Sitting in traffic? Send a text message to the guy in front of you.
The New York International Auto Show kicks off this Friday and there will be a torrent of technology, but it isn’t focused on mpg or “skid pad” performance. The new models are all about apps and Facebook friends.
In a high-tech tizzy, car makers will be busy touting new in-dash systems and remote services for drivers. There will be more touch-screen controls, such as the CUE system on Cadillac’s jazzed up 2013 SRX crossover, and updated services, such as Mercedes-Benz’s mbrace smartphone controls.
Mass market manufacturers such as Ford, Honda, and Toyota are also touting more telematics: a combination of Internet-connected features for navigation, streaming music services, and apps from connected phones. (A lot of tech is aimed at safety as well, such as vibrating seats in Cadillac models that warn of impending collisions. Subaru will debut a pedestrian detection system, for example.)
While vehicles that automatically post Tweets have been tested in the past and many car companies have experimented with different kinds of apps and other social media features, a new service promises to catapult cars into the social media space by turning license plates into rolling e-mail and text addresses. It would effectively allow every driver to directly text or message every other driver by simply using their license plate number.
The appropriately named Bump Network lets people use a smartphone app to scan or enter a license plate number and then send the person a text or voice message. For the message to be received, both people have to sign up for Bump. The basic service is free, and the company’s founder and CEO, Mitch Thrower, said it will reach people in the one remaining place where they are often still isolated.
“The car,” Thrower said, “is the last place in a connected world where people remain unconnected.” He thinks Bump has the potential to change people’s behavior in disruptive ways.