It's great that a consortium of 12 automakers is trying to develop global standards governing how electronic devices connect to vehicles. But the consortium, known as the Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration, is taking too long to do it.
The group, which wants to enlist up to 40 electronics suppliers to assist in writing the standards, says it will take two years to do it. But two years is a lifetime in telematics. The electronic organizers, cell phones, computers and video equipment that will use the connections can go through several generations in that time.
The standards will enable a global plug-and-play market for electronic devices that will be installed in vehicles with the same ease that computer peripherals attach to personal computers. It means components produced by manufacturers globally will be interchangeable.
Although input from suppliers will be useful in determining the standards, the process doesn't have to involve endless debate. The automakers in the consortium represent about 80 percent of the world's production, so once they agree, the game is over, with or without input from suppliers. The trick is to get them to agree quickly.
Ultimately, some automakers and suppliers may have to retool and change the interfaces in their vehicles. That's because some automakers and suppliers already are developing systems absent any standards, and some of that work could be lost if it doesn't match the standards that ultimately are accepted.
Delaying the inevitable is in no one's best interest.
Quick standardization would be a win-win situation. Automakers and suppliers will be able to sell telematics sooner. Automakers will be able to use more than one supplier, and each supplier will be able to sell to more than one automaker. Consumers will be able to take a device from one vehicle and plug it into another or simply upgrade the components in the vehicle.
It's time to do it.