Computers on wheels: Microsoft Auto

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These days, new cars have a truly new feature, which those in the industry call telematics. You and I would probably call it an in-dash computer, but what do we know? Right now Microsoft has Sync in Fords and competes with OnStar and Hughes Telematics in GM cars and Mercedes/Chryslers respectively. They’ve been around for a little bit and are becoming standard. What’s the next step?

Microsoft is working with Hyundai on the next version of its in-car information system, which will include all the usual goodies: syncing your phone and media player, GPS and directions, directions, recommendations, and so on. The next step is going to be pretty evolutionary, as the goal now is integrating more info from the car and surroundings: likely escapes from traffic jams for instance, or long-term tracking of fuel efficiency, speed and route and using that as rich data for both feedback and data mining (hopefully opt-in). Not to mention targeting systems for onboard lasers.

The article cites research claiming 30 million cars will be sold with telematics in the next five years. That’s quite a lot, making for both a huge new market for software and accessories, and also a rich source of data and controversy. May we live in interesting times.