The Hughes Telematics system is actually an intricate network of systems and features that can cross-communicate. Here are some of the features being touted by Hughes:
- Roadside assistance, emergency calling, automatic crash notification and stolen vehicle locator service -- These safety and security features are similar to those offered by other telematics systems, relying on GPS information and a cell phone connection. In addition to locating a stolen vehicle, the system can shut down a stolen car by cutting off the fuel supply. This feature could reduce the chance of dangerous high speed chases and increase the chances of recovering a stolen vehicle. Emergency calls are handled by Intrado, Inc., a company that is heavily involved in development of the 911 emergency response system in the United States [source: Hughes Telematics]. Intrado's system will be able to route emergency calls to the nearest available emergency response unit.
- Telematic navigation, turn-by-turn directions, real-time traffic information, traffic camera access -- Initially, Hughes Telematics-equipped cars will be able to receive traffic information from Hughes' own network, which will use numerous sources to develop traffic info. These sources include sensors built into traffic lights and other key locations, toll booths and traffic cameras. A few years down the road, data from each individual car could be incorporated as well, including speed, braking, and steering wheel position. Once all personal information is stripped away from the data, it can then be used to build a more complete and dynamic picture of current traffic conditions. Hughes has partnered with Concentrix Corporation to provide call centers to respond to customer care requests [source: Hughes Telematics].
- Vehicle maintenance reminders, diagnostic health check, recall reminder, remote emissions testing -- Currently, the various ECUs on a car can be accessed by a mechanic using an expensive piece of equipment known as a diagnostic scan tool. The Hughes Telematics system will allow the user to access diagnostic information through a Web interface, which can be configured to create maintenance reminders and automatic recall notices. Hughes already participates in a pilot program in California known as the Continuous Smog Check Testing Program. Volunteers with the proper equipment installed on their cars don't need to visit a mechanic for required emissions testing -- emissions levels are tested continuously, and an automatic notification is sent if levels ever fall out of compliance, without the user having to visit a mechanic for regular emissions tests.
- Local information, stocks, weather, sports, news, streaming and storage of music and videos -- Using Bluetooth wireless connections, cell phones, PDAs, MP3 players and other electronic devices can be integrated into the on-board telematics system.
Up next, we'll learn about the Telematics Control Unit.