Imagine a car that personalizes its navigation, information and connectivity to your needs. Sounds great, right? Well, it exists right now, but it's going to be awhile before you can buy a car with it.
The ability, functionality and look of OEM in-car technology is unfortunately limited by conservative, litigation-averse manufacturers who make equipment decisions based on price, their own extremely limited understanding of what customers want and their keen ability to avoid anything that might get them sued. All that's a shame because Hughes Telematics currently has the ability to put every in-car telematics feature you've ever wanted, and many you don't yet know you do, into cars right now.
Ever thought of having Mac-style Widgets available through your Nav screen? Hughes envisions users being able to download and use an unlimited number of third-party widgets directly from their nav screens. The example they showed us was of a carbon foot print calculator based on personalized vehicle data and current fuel consumption. Put your foot down and tips for more eco-friendly driving can be made to pop up on the screen.
Hughes also envisions and has created a new archetype for daily navigation and traffic information. Preprogram a list of available routes for your commute and, when you start your car in the morning it'll check the traffic on all of them, then tell you which route is your best option. No need for annoying directions the whole way there either.
That customizable morning report can also do things like check your vehicle's fuel level and advise of the cheapest fuel not within a given radius, but precisely along the route you're going to drive. It can also give stock prices, weather, read from the calendar on your laptop, or perform umpteen other functions that you specify.
That calendar function is really neat and represents the direction Hughes is going with its thinking: friendly technology that can integrate with your vehicle to assist you in your day-to-day tasks. Like Ford's Sync, the Hughes system can receive email and read it to you. They're still working on ways to respond by voice since dictation software doesn't work great at the moment. One option: a .Wav file of your voice sent as an attachment in a response.
The most immediate difference between the Hughes system and rivals like GM's OnStar and Ford's Sync isn't the increased ability but rather how easy the system is to use. Voice commands are natural language, requiring no memorizing of menu hierarchies or specific commands. Want to know if it's going to snow in Buffalo later? Just ask. Want to switch from weather to nav? Just ask for directions, no need to tell the system to switch.
Advanced functionality is built in at every level, integrating each function. For example you can look up theaters showing a specific movie, get times for that movie than get directions to the theater, all by saying "hey, where's ‘The Wrestler' showing? Sure beats iDrive.
Other cool features come in the form of in-car 3G access and a WiFi hub. That means you can park the car in a parking lot, go sit in an internetless café and convince Ray that you're at work. Or, send HD movies to the car's hardrive from your home computer and display each individually on each of the car's video screens.
Hughes is currently working with both Chrysler and Mercedes to bring some of these features to future models. Which exact ones it won't say, but it sure won't be all of them. Features like email display on the Nav screen cause litigation concerns. Which brings us to the systems failing's and its future. In these images, on a double-DIN 8" screen, with these stand-in graphics, the technology has a hard time selling itself. As in-car screens get bigger and their graphics slicker we can see this becoming must-have technology, but until then it's going to be a hard sale, both to customers spoiled by Macbooks and iPhones and the old guys who run car companies. [Source: Hughes Telematics]