Telematics tracks motorists driving habits
May 21, 2012
by Mark Ollig

A much talked about technology is predicted to see revenues of $14.4 billion by 2016.

It’s called telematics, and it incorporates both telecommunications and information technology.

Telematics is being integrated with today’s smartphone technology for use inside motor vehicles.

I was reading a summary from the fine folks at Juniper Research, who recently reported on intelligent motor vehicles using telematics technology.

Juniper’s report anticipates that by 2016, the integration of smartphone technology into consumer vehicles will become standard on all new car models.

“Integrating the smartphone into consumer cars represents a new route for the mobile Internet and infotainment to enter the vehicle,” says the report’s author Anthony Cox in a press release from Juniper Research.

Intelligent vehicle devices, using telematics technology which connects to the Internet, include Ford’s Sync AppLink, GM’s IntelliLink systems, and the devices OnStar provides.

Telematics is also opening up a whole new way for insurance companies to monitor driving habits and behavior when we’re behind the wheel.

Telematics technology can store detailed vehicular data, which is retrievable in the event of an accident.

The Juniper Research report states drivers will become “more efficient” with telematics technology embedded inside their motor vehicles.

Yes, dear readers, if we are good drivers and follow the rules of the road, we could be rewarded with better insurance rates, as some type of telematics technology will be faithfully (and, probably, regularly) reporting our driving habits to the insurance company.

Am I being overly naive in believing only the insurance companies will end up seeing this information?

In addition to all those little MNDOT cameras focused on us as we travel the highways and streets within the city, we will also need to consider what our own automobile’s telematics is reporting about us.

In the future, if I (inadvertently) go over the speed limit, I needn’t worry just about a camera or radar speed gun recording my violation.

Oh no, not at all. Now, my very own car will turn on me and report my transgression via wireless communication over the Internet, connecting to the nearest law enforcement agency, which will no doubt issue me a traffic ticket within seconds.

Of course, there might be some legality involved here. I mean, if I choose to confront my accuser, will I be facing the plastic-encased telematics device installed under the hood of my car?

My accuser will be a machine?

This scenario reminds me of the classic “Star Trek” original series episode, “Court Martial,” where the prosecution’s main witness against Captain Kirk is a machine.

Surprisingly, in that episode, we learned the machine (computer) had been secretly tampered with by a human; causing it to show Kirk being guilty, when he was in fact, innocent.

I noted some of the advantages being mentioned about the use of telematics technology.

Commercial vehicle fleet managers are using telematics to increase efficiency, better comply with regulations, monitor driver behavior, and manage costs.

Device makers are creating new telematics products in order to take advantage of cloud computing and wireless “ad-hoc Internet portals,” in order to offer new, enhanced services.

There is also talk about using telematics for controlling cruise control speeds within a convoy of commercial trucks or automobiles. This would allow speeds to be better managed during braking and accelerating, thus saving fuel and more efficiently managing the distances between vehicles.

Telematics technology installed in automobiles can inform us of approaching road hazards, and the location and speed of other vehicles nearby.

Yours truly learned telematics was being talked about during the late 1970s.

The Artificial Passenger (AP) is a telematics-like device IBM developed, and received US patent 6,236,968 for May 22, 2001.

The AP makes sure a driver stays awake in a moving vehicle.

By placing a microphone next to the driver, the AP can hear a driver’s conversation.

The AP uses an internal speech generator and the vehicle’s audio speakers in order to “talk” with the driver.

“The system carries on a conversation with the driver on various topics, utilizing a natural dialog car system,” stated the abstract on the IBM patent.

This conversation is established based on a personalized profile of the driver. A voice analyzer evaluates whether the driver is becoming drowsy.

“The natural dialog car system analyzes a driver’s answer and the contents of the answer, together with his voice patterns to determine if he [the driver] is alert while driving. The system warns the driver or changes the topic of conversation if the system determines that the driver is about to fall asleep,” according to wording within the patent.

If the driver appears to be overly tired, the AP could be programmed to open all the windows, sound a loud buzzer, increase the radio volume, or take drastic measures; such as spraying the driver with ice water.

I am suddenly hearing Louis Armstrong sing, “Oh, What a Wonderful World.”

According to Juniper Research, more than 92 million new automobiles world-wide will be connected to the Internet, using various types of telematics technologies by 2016.

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