DETROIT -- By the end of 2008, virtually all automakers will have telematics strategies and the market leaders will be acting on their plans, a top industry expert said today.
Thilo Koslowski, vice president of technology research company Gartner Inc., told a conference gathering that by 2011, safety-focused telematics functions will be standard on all vehicles.
Telematics is a combination of computers and telecommunications devices. Systems such as General Motors' OnStar, which has more than 4.5 million subscribers, have pioneered the technology in the auto industry.
"This industry is finally really taking off," Koslowski said at the seventh annual Telematics Update Detroit, held at the Rock Financial Showplace in suburban Detroit.
Later he added: "It's a very, very different demand from what we have seen in the past -- especially 10 years ago, five years ago, where a lot of companies weren't even clear if they should invest in this whole technology or marketplace."
More than 1,000 industry engineers and executives were expected to attend the two-day Telematics Update.
The telematics industry has survived early growth pitfalls such as inflated expectations and the disillusionment that followed, Koslowski said.
Using Gartner's "hype cycle" chart, he suggested the industry is now on its way from the "slope of enlightenment" to the "plateau of productivity" -- or a more stable role in the marketplace.
Koslowski predicts the telematics market no longer will be driven only by automakers. Other companies, such as media content providers, have gained direct access to consumers
"That's a good thing," Koslowski said. "I think a lot of the problems we encountered were because auto manufacturers did not want to share some of the control."
He said his company has found that consumers' telematics preferences remain largely unchanged. Functions such as safety, navigation and hands-free cell phone devices are valued. But services such as shopping while driving attract little interest.
In addition, Koslowski said, more consumers are looking for digital satellite radio.
Future telematics products will focus on providing consumers access to more information from more sources with fewer gadgets, Koslowski said. This will foster the continued partnership of content providers with those producing hardware in the vehicles, he said.
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