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The Digital Car Journal

A weblog about computers in cars
by Will Fitzgerald
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URL for this day Friday, March 30, 2001

Thanks to Michael Hannemann, who acted as the guest editor while I was away.

European telematics market: worth $2.6 billion by 2004. EyeForAuto article of report by consulting firm The Strategis Group. They also predict that mobile commerce won't take off until 2004.

Delphi is closing or selling nine of its plants, resulting in over 11,000 job cuts over the next 12 months. According to their press release, this will probably make their electronics portfolio even more important. CFO Alan Dawes is quoted as saying:

We will execute our base business plan and accelerate our portfolio shift toward high-tech electronic and electrically enhanced mechanical products.

Paul Eisenstein (of The Car Connection) discusses telematics and safety:

[Safety concerns] could short-circuit the telematics boom even as it begins, so carmakers are looking for ways to gain the upper hand in this debate. Ford and General Motors have launched extensive studies of driver distraction. And GM’s OnStar division is aiming to take the high road by using a synthesized voice, rather than a video screen, to deliver information to the driver. Whether that’s any less distracting remains to be seen. But you can be sure that the debate is only going to heat up as more motorists dial in and log on.
Via Michigan Technology News article, via Brian Edwards.

Three Auto Telematics Shows Set For May In Detroit. (Does "Air Bag Technology 2001" count as a telematics show?)

URL for this day Thursday, March 29, 2001

Fonix continues to make news by giving a talk at the Applied Voice Input/Output Society conference on April 3rd about ways to embed voice applications in noisy environments. Also, Fonix has entered into a collaboration with a company called Audium to use VoiceXML and Fonix's speech engines to connec to Audium's internet telephony applications. This is the remote end of telematics, bringing outside services into the vehicle.

The claim has been made that the primary beneficiaries of interesting in-vehicle telematics applications are going to be salespeople, the sort that are always on the move conducting business. While perhaps not fit for the average consumer, Audium's ability to conduct on-line transactions might be useful for this group.

Meanwhile, Texas Instruments is developing new Bluetooth hardware they see as being fit to go in the car. Instead of using wires, every car will be its own RF-driven entity, with a computer talking to remote sensors throughout the car. Maybe we'll have Bluetooth-driven keys, for sci-fi-ish unpickable locks?

Motorola has annouced iRadio, its "end-to-end telematics solution", which is meant to do everything from play your favorite music to giving you driving directions and calling for help in an emergency. And, it will use Bluetooth to talk to everything from the car to your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. In prototype now, they claim to have it out in the world in 18-24 months.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 28, 2001

Multiple sources talk about a report which says, European Vehicle Telematics Equipment Sales to Eclipse $2.5B annually by 2006. Of course, the group publishing this prediction distinguishes in-vehicle telematics from the rest by talking about its use of a big colorful LCD and the ability to provide "content-rich multimedia services", so I'm not sure they get it.

URL for this day Monday, March 26, 2001

Here's the first reference to cell phones with GPS and map displays that I've seen. With the ability to display routes, waypoints, download maps as relevant, and send information to other users, there's absolutely no reason why this can't be translated directly to the car -- assuming, that is, that the interface won't cause more problems than the extra information helps solve. One of the companies behind this, Benefon of Finland, also has a deal to adapt their wireless security, tracking and recovery services to autos using the MATRIX system in South Africa.

Andrea Electronics has gotten a patent to cover their directional array microphones. These utilize multiple microphones in order to do noise cancellation and other math, improving recognition quality in noisy environments such as the car. What this means for other microphone array manufacturers has yet to be seen.

Fonix Corporation is throwing more marketing money at telematics, call centers, and other areas their various speech recognition technologies can be used.

URL for this day Friday, March 23, 2001

Next week, the Digital Car Journal will have a guest editor: Michael Hannemann. I'll be out of town attending the AAAI Spring Symposium (not to be confused with Single-AI, Double-AI, or Quadruple-AI) until Thursday, March 30.

Note: Quintuple-AI.org is still available.

Hmm. CNET article on Peace of Mind at Light Speed, which offers the following technology: you have a GPS unit, and you also define "bounding boxes" of space and time. If you go inside--or outside--the bounding box, notifications can be sent. The GPS unit can be accessorized as fashion (a backpack, for example). So, you can get email on your way to work, or track your kids to make sure they get home from school. Or be tracked by your overbearing mother? Or abusive boyfriend? Or draconian boss?

URL for this day Thursday, March 22, 2001

Michigan is considering fining drivers who use cell phones while driving (Detroit Free Press article). It's not likely to pass, though. One thing I've found interesting about the debate is that Michigan law already prohibits "reckless" driving, and some are claiming this is enough. (I feel I must say this: I would think that "wreckless driving" is what we want to promote). Michigan's statue says:

Any person who drives any vehicle ... in wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.
The fine is 90 days or $100 (or both). The Connecticut Office of Legislative Research published this report specifically responding to a question about cell phone use being considered "reckless driving" under Connecticut law and gives the opinion:
Using a cell phone, eating, or performing some other distracting behavior while driving does not automatically rise to the level of recklessness...
Although Connecticut law is different from Michigan's, I suspect the same would be true in Michigan.

