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What's New At The Detroit Auto Show


You know what has happened to the phone over time. You know, years ago - old days - 10 years ago, 15 years ago, it was just a phone.


Right - a phone. So now it's also a watch a camera a map a way to shame your friends into paying you back for the dinner the other night that they...

INSKEEP: (Laughter).

MARTIN: ...Did not pay for.

INSKEEP: And so much more.

NPR's Sonari Glinton is at the big auto show in Detroit and finds that the same thing is now happening to cars.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: The options for a new vehicle are kind of like a diner menu of features. Lincoln will connect you with a concierge. And Mercedes - the car knows you're on a windy road and will help you control your steering into the curve. Subaru has a built-in dog ramp. And Honda is focusing on your parenting skills.

MICAH MUZIO: Honda has done so much clever stuff by integrating technologies that aren't just cool and techie but really make the job of parenting easier.

GLINTON: Micah Muzio is with Kelley Blue Book. He's the father of a toddler, and he showed me around a Honda Odyssey to make his point.

MUZIO: So when I say make parenting easier, I mean, as the driver - you know, we have had a representative up front there. Say hi, Davis Adams.

DAVIS ADAMS: Hi, Davis Adams.

MUZIO: That's good shtick. Should we roleplay?

GLINTON: OK. So you'll sit in the back seat.

MUZIO: OK. OK, all right.

GLINTON: So I'll sit in the middle row?

MUZIO: So I've positioned myself in the third row. And I am a fussy, fussy toddler, and Davis would like to keep tabs on what I'm doing.

GLINTON: Oh and I'm looking - I just realized there's a camera that's inside the car. And Davis is pinching it, and he's seeing my bald head.


GLINTON: And he can zoom back. And you're in the third row, and you can see you making obscene gestures (laughter).

MUZIO: So what's great about that is that when you're the driver, you're pointing the exact opposite direction of where your children are. And that is a great way that, rather than taking his gaze completely away from where he's driving, he can look at the screen right in the middle of the dash there and see. How many fingers am I holding up, Davis?

ADAMS: You're holding up two, Micah.

MUZIO: Look on the lower left side. You see what it says on the lower left side of the screen?

GLINTON: Cabin Talk.

MUZIO: Yeah. Davis, you want to explain that?

ADAMS: Cabin Talk allows you to use the microphone in the front of the car and broadcast your voice to the back of the car. So if you want to parent from the front seat without having to raise your voice or something like that, you can do that right from here without having it too crazy.

MUZIO: Don't you want to hear that from back here? Let's really roleplay.

Oh, no. I'm being fussy and disagreeable. Davis, discipline me.

ADAMS: Micah, don't make me come back there.

MUZIO: Yes, sir.

GLINTON: Here's something interesting. Many car companies have been fiddling with the layout of the interior of cars, lighter materials that will allow you to change the configuration of your minivan or your SUV really quickly.

MUZIO: One of the things that I really like about the second row in the the Odyssey is that it's got something called Buddy Mode. Can I demonstrate Buddy Mode to you?

GLINTON: By the way, he's always kind of like this.

MUZIO: OK. No, no, no, no. You got to sit in here for this. OK.


MUZIO: So watch what I'm going to do right now. OK. Whee.

So I've now slid immediately next to Sonari, making him very uncomfortable. But what's great about this is that it - you can keep them in separate positions in case, you know, the kids are fighting. And what's wonderful about this technology is that this is the kind of stuff that's super easy to use. And mothers and fathers are going to be more attentive and safer when they drive. That's fantastic.

GLINTON: Don't make me come back there.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Detroit.


THE BEATLES: (Singing) Baby, you can drive my car. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.