Detroit Auto Show Spotlights Wearable Technology and Connected Cars

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heads-up display, for instance, it could turn off the device’s mobile Internet connection (reconnecting in case of emergency).

Stefan Bankowski, a product development engineer with Ford’s App Link team, says Ford is “future-proofing” itself by designing its cars as if some kind of national regulations will be in place soon. “I’m not sure if Google Glass will ever be allowed in the vehicle,” he says. “The industry is looking at things like heads-up texting, where the texts pop up on the windshield. We’re exploring different interfaces.”

From Bankowski’s comments, it’s clear that car companies want to get in on “the Internet of things”—the buzzy term for a world where multiple devices are talking to each other. The phrase came up repeatedly among car companies I talked to at the auto show. Though Bankowski is an auto engineer, his hobby is hacking. He also owns a Pebble, which means even if the government decides against allowing wearable technology in cars, he’s still interested in that functionality as a consumer.

Bankowski has been working on a way to use his smart watch to access his car’s operating system so that he can set up alerts that vibrate on his wrist when he’s going too fast, or vibrate when he’s using navigation and he’s arrived at his destination. “Developing the software is actually kind of simple,” he says. “I’m excited that it’s finally being talked about [by the industry] now.”

One man betting that Google Glass will indeed be allowed in cars is Jake Steinerman, the Michigan-based founder of a startup called DriveSafe. He and his team have created an app for Google Glass users to help them drive more safely.

“Google Glass has a number of sensors, and one of them is infared,” Steinerman says. “We use that sensor to detect the number of blinks and tilt of the user’s head over time. At a certain point, if it thinks you’re falling asleep, it will set off an alert using the bone conduction speaker. You can say, ‘OK, Glass, find a rest area,’ and the GPS will tell you when the next rest area is coming up.”

At the moment, Google hasn’t established a protocol for how outside developers might submit Glass apps to its app store. Steinerman expects that to happen soon, though. In the meantime, his DriveSafe app is in beta testing and available for download at the company’s website.

“I think the intersection of cars and wearable devices is inevitable,” he adds. “We want to be at the forefront.”

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