In the 1970's, top of the line in-car entertainment systems consisted of a quadraphonic eight-track audio system pumping out music stored on cartridges – and maybe a strobe light. Since then, CD, DVD and Blu-ray players, touchscreens, integrated smartphone connectivity, GPS systems and more have all found their way into automobiles to provide increasingly powerful in-car infotainment systems. Saab is now looking to bring the versatility and personalization capabilities of Google's Android operating system to its vehicles with the development of its IQon infotainment concept that will allow users to download applications, online services and multi-media functions through a Saab IQon store.

The Saab IQon system centers around an embedded computer platform with a modem that will automatically connect to the Internet when the car is turned on. It is controlled via an 8-inch touchscreen that provides access to streaming audio and video, online navigation and media stored on board. But that's just the start.

In addition to Saab-developed applications, third-party developers will also be able to create custom applications with Saab issuing a vehicle API that will provide access to over 500 signals from different sensors in the vehicle. These sensors measure things such as vehicle speed, location, direction of travel, yaw rate, steering wheel angle, engine speed and torque, interior and exterior temperature, barometric pressure and even the position of the sun.

Saab believes that providing developers access to the full range of car communications, telematics, systems monitoring and diagnostics will ensure the car's infotainment systems evolve to stay up to date over the life cycle of the vehicle. Additionally, Saab says its 'open innovation' development strategy that throws open the doors to third party developers will provide a faster, more efficient and more flexible development of vehicle infotainment services as compared to conventional, in-house development.

"With Saab IQon, there are no limits to the potential for innovation," says Johan Formgren, Head of Saab Aftersales and commercial project leader for IQon. "We will be inviting the global Android developer community to use their imagination and ingenuity."

To ensure drivers don't plow through a crowd of pedestrians because they're distracted by a game of Angry Birds, all applications will need to be evaluated and approved by Saab before they make it to the Saab IQon store.

Using the system, Saab dealerships will also be able to remotely carry out diagnostics, view vehicle data, provide service appointments and install new in-car options.

Saab will publicly show the IQon system for the first time in the Saab PhoeniX concept car at the 2011 Geneva Motor Show but a beta version of the system is already being trialed in a fleet of test cars.

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