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NEMPA, MIT hosting car tech roundtable

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  May 16, 2011 03:15 PM

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In the age of smartphones, streaming media, and the ballooning Internet, automakers aren’t selling ordinary cars anymore — they’re building the next generation of mobile devices.

That’s what industry leaders will discuss at MIT this Friday in a special roundtable panel hosted by the New England Motor Press Association. Executives from Hyundai, Ford, BMW, and Hughes Telematics — as well as MIT’s renowned AgeLab, which studies how older drivers use today’s technology — will be revealing the latest research and company products.

NEMPA-Connectivity-Logo-hi.jpgWhat General Motors started with OnStar in 1997 — first as a satellite-linked concierge service, and today as a powerful anti-theft tool that can remotely disable a stolen vehicle — has spurred a “plug and play” revolution like that of the modern computer. Nearly every car, no matter the price, offers USB ports for iPods and MP3 players and Bluetooth hands-free integration for cell phones.

Now, we’re getting real-time traffic updates, mobile Wi-Fi hotspots, cars that text you for required maintenance, and customizable smartphone and in-car applications that can play Internet radio or stream 3D maps from Google Earth. Some cars offer voice-activated Facebook updates.

But is this electronic overkill that will lead to greater repair costs down the road? Or worse, will these features become greater distractions on the road? Has driver privacy already been compromised? The debate starts at 12:30 at the MIT Faculty Club and includes a fully catered lunch and cocktail reception.

For more event information, visit

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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