Navigation Technologies announces navigation and mapping services for Internet and wireless use. Their website section. Useful FAQs.

Our 400+ field staff in North America and Europe continuously collects and verifies road network changes and additions by driving the roads you drive.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 21, 2001

One Voice Technologies announces presence at CTIA Wireless 2001.

Our Intelligent Voice Solutions incorporate 4th Generation Voice Technology, which combines: Artificial Intelligence, Natural Language Processing, Personalized Conversational Dialogue, Free-Form Large Vocabulary input and Adaptive Learning capabilities to give users an unparalleled voice experience.

SAE J2353 and J2354 define "message sets" and a "standard data dictionary" for "advanced traveler information systems." Mitretek Systems developed a draft XML version (see their introduction and rather cool live demo), which the SAE used for a draft XML standard. This Excel spreadsheet is a useful list of various information types (like driving conditions, traffic flow, sporting events) and tokens (like "driving conditions good" or "extremely hazardous driving conditions").

Silliest press release I've seen for a while: Is that PocketBoxOffice(TM) or are you just happy to see me?

News from Palm: New model m105, which includes wireless internet, at only $199. Introducing wireless PDA in Japan--joint venture with NTT DoCoMo. Bluetooth to be supported in most Palm PDAs by the end of the year? They bought Extended Systems, a "mobile solutions provider".

URL for this day Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Buried inside this press release is a reference to The Digital Car Journal. I think this means we're officially launched...

Satronics announces a new telematics platform:

"Satronics has spent two years in the development of the CarLink product and we are now ready to provide our OEM partners with a single source for cost effective telematics solutions which include; GPS location technology, roadside assistance, collision notification, E911 services, as well as mobile asset tracking and remote door unlocking," noted Satronics President and CEO, James Jeffries.
Satronics' current products include alarms, keyless entry, and one-way and two-way GPS devices.

URL for this day Monday, March 19, 2001

Detroit News coverage of our NASA contract (see the entry for March 1st).

A ITS (intelligent transportation systems) task force has been set up to study driver focus: "the use of information technology inside the vehicle to enhance the driver’s control and minimize influences on his or her attention to the road." Here's an ITSA article: "Driver Focus Crucial Part of Elephant Named Telematics".

Workshop on Driver Focus official site. The workshop was held March 2. It was part of the Telematics And Intelligent In-vehicle Systems conference.

URL for this day Friday, March 16, 2001

Acunia and BMW have a demo at CeBit:

As part of its "ConnectedDrive" strategy, ... BMW will offer a live demonstration of the dynamic downloading of telematics services ... to a BMW X5 passenger car outfitted with an integrated Java communications platform.
This is the first reference to downloading telematics applications that I've seen.

Another telematics whitepaper in PDF format (63 pages long) from Dain Rauscher Wessels, a "knowledge-driven equity capital markets group." (This whitepaper is on the website of Tamir Fishman an Israeli investment banking and securities firm). Some of the analyses are suspect (but, then again, since it's from an investment bank, you already knew that), but it seems pretty good on the raw facts of telematics: the players, what the offerings are, glossary of terms.

They also think conversational interfaces will be very important:

Given the performance of the VUIs [voice-based user interfaces] we have tested so far, great strides need to be made in this area before a totally hands-free, user-friendly, voice-operated TCU [telematics control unit] becomes a viable daily tool for the driver....We view this issue as perhaps the greatest determinant of adoption and penetration rates for the Telematics industry.
-- "Telematics: Play Ball!" Dain Rauscher Wessels, April 2000.

URL for this day Thursday, March 15, 2001

Found it! I've been looking for an on-line copy of the often cited USB Warburg study of telematics. Here it is: Eyes on the Road and Hands on the Wheel (5 Mb PDF file, at EyeForAuto).

Wingcast and OnStar compared. (EyeForAuto article).

The ongoing debate, of course, is whether Telematics needs to be proprietary, or whether the industry will make room for open-system engineering. At present, the OnStar and Wingcast systems are both locked out to input from each other, or from any other system.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 14, 2001

Lucent's mobile internet offerings, including a free-of-charge Mobile Internet Developer's Kit (MIDK), with speech-to-text and text-to-speech kits.

Delphi is demoing their Tech-Truck:

"Tech-Truck was created to demonstrate how Delphi's technology depth, product breadth, and integrated systems approach advances driver safety and improves truck performance while reducing fleet costs," [Greg] Kochendorfer said. Tech-Truck includes ... telematics -- Enhanced safety and security for drivers and fleets, including collision detection and stolen vehicle tracking and location determination via Global Positioning Satellite (GPS).

