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7 Gadgets From CES That Your Car Wants

By Aaron Crowe

If you didn’t get a Christmas gift for your car, then consider the many wonderful things available at the recently ended Consumer Electronics Show, or CES, in Las Vegas.

While some of the items may not be immediately available and are in the early planning stages, many are at least available now in limited form if not completely. Either way, there’s plenty to get excited about when looking for the latest electronic gadgets for your car.

Here are the top seven gadgets we recommend from CES for your car:

1. Self-driving cars. This seemed to be the biggest advancement for cars at CES with Google leading the way for computer-driven cars, though Google wasn’t at CES. But Audi was, showing off its Piloted Driving system that has the car drive itself in traffic jams while you watch a movie or play games on the in-dash video console. Audi also demonstrated a car that can park itself in a specially designed garage equipped with laser guides after dropping you off.

Audi isn’t the only car maker with self-driving cars. Toyota and Volkswagen announced such plans this year, and Mercedes-Benz already has similar technology, according to MSN Money.

2. Vehicle diagnostics service. This GPS tracker from Delphi and Verizon isn’t the sexiest car gadget at CES, but it caught our interest for its ability to track your car and report engine problems to you through an app on a smartphone. An Engadget video shows how it can be used to see where your teen is driving, including how fast, and it can send alerts if the teen drives outside of a geographic area you’ve told them not to leave.

The item is a small plastic box that plugs into most cars sold after 1996 in the U.S. It communicates wirelessly with a smartphone or tablet. It has a lot of features that other apps have, such as being able to unlock your car remotely or start the engine — but its long list of features should make it worthwhile, depending on the cost. As with too many things at CES, the cost of the device hasn’t been released yet.

3. Garmin’s K2 glass cockpit. After driverless and automated cars, car accessories such as this were the most talked about in “car conversations” in social media posts at CES 2013, according to an analysis by ForSight, a media analysis platform from Crimson Hexagon.

The 10.4-inch capacitive touch screen is in the front and center of the car, and a 12-inch digital gauge and information readout console is fixed just behind the steering wheel, according to an Engadget review. Realtime data is pulled through your connected smartphone or from a dedicated modem, allowing access to realtime traffic, prices at local gas stations, email, texts, sports scores, news and other data feeds. For safety reasons, drivers will only be able to operate the center panel when stopped, shifting to a text-to-speech system when driving. Pricing and release dates haven’t been set yet.

4. Inductive electric car charging. Qualcomm showed this off at CES, and it is already being fleet-tested in London. The system recharges an electric car that parks on top of a three-foot-square pad by transmitting power to a receiver mounted on the underside of the vehicle, according to Consumer Reports, which picked it as one of the top forms of car tech at CES 2013.. Park and charge your electric car without plugging in, as this video shows. Your car could someday be charged as you drive, with the pads installed in HOV lanes, for example.

5. Mobile Internet radio. Instead of waiting for your favorite radio show to come on at a specified time, listen to it on a podcast or whenever you want with various applications. This year at CES, radio apps were the rage, jumping from your smartphone to the dashboard.

Dashboard computers will be able to run radio apps, such as through Ford opening its Sync AppLink platform to more developers, and GM also offering a software development kit to developers. The idea is to make it easier to find radio stations and shows you want to listen to, instead of being distracted by too much text or video games.

6. Cars of the future. As PCMag.com points out, you don’t go to CES to attend a car show, though that’s how it can turn out sometimes. One of the cars it liked the most was the Audi R18 e-tron Quattro, a flashy car that looks like a racecar driven here from the future. It won the Le Mans 24 Hours 2012 and has a cockpit that looks like an Xbox controller.

The Dodge Charger Pursuit was also a favorite, designed with the Los Angeles Police Department. Its gadgets include infrared cameras, license-plate recognition, bullet-proof doors and a solar panel on the roof to keep the battery charged to keep all of those electronic gadgets running.

7. Nighhawk Bluetooth Microphone Combo System. Priced at $125, this device meets all of the requirements for hand-free phone use as required by most state laws, but it’s much more than that.

A winner of the CES 2013 Design and Engineering Honoree award, it has a universal recording app for Apple and Android users to wirelessly record high-quality audio from up to 120 feet away. Users can clip a microphone to themselves, the interview subject or capture any other audio on their smartphone. Want to record a voice memo or record a conversation while driving? This will do it.

Buying all of those gadgets are probably out of your price range, so don’t go crazy trying to buy everything. And if you can’t buy any of them, you can at least dream until the next CES in January 2014.

Aaron Crowe is a writer who specializes in personal finance topics for CheapCarInsurance.net.