The move by the Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration to endorse a German standard for high-speed fiber-optic networks in vehicles is another important step forward in a field that needs a lot of important steps forward.
But even though the research group has reached this point after two years of work - a relatively short time in auto standards development - it must move faster in the future to keep up with the frenzied pace of the electronics industry.
Since the introduction just three years ago of in-vehicle entertainment systems that show movies or play video games, consumers have had their first taste of the potential benefits of putting multimedia devices in vehicles. The feedback that automakers are getting is that consumers like multimedia and want more - sooner rather than later.
Beyond movies, drivers and passengers are starting to have the ability to check e-mail in the car. Soon, satellite radio will provide a more varied choice of programs with high quality. The networked car of the near future will even allow one back-seat passenger to watch the latest movie while another passenger plays games.
DaimlerChrysler and BMW felt they couldn't wait any longer and have pushed ahead with the Media Oriented Systems Transport protocol that the Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration is expected to ratify in January.
Other automakers see promise and have invested development funds in the IEEE 1394 standard that many consumer electronics use, although that standard is not hardy enough for automotive use.
The Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration and the auto industry must decide on a common format soon or risk a dilemma similar to the VHS-Beta battle over videorecorder technology from the 1970s. The costs of the auto industry restaging that battle won't benefit anyone.