— You might call Cadillac's new CUE suite of infotainment, navigation and communication programs a jumbo smartphone or tablet, one that is there in the vehicle as needed, but can definitely get out of the way if you don't want it around.
Perhaps it's fitting then that CUE — which stands for "Cadillac User Experience" — was introduced Tuesday at the fall CTIA show in San Diego. The event by the wireless industry trade association showcases new phones and related gadgets.
Cadillac describes CUE as its "all-new, in-vehicle connectivity technology," one that lets the driver define how much technology he or she wants to have at any one time. CUE will be offered first next spring in the Cadillac XTS luxury sedan, then in the Cadillac ATS and and SRX luxury crossover.
CUE runs on the Linux operating system, using an ARM 11 three-core processor, with each core "operating at 400 million of instructions (mips) per second," Cadillac says.
The "efficient hardware setup offers 3.5 times more processing power than current infotainment systems," and will let developers write apps for CUE that can be downloaded by drivers.
The "heart" of CUE is the 8-inch LCD touchscreen, located at the top of the vehicle's central instrument panel; there's also a motorized capacitive faceplate at the bottom.
The screen shows CUE’s home page, "which resembles a smartphone’s screen by using large, easy-to-target icons to execute commands," Cadillac says.
The driver's five most-often used functions are "stored along the top of the screen. Along the bottom of the screen, users can select up to 60 favorites from music to points of interest, addresses, maps for weather or directions, phone numbers or system commands, such as 'tag song.' "
The steering wheel has a five-way controller on the right side "to navigate the cluster display, a volume control and buttons to cycle through favorites, while the five-way controller on the left side manages cruise control functions, voice recognition, phone hang-up and heated steering wheel."
Cadillac says that many luxury cars now "have around 20 buttons controlling the radio and entertainment functions. CUE reduces that to just four buttons."
"For the tech-savvy, it’s everything you want it to be — a full suite of infotainment, navigation and communication tools that keeps you fully connected. For the tech-averse, its power is remarkably simple, intuitive and accessible," said Don Butler, Cadillac vice-president of marketing, in a press release.
The program also uses "natural language voice recognition," using Nuance's voice technology, and based on GM's database of commands most used by drivers.
So, "instead of saying 'radio' and waiting for system to respond, you can say 'I want to listen to 101.1,' and the system will recognize it," said Mike Hichme, CUE's engineering manager.
"Most manufacturers put voice recognition on the steering wheel; we're adding it to the screen" to encourage drivers to use voice recognition "rather than scrolling for an item manually."'
Cadillac says CUE has "several auto industry firsts," including:
Proximity sensing: As the user’s hand "approaches the elegant, uncluttered LCD screen, command icons appear. Icons can be customized and arranged by consumers to improve ease of use."
Haptic feedback: "Buttons on the fully capacitive faceplate pulse when pressed to acknowledge the driver’s commands and keeps the driver’s eyes on the road."
Multi-Touch hand gestures: "Interactive motions (tap, flick, swipe and spread) popularized by smartphones and tablets allow tasks on the LCD screen, such as scrolling lists, zooming maps and searching favorites to be easily accomplished."
"CUE doesn’t replace your smartphone or your iPod," said Micky Bly, Cadillac's executive director of infotainment, in a press release.
"Rather it allows consumers to safely store those mobile devices," and channel "the information on those devices, along with your navigation tools, weather maps with Doppler radar AM/FM and XM radio, instant messages and emails, through a central portal ... keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road."