Serves the Commercial Small Fleet Market of 10 – 50 Vehicles

The Future of In-Car Communications

July 2008, by - Also by this author

We're entering a brave new world of connectivity with our vehicles. Mobile computing and wireless telecommunications technologies promise to increase our productivity, improve safety and keep us entertained not only from our car's dashboard and backseat video monitors but also from our homes and offices. The technology behind these telematics systems is viable right now—the question is when, at what price point and in what suite of applications they will be available to the mass market.

"We're rolling out a business model where it makes sense to put telematics in every vehicle, and to have that telematics capability be alive, awake and working, whether there's a subscription associated with it or not," says Erik Goldman, president of Hughes Telematics, owners of Networkcar, a provider of vehicle GPS tracking and diagnostic monitoring. "The OEMs are marching in that direction, and we will see that in the next few years."

Hughes Telematics is owned by Hughes Communications, one of the largest providers of consumer and enterprise satellite services in the world. The company has engineered a demonstration vehicle with its communications technology and has agreements with Chrysler and Mercedes to install its components for the 2010 model year. The company is in talks with other manufacturers as well, Goldman says.

"We have a pretty aggressive road map of services that we see bringing to the auto industry over the next few years," says Goldman.

Many of the functions installed in the demonstration vehicle are already available in Networkcar's suite of applications for fleets or are available in other product offerings from other service providers. (See coverage of Ford Work Solutions, Chrysler's uconnect and GM's OnStar in this article.)

Goldman says Hughes' goal is to have these systems perform in concert as a complete package from the factory, using voice recognition, and make them viable for the mass market. Goldman sat down with Business Fleet to comment on the blue sky of in-vehicle communications.

Connecting to Your Car

Think of the LCD screen in the middle of the dashboard as you would a home computer screen that's sitting on a network, Goldman says.

Those screens have traditionally been single purpose, such as controlling the air conditioning or navigation system. Now this in-dash computer is being used to manage a full range of services, from navigation, cell phone and satellite radio to vehicle diagnostics, Web service, back-office document access and even onboard car manuals with video instructions.

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