Smart car takes Orange calls

Car manufacturer Smart has teamed up with mobile-phone firm Orange to produce a car that lets drivers take calls at the wheel via Bluetooth

Mobile-phone provider Orange and car manufacturer Smart have joined forces to produce a car for the safety-conscious techie driver -- the Orange smart city-coupé, which is the UK's first car to come equipped with Bluetooth technology as standard.

With a ban on using a handset while driving set to come into force on 1 December, the Bluetooth technology will give drivers the ability to make and receive calls without taking their hands off the wheel.

The Bluetooth technology is activated by pressing a button near the rear view mirror and drivers can dial by speaking the name they want to call and letting the car do the rest. The call is broadcast though the car speakers. It will even turn your music down for you when there's an incoming call.

The Orange smart city-coupé is available in any colour (as long as it's black) and will retail for around £8,995. As part of the package, customers receive a Sony Ericsson T610 phone, a six-month subscription to Orange and a Bluetooth kit.

Despite the special edition's safety-conscious selling point, Smart currently has no plans to roll out the technology across its whole range and so far around 100 Orange Smart city-coupés have been built.

Speaking at the launch, Jeremy Simpson, head of Smart in the UK, said the decision to include the technology was "as much about lifestyle as it is about safety", but added that the manufacturer will be "watching closely" to see how demand develops, while Richard Cornish, product manager for Orange In the Car, said that the development represented the "first baby steps" in the market.

Research estimates that the market for in-car connectivity will be worth around $9bn by 2006, with people most commonly wanting to use it to take advantage of traffic information and navigation services.