We view telematics in the vehicle today a lot like the Internet 10 years ago. Back then, few Internet-based applications existed and access was painfully slow. Today, as wireless technologies proliferate and data rates increase, expect to see some truly innovative products for the Internet.
Consumer expectations about telematics have shifted as the perceived need for connectivity increases. The car radio is no longer a simple device for tuning in radio broadcasts, or even for playing cassettes or CDs. Instead, it's becoming a communications center, providing navigation, Internet access, automatic emergency assistance calls, vehicle tracking and in-vehicle entertainment.
The technologies that will enable these new products are being developed in partnerships among diverse companies with a vision to connect every area of a person's life. For instance, Visteon is working with partners such as Samsung, Intel, Microsoft, Lucent (Agere), IBM and Nintendo to provide a telematics environment that is easy to use and robust enough to endure the harsh vehicle environment.
Visteon is focused on developing speech technologies to enhance the user-vehicle interface. In-vehicle computing requires a completely new paradigm, the main impetus for which is to minimize driver distraction. Forget the mouse and keyboard-voice recognition will be the primary input device for vehicle-based computing. Text-to-speech technology will supplant the video monitors of today's desktop systems.
Voice technology is already in production in Jaguar's S-type platform. It allows drivers to control their phone, audio system and climate-control system without using their hands. The system can be configured in one of six languages. As a speaker-independent system, it does not require a lengthy training process as with most of today's PC-based voice-recognition software packages.
Two key technologies make telematics products possible. One is Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that can help pinpoint a vehicle's location or provide destination location information to the driver. The second key enabler involves the various wireless technologies-cellular, satellite, In-Band on Channel, Bluetooth, etc.-which provide a means to move data in and out of the vehicle.
By combining GPS and wireless technologies, designers can cater to a whole new set of consumer needs. Telematics suppliers have the advantage of historical precedence-namely, the Internet. Much can be learned from the evolution of the Internet and other service-based business models. The vehicle could be another node on the Internet.
Safety is at the core of telematics design and development and will likely follow the cell phone's evolutionary path. Early on, cell phones were primarily used to aid motorists in the event of a breakdown or accident. Now cell phones are essential to modern life. Telematics will likely follow the same evolutionary path: safety/security, communications, convenience, entertainment.
The second wave of telematics involves hands-free phone dialing. The third wave will provide drivers real-time data such as traffic information and weather updates. Real-time traffic information, combined with a navigation system, will enable dynamic updating of turn-by-turn navigation instructions-a much anticipated convenience that will help justify the cost of such systems, according to suppliers. Wireless delivery of all forms of data (e-mail, compressed audio/video and financial information) is integral to the telematics vision and promises to make the vehicle another access point into cyberspace.
Telematics will reach further into the fabric of society, on both personal and commercial levels. Nearly everyone needs to squeeze more time out of the day and wants to improve their quality of life. Telematics-enabled vehicles will lead to instant billing to your credit card as you pump gas. Or, if you want to reserve a parking space, you will be able to communicate when you want the space, and alert a gate that recognizes your car's electronic signature to open and let you park. Then you'll be billed for what you used.
Commercial uses, too, are restricted only by imagination. Truck fleets will gather data from engine modules to determine when a truck needs maintenance, when a load will reach its destination and if a load has been tampered with. Commercial fleets already use portable navigation devices such as Visteon's Portable NavMate to increase predictability and profitability.