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Wireless phone charging coming to new cars

Consumer Reports News
Wireless phone charging coming to new cars

Smartphone junkies, take notice: Your next car may be equipped with wireless cell phone charging to keep your device fully powered up on the road, with no cords to clutter up the car.

Depending on the make and model, the technology may even fully integrate your phone with the car's audio system and touchscreen, allowing voice access to your phone's music and address book or quick access through the dashboard screen.

To use, drivers simply place their phone on a charging pad built into the car's console or covered storage compartment. The pad includes a transmitter that sends an electromagnetic signal picked up by a receiver in the phone. The process is automatic, and LED readouts indicate the battery level while the phone is charging. The system can automatically switch on and off as needed to maintain a charge.

First appearing as an option on the redesigned 2013 Toyota Avalon, the technology is called Qi (pronounced "chee"), and it will be available on the 2014 Jeep Cherokee due this fall. Promoted by the Wireless Power Consortium, a group of electronics companies and suppliers who hope to see Qi become an international wireless charging standard, the group says to expect Qi in more new models soon. (Chevrolet announced a similar product was in development for the Volt.)

Qi is being built into some new phones now, including models from HTC and LG. The Wireless Consortium says more are on the way, and adaptive sleeves or accessories can add Qi to a number of other popular phones including the Samsung Galaxy S3 and S4.

We see this technology as both a convenience and a potential way to reduce driver distraction depending upon how carmakers integrate it into a vehicle. If the charging pad is located in a compartment hidden out of sight, for example, and allows a driver to access their device only through voice controls or larger buttons on the car's touch screen, distraction could be reduced.

We look forward to taking Qi for a spin.

—Jim Travers

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