Your car is a rolling computer

Dashboard computer

While on vacation, how cool would it be to snap a photo of the red-rock formations around Moab, Utah, from one of the cameras built into your car?

And then automatically upload it to Facebook? Without ever taking your hand off the steering wheel or eye off the road?

Is it something you need to do? Nah.

But wouldn't it be cool?

This is the sort of leap in communications being kicked around at the GM Advanced Technology facility near Palo Alto, Calif., just south of San Francisco.

Integrating all the technology most of us use every day into our daily drive is no simple feat.

Today's cars have more computer power than the Apollo 12 lunar module that landed on the moon four decades ago, and every new bit of new technology requires even more.

Cars are really just big computers that we sit in and drive around.

Translating the latest communications technology to your car's system is far more complicated than simply tossing in another chip.

Successfully adapting day-to-day personal technology, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, to your car has unique requirements.

Beyond tailoring it to work in a moving vehicle and choosing the appropriate place to locate it, it's a complicated proposition involving considerations like weight, cost, space and durability.

How does a carmaker do it?

If you're General Motors, you open a technology forward operating base in Silicon Valley to ensure you've got eyes and ears on the cutting edge.

I recently spent a couple of hours there.

Basically this is GM's technology skunkworks that is relatively unknown, even within the management ranks.

Currently it consists of 10 eggheads who sit around thinking about stuff.

They look at the latest technology being pumped out by all the geeks at the assorted think tanks scattered around Silicon Valley and ponder what the applications might be for cars.

Tight-lipped would be an understatement in describing the PhD types I spoke with. After some coaxing, they did mention the vacation-photo possibilities of one new technology they are noodling over.

What is just over the technology horizon is mind-boggling. And whatever you can do in your home will eventually find an application in your car.

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