Ford, Toyota working on full-vehicle telematics

Drivers are becoming more demanding. That’s the consensus of automakers, who are charging forward with initiatives to make cars more connected and to provide more in-vehicle systems and information. As drivers become used to more perks behind the wheel, those carmakers who don’t offer these advanced systems could fall behind.

And as car owners with models that currently don't have onboard telematics begin to search for products and services to "connect" their vehicles to the Internet, satellite radio, live navigation, etc., aftermarket mobile electronics installers could see their opportunities grow. 

Ford Motor Co. is pumping lots of resources into technology research and development, and the company will showcase one of its creations at the 2012 International CES consumer electronics show in January in Las Vegas. Ford will debut the Evos concept car, which was unveiled internationally at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September.

The Evos concept is a car connected to the cloud. Cloud computing is a marketing term for technologies that provide software, data access and storage services that do not require end-user knowledge of the physical location and configuration of the system that delivers the services; data and software aren't . Ford says it offers “a glimpse at Ford’s technology future,” which will include using cloud computing to bring more features to drivers. The Evos concept will use the cloud to integrate onboard data about driver preferences with cloud-based information such as work schedules, music, weather conditions, and traffic data.

Other concept features include technologies related to the driver’s health and wellness. A heart-rate monitoring seat is another feature under development at Ford, and it could keep track of the driver’s heart beat while he or she is behind the wheel.

Ford isn’t the only automaker involved in advanced connected technologies. Toyota Motor Corp. recently signed an agreement with Intel Corp. to begin joint research on next-generation in-vehicle multimedia systems that would replace current navigation systems. Toyota says these next-generation systems could include integration with smartphones, home appliances and other energy management systems.

The joint research initiative will focus on the appropriate methods of providing information to drivers through these in-vehicle systems. Toyota also indicates it will be working on ways to keep drivers’ eyes on the road as they access these new technologies.

The automakers also want to research ways for in-vehicle systems to communicate with the outside world — this could include a car communicating with a smartphone or with some sort of home automation system.

The projects by Ford and Toyota are just two examples of current projects underway by automakers.

Got a news tip? Contact A.J. Hecht