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Today Cadillac announced their new CUE, or Customer User Experience, system in conjunction with the CTIA event in San Diego. CUE is an integrated technology package which is designed to present actionable information to drivers and passengers via a highly customizable interface.

According to Micky Bly, Executive Director of Electrical Systems for GM, CUE has been under development at Cadillac by a joint team of designers and engineers who worked together to perfect the user interface for years.

I see this next-generation vehicle system as more than a simple me-to infotainment center launch. It is a strategic move in the direction of opening up the automotive platform to external development, allowing Cadillac vehicles to reap the benefits of an interconnected world where for any desire, “there’s an app for that”.

Cadillac CUE Video Overview

Cadillac CUE Highlights

The new CUE system is primarily based on a Linux platform. The system uses a three core setup, two of which are dedicated to running the OS, while the third interfaces with the vehicles various subsystems in order to provide real-time feedback. The interface is accessed via an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen, a proximity sensor and haptic feedback. This is an industry first and puts Cadillac in the lead from an interface perspective.

Connectivity Options

The system will accept up to 10 different device connections simultaneously. So imagine everyone in the car having their phone or tablet connected via bluetooth, plus having up to four different devices connected via USB.

Media Aggregation

If there is media stored on any of those devices, the system will catalog it and make it available in a combined library. So you could easily be playing songs from your iPhone, while also having access to additional media you keep stored on a USB drive in the car.

Messaging Assistance

Cadillac’s CUE also enhances driver safety by taking care of functions like text message handling. It will optionally read your incoming SMS messages to you, and allow you to reply with either canned or custom responses.

Cadillac App Store?

Although we asked repeatedly, Cadillac execs were tight lipped about the possibility of a Cadillac App Store in the near future. But I have to assume the platform will eventually be accepting submissions from developers who are interested in extending the system to give users new and innovative ways to interact with their cars.

It would easily be possible for the CUE system to act as an interpreter between the vehicle’s built in internal systems and a Cadillac API (CAPI?) in order to feed vehicle informatics to third party apps. If I were Cadillac I’d make all of the systems data available as XML streams to apps, so they could be easily parsed and reinterpreted.

Cadillac CUE Launch Gallery

Here are photos taken at the CUE launch event.

Cadillac CUE Press Release

SAN DIEGO – Cadillac CUE, a comprehensive in-vehicle experience that merges intuitive design with auto industry-first controls and commands for information and entertainment data, will benefit consumers by offering personalized, connected driving beginning in 2012.

“CUE will transform personal transportation by simply and efficiently integrating luxury design and instinctive technology with unparalleled levels of customized in-vehicle connectivity,” Don Butler, Vice President, Cadillac Marketing, announced at the CTIA Wireless Association’s Enterprise and Applications conference.

CUE will debut in 2012 in the Cadillac XTS and ATS luxury sedans and SRX luxury crossover. CUE is designed to be unique for each consumer, from the “simple user” to the fully connected “super user.”

“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,” Butler said.

CUE which stands for Cadillac User Experience, will pair entertainment and information data from up to 10 Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices, USBs, SD cards and MP3 players with a vehicle infotainment system that reduces complexity through customized information, natural voice commands and fewer buttons and larger icons

For example, most of today’s luxury cars have around 20 buttons controlling the radio and entertainment functions. CUE reduces that to just four buttons.

“CUE doesn’t replace your smartphone or your iPod™,” said Micky Bly, executive director, Global Electric Systems, Infotainment and Electrification. “Rather it allows consumers to securely store those mobile devices and channeling 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 in your Cadillac, keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

The heart of CUE is the 8-inch LCD touch screen, seamlessly integrated into the top of the central instrument panel and a motorized fully capacitive faceplate at the bottom concealing a 1.8L storage area. The vibrant LCD screen displays CUE’s home page, which resembles a smart phone’s screen by using large, easy-to-target icons to execute commands. Capacitive refers to using electrodes to sense the conductive properties of objects, such as a finger.

“CUE is a very elegant in-vehicle hub of all the information and entertainment in your life. All of CUE’s controls use the same design vernac­ular to create a harmony unique to Cadillac,” said Dave Lyon, executive director, Cadillac Interior Design. “Vibrant colors, a piano black face plate, precision-milled buttons, intuitive touch screen placement and sculpted front console provide a spacious, fashion-forward cabin.”

To improve simplicity and connectivity for consumers, CUE will feature several auto

Industry firsts:

  • Proximity Sensing: As the user’s hand approaches the 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 helps keep 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.
  • 12.3 in. LCD reconfigurable gauge cluster (on select models) offers four selectable displays – Simple, Enhanced, Balanced and Performance – that can mix traditional vehicle data such as a speedometer and fuel gauge with navigation, entertainment and 3D vehicle image.
  • Natural Speech Recognition lets consumers speak logically with fewer specific commands to recall stored media or input navigation destinations. CUE’s text-to-speech feature will also allow consumers to receive text messages by system voice and to send recorded text messages in return.
  • Linux operating system, “open” software platform and ARM 11 3-core processor, each operating at 400 million of instructions (mips) per second. This hardware setup offers 3.5 times more processing power than current infotainment systems, and allow developers to write applications to CUE that be downloaded by consumers.
  • “It’s processing speed and power that make CUE so capable,” said Bly.

Connectivity, Control, Convenience

CUE development began in 2008 when Cadillac designers rode with 32 consumers for six months to study driver habits. Engineers and designers then used the data to develop CUE.

CUE’s LCD screen features the driver’s five most frequently used functions 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.”

Favorites can also be re-ordered and named to be easily recallable.

The steering wheel contains 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.

CUE’s customization and control features are further enhanced through OnStar’s suite of safety, security and connectivity services , such as Turn-by-Turn navigation, Automatic Crash Notification, hands-free calling and the OnStar RemoteLink mobile application.

Key OnStar features are available through CUE’s LCD screen, gauge cluster and steering wheel controls.

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John P. is CEO of Livid Lobster and co-host of Geek Beat TV. You can also find him on Twitter and Google+.