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Volvo shows off Ericsson-developed touchscreen at CES

Volvo interiorWhile several carmakers have added touchscreens to their infotainment systems, Volvo has stuck with a control knob and buttons for its Sensus system. That will change in the near future, though. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Volvo showed a touchscreen-based system developed by Ericsson that will appear in future models.

The Ericsson system runs on Android and, following the current trend toward Web-based content for automotive infotainment systems, will connect to the cloud via the driver’s Bluetooth-equipped device.

So far, the touchscreen-based version of Sensus is linked to the Parrot Asteroid app store, and comes pre-loaded with Deezer, Spotify, and TuneIn radio. Drivers can swipe the screen left or right to move through app menu pages, just like an iPhone. A good old-fashioned CD player and iPod connection are also included.

Other entertainment options include an HTML5 browser that can play YouTube videos, and a built-in streaming video service. For safety reasons, video watching is disabled while the car is in motion.

Volvo is offering two navigation options. A Google-based setup comes with the expected Google Maps directions and Google Earth imagery. A second option, called iGo, which includes 3D-style graphics.

The new system can also automatically book dealer service appointments. If the car decides it needs an oil change or anything else, it prompts the driver and schedules an appointment at the dealer. Think of it as an idiot light that is much harder to ignore. It’s also a great way for Volvo dealers to keep customers from taking their business elsewhere.

Volvo’s existing customers won’t have to trade in their cars to get the new system either. Volvo will sell it as a dealer-installed option on any car with the seven-inch Sensus display, model year 2010 or later.

Retrofitting involves adding an interface box (installed in the glovebox) and an infrared screen overlay to make the Sensus display touch-sensitive. It’s unusual to see a carmaker updating the hardware of an infotainment system this way, but at least the company is giving its customers the option of upgrading.

The Ericsson system will also be offered from the factory beginning later in 2013. It will be standard on some models and optional on others. Volvo did not say which models would get the system as standard, or how much it would cost.