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Bluetooth and the automobile

Bluetooth1 is a standard used to connect all types of appropriately designed devices in a ‘wire free’ network. Harald Bluetooth was king of Denmark in the late tenth century. He united Denmark and part of Norway into a single kingdom then introduced Christianity into Denmark. His name is used for the standard to indicate how important companies from countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Norway are to the communications industry. Bluetooth is a standard that works at two levels.

Bluetooth is a radio frequency standard so it provides agreement at the physical level. At the ‘nonphysical’ level products also agree on when bits are sent, how many will be sent at a time and how error checking is implemented. The Bluetooth system operates in the 2.4 GHz Industrial-Scientific-Medical (ISM) band with a range that varies from 10 m to 100 m.

Visteon Bluetooth technology

Visteon, a leading automotive electronics technology company, (Visteon, 2002)2 produces an in-vehicle system that combines voice-activated controls with an interface module. This permits hands-free operation of mobile/cell phones, as well as wireless file access for personal digital assistants (PDAs) and laptops.

The system is activated with Visteon’s patented Voice Technology system, which recognizes six languages (US and UK English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Japanese) as well as regional accents. It makes a wireless connection to a chipset and associated software embedded in the vehicle’s radio. Enabling the wireless connection is a 150  80 28 mm module that contains a microprocessor for voice recognition and Bluetooth software.

To initiate pairing, for example the car radio to a mobile/cell phone, the user presses a Bluetooth pairing button. A four-digit PIN number is then entered using the existing radio buttons. Pressing the Bluetooth pairing button again confirms the action and completes it. This ‘pairing’ operation is necessary for each Bluetooth device used in the vehicle but it only needs to be carried out once for each item. The Bluetooth Interface Module offers support of high-speed vehicle networks, active echo cancellation and noise reduction.

Chrysler UConnect

At the time of writing, Chrysler is just starting to offer its customers a Bluetooth enabled automotive application. Each customer will have just one communication device (mobile/cell phone) with one number. Customers will be able to use their existing network or carrier to sign up (currently with AT&T), for enhanced services such as stock quotes, sports and the latest news.

The UConnect system will however, allow up to five different phones to be connected; ideal for family use for example. Voice commands will also be available to access 32 contacts with up to 128 phone numbers.

Microsoft Windows Automotive

A recent survey in the USA sponsored by Microsoft showed that three out of five consumers want handsfree communication, real-time traffic updates, and turn-by-turn directions in their vehicle. The survey showed that some 85% of mobile/cell phone owners use their phone and 50% of PDA owners use their PDAs while in the car

Microsoft has announced the availability of an operating system for cars called Windows Automotive 4.2. This embedded system is intended to enable car manufacturers to build devices that fit various models. This product is Microsoft’s first automotive-specific platform to support voice/dataenabled Bluetooth and the Microsoft .NET compact framework.


Bluetooth in the automobile is here and it is here to stay. The possibilities are endless and if used correctly will be advantageous for manufacturers and consumers alike. The convergence of different technologies seems inevitable and the Bluetooth enabled vehicle clearly encourages this. Communications and voice activation systems are already in use; diagnostic systems are coming soon.

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