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LA Auto Show 2013: New connected cars won't displace the radio

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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

People crowd around a Nissan Rogue loaded with Airbiquity technology on November 19, 2013 in Los Angeles, where the LA Auto Show opened for a media preview three days before opening to the public. Automotive technology takes center stage together with the unveilings of new vehicles at this year's auto show, which will run from November 22 to December 1 at the LA Convention Center.

The global car industry is gathered in Los Angeles this week for the L.A. Auto Show, which opens to the public on Friday, and on Tuesday, a daylong event focused on the "connected car." 

Auto manufacturers are packing more digital electronics into their vehicles, providing drivers with basics such as navigation and offering friendly ways to connect your mobile phone to your dashboard display. That means that drivers can access their favorite music apps, such as Pandora, iTunes or Spotify.

It also makes one wonder if the car radio may soon go the way of the cigarette lighter.

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Not likely, say auto execs.  Their customers still want the AM/FM, but they also want a way to easily connect their smart phone to their car and display and use their favorite apps via the dashboard display.

That creates some issues for car companies, who worry about driver distraction, and have to comply with federal safety regulations.

It's also leading to some challenging partnerships between old-line auto firms, and digital age tech companies. Both sides seem to agree they will need to learn to work together as consumers demand app-like experiences in their cars.

Pairing your smart phone with your car is only a start. Some companies, including GM, think the car must become an internet appliance, one that is constantly hooked to the grid.  That would make it possible to remotely start your car on a cold morning, or find it easily when you've lost it in the mall parking lot.

According to GM's Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abrahms (yes, that's really his title), connecting your car to the internet means it's more connected to you.

"Your car will be your friend," Abrahms says.

Friends have benefits, but they sometimes come at a cost. In this case, that will be yet another monthly bill for internet access for your friend, the car.


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