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car gizmos

Ford Sync.

The Canadian International Auto Show in Toronto is always a showcase of the latest vehicles set to hit the market lined up next to opulent luxury rides and thrilling concept cars, but the show floor was fairly cryptic about the near-term evolution of the integrated systems inside.

It's no secret that the world of mobile connectivity and consumer electronics are permeating the automotive realm, but that marriage of convenience and in-car gadgetry was a tad muted this year.

That's not to say that the show floor was devoid of in-car technologies, but some of the updates and upgrades expected in 2012 weren't being presented.

One exception, at least to a limited degree, was Ford Sync. In response to consistent consumer complaints about MyFord Touch's slow response time, the update coming this year is expected to both speed that up and make the interface less cluttered for easier navigation. The turn-by-turn navigation is going to use 3D mapping from Navtech, and real-time traffic updates and monitoring will be offered for a monthly fee of around $8 a month.

Meanwhile, AppLink, Sync's integration with smartphone apps is "likely coming" to Canada this year, but no word on when or which vehicles will get it first. Less clear is whether the voice recognition of the platform will improve, but that's a question that can be raised about all of them.

Ford quantifies this by saying that Sync can understand 10,000 different words and commands, but that doesn't always mean it registers them. Mercedes-Benz is said to have improved its COMAND platform, while BMW's ConnectedDrive is supposed to undergo a facelift this year as well. But little of this was actually on display to try out. The 2013 Lexus lineup will see no real changes to its in-car entertainment and navigation system, including the trackball that acts like a mouse for the screen.

The rest of the auto makers have all committed to in-car infotainment, particularly since they've been moving from integrating smartphones to including apps in other markets. In Canada, Facebook and Twitter are front and centre in that effort, but again, there was little mentioned about the strategy and implementation for any and all apps from almost all the auto makers at the show.

Whether this is something manufacturers expect dealerships to do is unclear, but more than likely, those might be set aside to be unveiled in Frankfurt, Tokyo or Detroit. In many cases, experts who focus entirely on creating the in-car systems for their respective auto makers weren't on hand to talk about them, either.

Despite the limited offering in Toronto, auto makers will be doubling down on in-car infotainment, and some visible strides in that direction should be coming this year.

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