Elio Motors announces tie-up with Continental Engineering Services

Sections: Infotainment, Installations

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Elio Motors Continental Engineering Services Smartphone Docking Station

A prototype of the smartphone docking station planned for Elio Motors’ three-wheeled, $6,800 car is displayed. Continental — yes THAT Continental — is supplying the docking station as well as engineering for the car’s electrical/electronic systems, according to an Elio press release. (Photo courtesy Elio Motors/Facebook)

Elio Motors, who just revealed the fourth-generation prototype of their three-wheeled, $6,800, 84-MPG car at the Sundance Film Festival, announced this week an agreement that will allow Continental Engineering Services to design the segment-busting car’s electrical system as well as what Elio called a “Flexible Smart Phone Docking Station.”

According to the press release from Elio Motors, this is a division of the same Continental that makes tires. Interestingly, the release noted Elio Motors’ tire supplier is Cooper Tires. Reckon coming to an agreement with Continental Engineering Services on designing the electrical system of the car was awkward when the Continental mothership knew it wasn’t getting Elio’s tire business?

Elio Motors CEO, Founder, and namesake Paul Elio said, “I am thrilled to continue to build our relationships with the world’s leading suppliers and developers. Working with Continental Engineering Services will allow Elio Motors to stay on top of technological trends, like in-vehicle smart phone docking stations. Combined with our composite body panels that deter outside noises from reaching the cockpit, drivers and passengers can enjoy the purest listening quality.”

Continental Engineering Services North America Head Vinh Tran said, “Continental Engineering Services is proud to be a part of the Elio development team. We are working toward adapting Continental products for use on their new vehicle together. Our expert engineers are providing engineering solutions for the Elio concept in the area of E/E Architecture and body and engine control development. Our engineering service team is versatile and dynamic to help start-up companies like Elio Motors.”

According to Continental Engineering Services’ information document, the E/E stands for Electrical/Electronic. The focus for Continental is to engineer a reliable wiring and power system for the three-wheeled Elio.

But designing an all-new wiring and electronics system is a given when building an all-new car. What I’m more interested in is seeing just how “flexible” this Flexible Smart Phone Docking Station really is. If it’ll plug into both an iPhone’s lightning plug and my Samsung’s tiny USB, that would make a pretty convincing argument in Elio’s (and Continental’s) favor. I’m also curious to see if it will integrate beyond simple Bluetooth hands-free calling. Will the Elio get voice texting? Pandora connectivity? The ability to read your Google Maps driving directions out over the car’s speakers? Time will tell.

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  • Patrick

    Good article and I think the dock as to do ALL of those things. I know they are a challenge, but the author does well to list exactly the things that customers will expect from talented engineers.
    1. Connect and charge phones from the three largest platforms (iOS, Android, Windows or BB)
    2. Play music/podcasts from the phones memory or streaming services
    3. Read turn-by-turn directions
    4. Support hands free calling and simple voice commands

  • Cameron Schwartz

    “I’m also curious to see if it will integrate beyond simple Bluetooth hands-free calling. Will the Elio get voice texting? Pandora connectivity? The ability to read your Google Maps driving directions out over the car’s speakers?”

    Isn’t that the point of the media dock? We have a system in our present vehicle that as soon as I pair my iPhone to it, I can do all of the above mentioned items easily through my phone.

    Is the thought in this article that only phone calls will be sent through the Elio’s speakers?

    • Lyndon Johnson

      Thanks for commenting, Cameron. You got it, kinda.

      The problem I consistently ran into with an old-tech LG Tracfone (not a smartphone, but my “dumbphone,” as I came to call it,) was its inability to sync completely with some cars’ Bluetooth systems. Bluetooth has been a staple of infotainment systems long enough at this point that I would expect to have no trouble connecting even a relatively simple phone like mine, an LG501C, just for hands-free calling, which is all I wanted to do because it was all the phone supported. Still, some cars didn’t play nice with my old phone.

      I now have an Android 4.0-powered smartphone, but cheapskate that I am, it’s a lowly Samsung Galaxy Centura on Straight Talk. Hard to pass up a $30 smartphone when you’ve been waiting for the right time to jump into the fray. Anyway, I’m hoping the Continental dock in the Elio will fully sync with this cheap smartphone just as well as it may sync with the latest-and-greatest iPhone at the time of the Elio’s release. What I fear is the dock may be able to syncronize with the basic features — hands-free calling and dialing, for instance — but not sync with certain apps like Pandora or Google Maps on some lower-spec phones like mine. Perhaps that fear is totally unfounded. I’ll hope that’s the case.

      Of course, if the audio head unit is designed with an AUX in (and I hear it will be in Elio’s case), then there would be a cheap workaround in the form of running a standard AUX patch cord between the phone’s headphone output and the head unit’s AUX input. The downside is this would only work for music and directions at the same time if you were listening to music from the phone while using a navigation app. If you want to listen to the radio but also hear your Google mistress reading off your next turn across the car’s speakers, you’re outta luck — unless your phone has an FM tuner in it or something — because you’d need the head unit in AUX mode to be able to hear the directions clearly out of the car’s speakers.