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Robo-Car Roadblocks

Telematics continues to face some potholes.

This story appears in the October 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

What happened to all those snazzy wireless features we were supposed to get in our automobiles? Remote diagnostics and emergency and navigation help are still on the map, says business research firm Jupiter Media Metrix. But the broader telematics vision has been shaken up by fairly deep potholes-a stock market crash, a recession and the specter of terrorism. Other barriers include "a lack of standards for subsystem interconnection, messaging protocols, hardware interfaces and signaling," adds Jupiter analyst Jay Horwitz.

Detroit and its wireless partners are still trying to figure out how they'll recover the $1,075 they've paid to outfit each of the 2.5 million telematics-equipped cars already on the road. Sub-scribers should double this year, and almost 80 percent of those interviewed by Jupiter want at least one telematics service. Half would chip in $400 upfront for the right service bundle. But that still won't cover telematics costs-much less profit. Also, consumers show little interest in duplicating the e-mail and voice-mail features of their phones and PDAs. Even though half of all cell minutes originate in automobiles, office productivity and location services are way down the wish list.

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