What is telematics?
The word telematics technically refers to any system by which a mechanical or electronic device communicates with other devices or with human users over a network. Over the years, the term has come to mean the specific use of on-board communication capabilities in automobiles. General Motors calls their telematics system OnStar, while Ford's system is called SYNC. At present, Hughes Telematics has not yet announced the brand name of their upcoming system -- since Mercedes-Benz does not typically allow third-party branded systems in their cars, whatever name Hughes chooses may only show up in Chrysler vehicles.
The Hughes Telematics system does not represent a revolutionary change from prior telematics systems. There will be additional services and options compared to current services such as OnStar, but Hughes will not instantly change the nature of the telematics industry. Rather, they're aiming to create a platform of vehicle information and safety services that can be built-on for years to come, offering the flexibility to create new technologies and services as customers demand them.
The key to this plan is in linking all of the various electronic systems already on board most modern vehicles. A car bought in the last 15 years most likely has an engine controller, a body controller, and several other electronic control units (ECUs). Some of these systems communicate with each other to some extent (we'll explain how shortly), but there isn't generally one processor than can understand data from all of the various ECUs, and certainly none of them are integrated with your MP3 stereo or LCD viewing screen. The Hughes Telematics system will access and interpret all of the information and make it available to the user.
On the next page, we'll take a look at some of the features and functions of the Hughes Telematics system along with a brief description of how they operate.