unveiled in 2011.

Only some of the most basic options from the product family are available now, so what Delphi displayed in its concept car at CES was a much more radical version of what MyFi options automakers could include in vehicles in the future.

To give an idea of what MyFi could do, drivers could plug in iPhones or other devices that can connect to the Internet or other elements of “the cloud,” which is the term used to describe the Internet and all other forms of exchanging and storing information among electronic devices.

The phones’ applications would feed onto an LED touch screen on the dash panel. Shift to Drive from Park and safety options lock out apps, except for driving-oriented ones such as a GPS or music.

Companies can install Delphi-developed sensors on the outside of vehicles. If drivers encounter bad weather, gridlock or other potential hazards, alerts can go off inside the vehicle to make sure the person behind the wheel is paying attention.

Vehicle manufacturers have been showing more interest in safety products for electronics as government agencies have passed stricter laws, said Ronald Szabo, director of Forward Engineering for Delphi’s Infotainment and Driver Interface business unit.

The increased demand has also meant more competition in adapting consumer electronics for the vehicle.

“That whole process is happening a whole lot faster than it was the last time we were out at CES,” Szabo said.

Delphi used the show to debut one of its most recent electronics-vehicle connectivity products.

The company’s developments allow vehicles to use Windows Azure to access “the cloud.”

Delphi’s new product allows car owners to add apps and other functions through their vehicles. Drivers can use the technology to personalize their vehicles — change displays, select designs and arrange or create controls — from outside. Vehicles owners can also check diagnostics, such as tire pressure or brake life.

Many of the developments are Delphi’s way of making its products “future proof,” Winter said. Consumers can upgrade their vehicles rather than having to buy new cars for more advanced options.

“Whatever the consumers are interested in, we need to find a viable way to make it accessible,” she said.

• Daniel Human is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. He can be reached at 765-454-8570 or at daniel.human@kokomotribune.com.