Macworld Expo: Harman Kardon Drive + Play unveiled

Audio hardware-maker, Harman Kardon introduced at Macworld Expo on Tuesday the Harman Kardon Drive + Play, an iPod docking system that can be hard wired in an automobile. In addition to giving users full use of the iPod’s controls, Harman’s system tackles a problem inherent in these types of automotive products: safety.

“It [the Drive + Play] addresses one of the things that nobody has been able to solve so far and that’s safety,” Mike Giffin, president, Harman Consumer Group, told MacCentral. You can easily see all of the controls and drive at the same.”

The Drive + Play consists of three components: A backlit LCD pivoting display, which is designed to be mounted where the driver can easily see the screen while keeping their eyes on the road; a five-button navigation control unit – the navigation wheel is similar to BMW’s iDrive wheel, but mimics the iPods controls; and the “Brain” – the unit that connects everything together.

The brain of the system features a wireless FM modulator with five factory frequencies and one definable by the user. It also has a 3.5mm auxiliary output so you can connect it to any vehicle that has an auxiliary input jack. An auxiliary input allows the user to route other audio signals like satellite radio through the Drive + Play to the vehicle’s audio system.

The Drive + Play charges the iPod when connected and shuts off when the car turns off. The unit returns to the place in the song where you left off when the vehicle is turned on again.

The Drive + Play is designed to be compatible with any make or model vehicle, according to Harman. The unit will be available in September 2005 for US$199.

While this is the first device to come from Harman’s consumer group, it won’t be the last, according to the company.

“We want to add something to this space,” said Giffin. “We focus on what the consumer wants to do in their car. This is the first of our devices, but it’s not going to be the last.”

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