Volvo Predicts Future of Infotainment with Pandora Radio, Wikipedia on the Go at CES

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Car manufacturers were scrambling last week to show us their prototypes of the future of driving at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, boasting 3G connectivity and a roster of tech giant girlfriends, from Microsoft to popular US internet radio service, Pandora.

Google has paired up with a raft of auto companies to push Android as the default operating system of next generation’s cars, and Kia is touting gesture and eye movement control for its space-age UVO infotainment system. Now Volvo is making its own projections about 21st driving–and the Nordic manufacturer thinks you’ll be paying for your parking from your seat; scrolling through Yelp reviews using in-car controls; placating backseat yappers with internet games, tethered to the vehicle’s WiFi hotspot, and toggling between four internet radio stations.

These are all new features of Volvo’s updated, “cloud solution” Sensus Connect infotainment system. It’s designed to bring you an “enjoyable, easy-to-use, and intuitive [driving] experience, without overwhelming you with too many new-fangled gadgets, difficult to navigate and update.

“Technology should make your life easier. It’s not about offering a thousand apps; it’s about giving you precisely what you need, before you even knew you needed it,” said David Holecek, connectivity brand manager at Volvo.

According to Volvo, what the drivers of 2014 and beyond need is 3D navigation, cloud-based information services like Wikipedia and Yelp right at their fingertips, and the ability to locate and pay for parking without burning through fuel and patience. As well as wireless connectivity through an integrated SIM, making seamless app updates possible.

A linchpin of the new Senus system will be Pandora radio, which joins Stitcher, Rdio, and TuneIn to give Volvos the most complete audio streaming bundle on the road. Other vehicle manufacturers currently support Pandora through mobile devices via audio or docking interfaces: of Pandora’s 76 million active monthly users, four million have activated Pandora on the go, using 23 auto brands and 130 vehicle models. However, Volvo is the first manufacturer to embed Pandora connectivity right into the car.

Listeners, however, will have to contend with advertising, as Pandora also announced this week it will introduce advertising for those listening in the car, starting with 15- and 30-second spots from BP, Ford, State Farm, and Taco Bell. Drivers will still face fewer ads than on any other Pandora platform, and those who have subscribed to a premium account will still be spared.

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L. V. Smith

Lauren has written for a variety of publications on both sides of the Atlantic. She prefers driving Automatic.