Press release from Johnson Controls: interesting in that focuses on the design of the overall vehicle interior. Bill Fluharty (VP for industrial design):

With the introduction of these new technologies comes a responsibility for designers to develop vehicle interiors that provide occupants with a safe, comfortable and enjoyable environment," Fluharty said. "To accomplish this, our design teams work closely with the consumer research department to gain insight on consumer perceptions and human factors.

URL for this day Tuesday, March 13, 2001

$100 Million in financing for PacketVideo, a wireless multimedia company.

URL for this day Monday, March 12, 2001

EyeForAuto's Tim Moran explains why telematics vendors should be listening to consumers.

Europolitan, Volvo joint venture for safety and navigation systems.

Using fuel cells to power telematics systems:

The joint effort between Nuvera and Verizon, which will span a two-year period, includes the development, testing, and evaluation of fuel cell powered demonstration units in the 5kW range. As a result of the effort, the companies expect to achieve a greater understanding of the performance requirements for advanced power generation equipment for the telecommunications industry.

URL for this day Friday, March 9, 2001

I've written an article on Driver Distraction based on the Society of Automotive Engineers 2001 Congress sponsored panel on Automotive Telematics and User Interface.

Department of Transportation-sponsored Human Factor Guidelines for building "Advanced Traveler Information Systems."

Overview article on speech recognition from the Mining Company (thanks to Ryan McGrath).

URL for this day Thursday, March 8, 2001

Press release from Switchboard.com announcing a "find a product" service aimed at telematics use. This is a crucial service for "position-based commerce" (p-commerce).

Microsoft was supposed to make a major announcement at the SAE conference--but theirs was the only booth at SAE that was empty, even though they were a sponsor of the "Automotive Computer Technology Showcase." Maybe today?

URL for this day Wednesday, March 7, 2001

The Driver Distraction Internet Forum from NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Excellent repository of information on driver distraction up through August of last year. The Ask the Experts forum is especially good, as well as the links to many valuable papers.

Here are two (both in PDF format) relevant to using speech systems in vehicles: Driver workload assessment of route guidance system destination entry while driving: A test track study by Tijerina, Palmer and Goodman, and Speech-based Interaction with In-vehicle Computers: The Effect of Speech-based E-mail on Drivers’ Attention to the Roadway by John Lee et al.

URL for this day Tuesday, March 6, 2001

Some pictures from the SAE Conference:
CAA AG used this demonstration car to show off their CarPC telematics interface (Click on the picture for a bigger view).
A close-up of their interface, which I thought was very clean and easy to use.
Delphi showed off their voice activated Communiport PDA/cell phone holder, and had a poster of the overall menu structure--all of the things you can say to the Communiport. You really must click on the picture to read the menu.

URL for this day Monday, March 5, 2001

I'm back from the SAE conference, where I attended a great morning panel on telematics and driver distraction. I'll be writing something up about this very soon.

The Center for Venture Capital and Private Equity Finance at the University of Michigan is hosting a event called Telematics: The Convergence of Information Technology, the Automotive Industry and the Venture Capital Market April 18-19, 2001.

Gentex's SmartBeam technology: a camera in the mirror automatically uses and dims your "brights."

General article on telematics from the Associated Press.

URL for this day Friday, March 2, 2001

Nearly half believe telematics will reach 25-percent penetration in the Americas market in 3-8 years, according to the survey.

...from a DuPont survey of automotive engineers.

URL for this day Thursday, March 1, 2001

I/NET acquires NASA Contract to develop "Complex Event Recognition Architecture." This is from our company, I/NET. It's not transparent from this press release, but the CERA architecture can play a role in recognizing events on a car bus, too.

SAE Congress Preview. The Digital Car Journal will be there!

The theme of this year show will be succeeding in the alliance game, [SAE spokesman Mark Burd] said. The realities of a rapidly maturing auto industry, fueled by the rush to e-everything, is companies have to form partnerships and alliances to remain competitive, not just in North America, but across the world, he said. Burd also let slip that two big announcements will be made during the show: Microsoft is scheduled to make one; Covisint another. He wouldn’t provide any hints of what’s to come.

Good article on how older drivers respond to telematics systems. Research by Paul Green at UM.

Driving is difficult enough for older people, but when you throw in a heavy dose of telematics, the combination could be dangerous, contends the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute in a study released this week. The age factor makes it doubly important auto makers include older drivers in safety and usability evaluations of future telematics devices. The study results also may further fuel the driver distraction issue triggered by the use of cell phones in moving vehicles.

The MAGIC Services Initiative:

The MAGIC Services™ Initiative is a cooperative effort to develop a standard method for remote delivery of core geographic functionality to location-aware applications on mobile devices. Target applications include personal navigation, telematics, and location-based services. The scope of MAGIC Services is a small set of core services deliverable to application service providers (ASPs). These ASPs incorporate the MAGIC Services in mobile applications that they offer to end users or other ASPs.
(Press release from September, 2000 announcing formation. PDF format)

Telematics Firm Acunia Gets $3.7 Million from Infineon. Infineon is a European semiconductor manufacturer.

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