While not many can agree on what business model, services, fees or connectivity are the right way to grow telematics, there is virtual agreement on one thing: Without a proactive collaborative effort to minimize driver distraction and maximize occupant safety, the entire whiz-bang effort could be thrown out the window by well-meaning legislators and regulators.

Sun Microsystems James DeStefano suggests, however, that over time the concerns over many in-vehicle telematic distractions will fade and they’ll be as accepted as car radios are today.

OnStar public policy vice president Bill Ball notes the addition of the hands free personal calling and its virtual advisor, providing hands free internet access.

Visteon’s John Barkley, director of advanced cross systems development, offers a solution of sorts in the form of a workload manager, which measures data from the driver and occupants and a whole host of conditions both inside and outside the vehicle then evaluates the path of the vehicle, the likelihood of collision and its severity. It then would process the level of distraction and determine what information to present, how to present it and when to present it.

The Monday afternoon panel included Mssrs. DeStefano, Ball and Barkley and John F. Ziomek, of JFZ Associates, Paul Green, PhD, of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute’s Human Factors Div. and Michael L. Heidingsfelder, partner and executive vice president of Roland Berger Strategy Consultants.

UMTRI’s Mr. Green sums it up by noting that engineering solutions are available to provide safe, easy to use and useful telematics systems. “If we do not do this, many telematics systems could be outlawed, eliminating numerous profit opportunities.”

Mr. Ziomek suggests that the telematics focus should be on what he terms “e-safety.”

He says that 114 people in the U.S. are killed each day in vehicle crashes and that the technology of just three companies, DaimlerChrysler, IBM and Robert Bosch GmbH could offer crash avoidance technology to save close to half of those lives.

Visteon’s Mr. