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Old 10-11-2011, 11:10 PM   #1
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Cadillac Unveils New CUE Infotainment System ahead of Debut in XTS, We Try It!

Cadillac has just released a first batch of information on its new CUE infotainment system which, if nothing else, will shock the heck out of grandpa. The system will debut in the 2013 XTS, itself set to debut at the LA auto show in November—that’s the XTS’s interior above—and then will proliferate throughout the Cadillac lineup in the coming years. CUE stands for Cadillac User Experience, although we think it really stands for “We thought of this name first, then made things to stand for it.”

The CUE system really has three big components. There’s an entirely touch-sensitive center stack, an eight-inch capacitive touchscreen display at the top of that, and a giant all-digital screen replacing the gauge pods in front of the driver. From a design standpoint, the effect on the dashboard is that the new system creates a very clean surface, and the chrome—or chrome-inspired—trim lends a modern appearance. It’s attractive in the way an off-the-rack men’s suit might embody mass-produced slickness, but whether CUE actually works on a day-to-day basis without inspiring fits of profanity is the real question.

More Like an iPad: The Center Screen

The center touchscreen itself, as we mentioned, uses capacitive technology. In simple terms, this means that rather than looking like the matte, dull displays in every car now, it has a shiny, responsive screen. Devices like iPhones, iPads, and virtually all Android phones use capacitive screen technology. In contrast, the old cell phones like the Palm Treo, which required you to push in on them with a fingernail or stylus, use the resistive tech that’s in every other car on the market today. In addition to looking snazzier, capacitive tech has the potential of being more responsive than resistive, and it also enables multi-finger gestures, like pinching to zoom or rotations. Cadillac says that its screen, when it hits production, will be able to do all of this, but it wasn’t ready for us to try today.

The software it runs is Linux-based, which is open-source and gives the company a lot of options for customization. For the time being, Cadillac isn’t talking about apps—but it does assure us that eventually, the usual suite of “go find a movie and tell me the weather in Albuquerque” toys should be available. These will likely be run off of an attached iPhone or Android device, which hides in a big compartment behind the center stack.

Our initial impression—and we can’t stress enough that the system is still many revisions away from being in production form—was mixed. The screen looks good, the icons are attractive, and the general layout of the controls on the screen is usually intuitive and simple. (There are a few screens, like the one pictured below, that are a hot mess, though.) Unlike in other companies’ infotainment systems, there aren’t a dozen nested menus; this means you really don’t need to be tinkering with back buttons and trying to remember whether the setting to display gas stations on the navigation map is buried in “Navigation Options” or Display Settings.” Another smart feature is the inclusion of some haptic feedback. Press a virtual button on the screen, and your finger gets some slight vibration. It’s similar to what you’ll find with some smartphones, but in this case, since the finger is your only point of contact with the screen, it’s a more satisfying “click” feeling.

On the downside, though, the system is still laggy in responding to inputs and the general user interface isn’t doesn’t react to inputs with the same suave animations you’d see on a modern smartphone. Many of the screens seem to have buttons laid out somewhat haphazardly—though nowhere near as overloaded as what you’d see on one of the Chevy Volt’s screens or on some versions of MyFordTouch—meaning that drivers will need time to really learn where to press for the features they want. Luckily, just about everything is duplicated with steering-wheel-mounted controls and voice commands.

Center Stack and Gauge Display

The center stack, as we’ve said, doesn’t have any actual moving buttons. The climate control, which can also be controlled through the main screen, does have dedicated touch points though. The haptic feedback function works nicely here, too. What’s more, at least in this preproduction form, the system seems more responsive than the frustrating MyFordTouch climate buttons; that’s a promising sign.

The gauge display itself is entirely digital, much like what you’ll find in the new Jaguar XJ line. Unlike that car, though, the Cadillac CUE system gives drivers a host of options for customization and can display nearly as much information as is shown on the centrally mounted screen. Drivers can choose from four basic layouts—simple, enhanced, balanced, and performance—which swaps the information displayed. On top of that, ambitious tech geeks can further customize the info that they see. Unfortunately, it seems like most of the car’s traditional physical buttons and toggles have been relocated to the steering wheel, which will surely intimidate many operators. We didn’t have an opportunity to sample these in any detail, but noted one extremely cool function—when the nav system is set to give directions, a swipe on the center screen will pull the navigation info over to the gauge screen.

More Development is Coming

Lucky for the car-buying public—and sure, us too—Cadillac is planning a lot more development work on the CUE system before it launches early next year. The hardware is solid: CUE uses an ARM11 processor supplied by NEC, which in a broad sense is the same category of processor used in the iPhone 3. We’re eager to hear about the apps it may eventually be able to run; Pandora is a nice start, but some additional driving-focused applications would be welcome, from integration of restaurant ratings to social media hookups. As is often the case for automakers introducing new products and technology, Cadillac promises that CUE will be a game-changer. From what we’ve seen so far, it has the makings of a competitive system. A game changer, though? Call us when it’s done.

Text Source: Car & Driver

Last edited by warneej; 10-12-2011 at 09:19 AM.
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:19 AM   #2
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