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The future of in-car telematics – we’re all going online

Mon, 01 Jun 2009 00:00:00 -0700

Mercedes’ R&D boffins lift lid on future in-car gadgets

By James Foxall

Motor Industry

01 June 2009 09:44

The future of in-car entertainment is on the internet, according to Mercedes-Benz.

In an exclusive preview, the firm’s director of infotainment and telematics Ralf Herrtwich explained that in-car CD players and sat-navs are a thing of the past. In the future Mercedes drivers will do everything over the internet.

‘By moving away from in-car hardware we’ll be able to save our customers money,’ he told CAR. ‘You simply have a back-end server providing all the information and your car connects to it automatically.’

Mercedes is working on combining sat-nav systems with familiar online services such as Google Maps or Microsoft Virtual Earth. Drivers will be able to choose their favourite applications and use those to give directions in place of proprietary sat-navs, which are expensive to install and require frequent updates.

Being internet-based will enable maps to give real-time information such as the number of spaces in car parks and the price of fuel at petrol stations. And maps will offer aerial photographic images, something that’s impossible for DVD-based sat-navs to provide because it takes up too much disc space. Car occupants will listen to internet radio although surfing the web in the front will be limited to when the car is stationary.

According to Mercedes, when this next generation of infotainment systems hinges on communications technology. However, Herrtwich believes 2012 is a likely launch date because it will rely on the forthcoming 4G mobile phone platform.

We’ll have it in Europe before the US because coverage needs to be carried out on a geographical rather than population basis.

‘If you can pre-cache a certain amount of content that could take you a long way,’ Herrtwich said. ‘My criterion for it going into production is simple. I’ve told my team: “As soon as I don’t notice the difference between the internet-based system and what we have now”.’

By James Foxall