Your vehicle is the next computing platform, and car-makers are poised to deliver Web- and cell phone-based services, called telematics, that will complement anything you can receive on your cell phone or wireless PDA.
Telematics is the latest buzzword for onboard automobile electronics, and its the result of the convergence of the computing world with the automotive world. Just about anyone who drives a vehicle will be touched by it.
Almost every automaker has instituted a telematics program, but General Motors is head and shoulders above the rest. GMs OnStar division is responsible for providing the latest wireless cell phone- and voice-based Internet services to GM car owners, and from what Ive seen, its at least two years ahead of its competitors.
OnStar provides server-based voice recognition so users can easily receive the same type of information from the Internet, such as weather, news and e-mail, that voice portals like BeVocal and Audiopoint provide without removing their hands from the steering wheel.
OnStars simple three-button system is integrated into the vehicles dashboard or mirror and gives the driver quick access to all of the systems functions for $199 per year. I test drove a Pontiac Bonneville SSEI that was equipped with OnStar and ran the system through its paces. Based on my tests, OnStars voice-activated three-button system will define in-car Internet access for quite some time.
One button activates the hands-free Verizon Wireless speech-enabled analog cell phone. Another button provides speech-enabled OnStar Virtual Advisor concierge services ranging from route planning to unlocking car doors. The third button acts as a 911 emergency call to OnStars 24-by-7 call center with its highly trained call representatives. That safety feature alone is worth the price of admission.
Although its the leader right now, OnStar will have company. Microsoft and Clarion have developed the Clarion AutoPC; Intel, IBM, Motorola, Lernout & Hauspie, Sony and others have also expressed interest in this market.
Telematics is here to stay, and GMs OnStar is setting the standard, forcing the other automakers to chase the leader.