Auto industry moving to embrace new technologies

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January 14, 2006 Automakers selling cars in North America have stepped up their position when it comes to entertainment and telematics features according to survey of the vehicles on display at the 2006 North American International Auto Show. Of the 264 autos at the 2006 NAIAS, 154 models support MP3 music playback while over 200 models support satellite radio.

"Features like the ability to integrate portable music players (iPods, MP3 players, etc.) are available on many new cars," says Phil Magney, principal analyst at Telematics Research Group. "Rear seat entertainment, Bluetooth communications, and premium audio are also available on many of the new cars. These features were once exclusive to the luxury segment, but have come down market to high-volume vehicles," adds Magney.

"Auto makers are doing a better job of addressing the needs of consumers, particularly in terms of entertainment solutions," says Magney. "Consumers are changing the way the listen to, manage, and discover new music." According to TRG data, most new models being introduced have the ability to play MP3 files and nearly all support digital radio. Slightly more than half of the models available support XM Satellite Radio, while slightly less than half support SIRIUS Satellite.

Some technologies may be still ahead of their time for mainstream automotive application. USB ports, hard disk drives (HDD), and flash memory card interfaces are examples of technologies that are currently very limited. "Auxiliary input, and iPod direct connections are still the safe bet for music device integration, but USB will eventually become a contender. Bluetooth will also be used for audio, but this is still in the planning phase," says Magney.

Traditional telematics that provide emergency call and automotive collision notification, while prevalent on most new GM vehicles, is available on less than half of the new vehicles on the market. Most luxury brands offer telematics and some have begun to deploy their own technologies using satellites and an embedded phone. TRG says that telematics for safety and remote diagnostics will eventually become standard on most production cars.

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