Automakers Racing to Put Online Audio on the Road

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CNET's Wayne Cunningham is reporting that Japanese auto giant Toyota is collaborating with Clear Channel Radio and plans to integrate the broadcaster's iHeart mobile radio application into some of its product line as early as next year.

While details of exactly how iHeart online content will be accessed remain sketchy, auto industry observers say there are two possibilities: One option involves Bluetooth connection from a 3G/4G smart phone, while the other relies on provisioning an in-car network port for a mobile broadband USB data modem.

Either way, Toyota's move is seen by some as a response to Ford's success with its Sync digital audio system. Last week, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) announced that Ford's Focus would be featured as the official car of the 2011 Consumer Electronic Show (CES) scheduled to open on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas.

Included among the Focus 2011 digital content suite will be a Sony HD Radio audio system and myFord Touch, a new iteration of Ford's Sync digital content management system, which allows steering wheel or voice command of video and audio functionality, and integral Wi-fi connectivity via a USB Mobile broadband modem port.

Toyota is reportedly planning to use CES as the launch venue for its new iHeart Radio app as well.

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