Behind the wheel with Cadillac's high-tech CUE

The system that will be available in 2013 cars mixes customizable displays with voice control

Get behind the wheel of any new car and you'll quickly grasp the importance that electronics and gadgetry play in the auto industry these days. Companies are starting to put just as much effort into the entertainment system as the mechanics and that means some pretty high-tech rides like the Cadillac XTS.

The soon-to-be-launched sedan packs Cadillac's grandly named CUE, or "Cadillac user experience" electronics system that mixes navigation and entertainment with safety features and voice recognition seen in Apple's Siri.

I recently had the chance to test-drive a 2013 Cadillac XTS with the system. (See a video of the CUE in use and the 2013 XTS on YouTube.)

It's centered around an 8-inch, touch-sensitive display at the top of the center console, but there are two other displays: a digital instrument cluster behind the wheel and a heads-up display that projects navigation directions into the bottom of the driver's field of view.

The touchscreen controls most of the main entertainment functions -- the basic radio, satellite radio, navigation system, air conditioning, the weather, and through a connected cellphone, the streaming music service Pandora.

Below the screen are a series of touch-sensitive buttons for controlling things like the audio volume and strength of the air conditioning fan, but the best button is the one at the bottom. Touch it and the entire lower portion of the central column -- the part underneath the 8-inch screen -- lifts up to reveal a spacious, 1.8-liter storage locker.

There's a USB connector -- lit so you don't have to search for it in the dark interior -- so a gadget can be kept plugged in and hidden from view. If it's a phone, the CUE system can access its data connection and route calls hands-free.

Another nice feature can be found along the bottom of the main screen. In that space the driver can store shortcuts. These can be direct links to radio stations, phone numbers or navigation destinations, and what's great is that they can be mixed. So, for example, a couple of favorite radio stations might sit alongside the address of the office for navigation and two direct-dial shortcuts to home and a friend.

But if you don't want to be bothered with the buttons, there's a voice recognition system. Based on technology from Nuance, it's a neat system that worked well during a brief test, but its implementation feels a little clunky.

"Device initializing. Command please," it says when the driver hits a button to start voice recognition -- not quite as user friendly as Siri's double beep on the iPhone.

Then throughout the process it feels more like the car is telling you what to say rather than you commanding things by voice.

"What type of destination?"

"Place of interest."

"Name the P-O-I nearby or say change location."

"Grocery stores."

"Grocery stores. Correct?"


Perhaps the displays that will most contribute to the feel of the car, at least for the driver, are those behind the wheel and on the windshield. Both the instrument panel and heads-up display are customizable. There are four main designs of instrument panel to choose from, and they can be further customized with the addition of things like a mini-navigation map or guide to what song is being played.

"Users are starting to expect this," said Matt Highstrom, interaction designer at General Motors. "It really gives you more of an integrated solution than our past solutions. It introduces that in a very user-friendly fashion so we've implemented the capacitive touchscreen. That lets users quickly navigate through their phone lists, just like they would do on an iPad device, and customize their layouts. This customization is something that really hasn't been done in our past."

Cadillac has also outfitted the driver's seat with a vibration system that shakes the seat when the car detects a pedestrian in front or behind the car while it's in drive mode. This could be especially effective in places like car parks, where there are a lot of people walking around and cars backing up and turning.

The CUE will be available in 2013 models of some Cadillac cars.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers


This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang


It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries


As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr


The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?