Cadillac is on the verge of joining the big leagues in terms of its in-car entertainment and information systems with the upcoming Cadillac CUE system. Set to hit dealerships in 2012, Cadillac CUE is intended to help to domestic luxury brand compete against the high end vehicle interfaces offered by German competitors such as BMW (iDrive) and Audi (MMI).
The CUE acronym stands for Cadillac User Experience, and like many other existing entertainment and communications interfaces it will rely on Bluetooth in order to pair up with mobile devices such as smart phones or tablets. CUE can handle as many as 10 separate Bluetooth pairings at a time, and it will also offer SD and USB plugs in order to access digital files.
What sets CUE apart from standard luxury vehicle interfaces is the decision to simplify how drivers and passengers use the system. The Cadillac User Experience offers four physical buttons with which to access basic system functions, but the majority of the interaction with CUE is accomplished via a combination of touchscreen and voice commands. The Cadillac User Experience's eight-inch LCD screen makes use of "proximity sensing," which allows it to detect when the driver's hand is close to the screen. It can then use this information to automatically magnify the icons located immediately under the user's fingertips, making it simpler to select the desired features while driving. CUE takes the five most-used functions and groups them together on top of the screen, but drivers are able to select up to 60 "favorites" and assign them to virtually any aspect of the system that they want to, whether they be songs, phone numbers or map locations on the vehicle's navigation screen.
The LCD screen also supports "multi-touch hand gestures," which are a collection of hand motions borrowed from tablet computers that can be assigned to specific features and commands in order to simplify access. Cadillac has additionally designed the touchscreen to pulse under the user's hand in order to provide feedback with each selected icon.
Cadillac CUE incorporates a "natural" speech recognition feature which offers shortcuts to various system features and functions without locking the driver into pre-arranged commands. It is also capable of reading text messages aloud to drivers as they are received on a mobile device, and CUE can interpret speech in order to compose and send replies to these messages. Interestingly, the center stack immediately below the CUE LCD screen opens up to reveal small cubby which can be used to store a phone or MP3 player which has been paired with the system, avoiding the need to stow devices in the vehicle's center console.
In front of the driver, Cadillac borrows a page from the MyFord and MyLincoln Touch systems, linking CUE with an LCD gauge display that that features four different screens which each show specifically grouped information. Cadillac labels the screens Simple, Enhanced, Balanced and Performance, but hasn't given away the details as to exactly what each heading reveals about the content of the display. The company has said that CUE will be able to offer a "3D vehicle image" on the dash, although what advantage this would offer the drive is not explained. The digital gauges can be controlled and via steering wheel-mounted buttons.
Cadillac intends to offer the Cadillac User Experience first on the upcoming Cadillac XTS full-size sedan, the Cadillac ATS compact sedan and the existing Cadillac SRX mid-size crossover. Theoretically, CUE would eventually spread to the Cadillac Escalade and the Cadillac CTS, most likely through the course of their next development cycle. The luxury brand has stated that not all features will be available with each automobile, although it is safe to assume that the XTS flagship will be sold with the full CUE experience.