About this Article
Written by: Gerardo Garcia
Written on: October 9th, 2007
Tags: communication, transportation
Thumbnail by: Jan Roger Johannesen/SXC
About the Author
In the fall of 2007, Gerardo Garcia was an undergraduate junior at the University of Southern California and was pursuing a B.S. degree in Industrial and Systems Engineering.
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Volume IX Issue I > Automotive Telematics: A Technological Lifesaver
Telematics, in its general sense, refers to the science of sending, receiving, and storing information via telecommunication devices. It is most notably known for its use in automotive vehicles through the application of global positioning systems. The variety of ways in which this technology may be used has only begun to make its presence known: vehicle and trailer tracking, satellite navigation, mobile data, emergency warning systems for vehicles, and more. Automotive telematics is an excellent example of a technology designed with human needs and limitations in mind. It is increasingly transforming the dreams of the past into a reality through the design of today's automobiles. Automotive telematics is steadily becoming a part of the new age of features and applications vehicles have to offer.


Jan Roger Johannesen/SXC
Figure​ 1: Handheld GPS Unit.
The popular 1980's television show Knight Rider was known for the artificially intelligent smart-car known as K.I.T.T. This technologically advanced vehicle foreshadowed the high level of sophistication that has become characteristic of modern automobiles. K.I.T.T. had the unique ability to interact with its driver, accepting voice commands in order to perform a desired function [1]. Today, such a level of artificial intelligence in vehicles is made possible through the inclusion of a wireless communication network (see Fig. 1). This network is the basis of the technology known as telematics [2].

Automotive Telematics: A Brief Description

Just as K.I.T.T.'s top priority was to protect human life, telematics applications are designed to fulfill the same purpose for today's drivers. Automotive telematics is an emerging technology that takes drivers' needs and limitations into consideration by providing applications such as hazard warning and global positioning systems in order to contribute to the safety, security, and satisfaction of humans in their driving experience.

What Exactly is Automotive Telematics?

Automotive telematics refers to any kind of service providing drivers with information or communication within the vehicle via a wireless communication link. Examples of telematics services for cars include driving directions, real-time traffic information, and the capability to send voice-activated emails [2]. Technology is increasingly becoming a defining characteristic of modern automobiles, which are already considered to be a "network of embedded computers" on wheels [4]. Modern cars currently consist of 20-80 microprocessors that control countless functions within the vehicle, such as running the engine, controlling the brake system, and deploying the air-bags in a serious traffic accident [4]. Such highly engineered systems are designed to achieve personal safety and security while also accounting for the driver's needs to simplify and enhance the driving experience.