Navigation, music, video and information systems in new cars are the rage.

Consumers who are used to instant connectivity and a variety of entertainment choices at home and in the office are electing to have similar options in their cars. Because of this, the percentage of new passenger cars globally shipping with factory-installed telematics will increase from less than 10 percent in 2010 to 62 percent in 2016, according to ABI Research, a company that tracks trends in the area. But the array of new products is growing more confusing to consumers and manufacturers alike.

“Several factors are driving the uptake of OEM (auto manufacturer) telematics, the most important being an automotive industry that is emerging from a painful recession and finding renewed dynamism,” says ABI Research Practice Director Dominique Bonte. “At the same time, soaring interest levels in the adoption of open platforms and the integration of smartphones and telematics applications into vehicles represents nothing less than a renaissance of both the consumer and commercial telematics markets, borrowing the hugely successful application-store paradigm from the mobile industry to improve time-to-market and industry innovation, and most importantly to reduce the costs of telematics services for end-users.”

The heavy influx of offerings, though, has led to fears that the consumer will simply be overwhelmed.

Initiatives such as the open-source GENIVI infotainment platform and Nokia’s Terminal Mode standard create high expectations for industry-wide cooperation. However, concerns still remain on the long-term viability of a still highly fragmented telematics ecosystem, with traditional players such as telematic service providers and automotive Tier 1 suppliers threatened with being squeezed out by a new breed of connected navigation and software-developer challengers.

Government foot-dragging isn’t helping either.

Telematics legislation -- like the European Union’s eCall and Brazil’s SVT (stolen vehicle tracking) projects -- are continuing to suffer from delays and indecisiveness. Finally, despite the many benefits offered by telematics smartphone applications, they also bring new safety risks through increased driver distraction, which in turn could lead to legislation limiting the use of portable devices in vehicles.


Tom Ripley is a contributing editor for Driving Today. He writes frequently about autos, safety and the human condition from his home in Villeperce, France



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