Smart Car Radio Does It All

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With all the hype about distracted driving caused by using mobile devices, people are looking for safer ways to use their phones and other electronics while on the road. But investing in the host of technologies available takes time and money. So some companies are creating smart car units that do it all. Here, I'll highlight one of the newest on the market: Parrot's Asteroid, which lets drivers make calls and find music with voice activation, and also connects to GPS or the Internet for web apps.

The palm-sized Parrot's detachable faceplate pops into a dashboard. An iPod-like jog wheel and voice activation button sit to the left of a 3.2-inch color screen. Music can be played from a number of music players or phones, a USB, or an SD card that slides in behind the faceplate. The Asteroid has an amplifier and equalizer, but also contains outputs for a 6xRCA preamp and a subwoofer. While on the road, the driver only needs to say an artist's name and the music will queue itself up. If there's a 3G connection, the player can also stream radio from online.

Designed for compatibility with most smart phones, the smart radio automatically synchronizes to the phone book and saved voice-recognition settings of a mobile device the first time it connects via Bluetooth. The Asteroid runs on the Android operating system. In addition to the apps already on the Internet, Parrot plans to develop some apps specific to the radio in the future. A cloud-based mobile GPS system like this one, which I reported on a few weeks ago, might be a good choice.

No one is driving around with the Asteroid yet; by the end of March it should be available in Europe with a U.S. version to follow in the next quarter. Parrot is keeping mum on prices for now. Without a Bluetooth or GPS myself, I know I'd like to try it. But for those of you who already have such things, would an option like the Asteroid be appealing?

Photo: Parrot

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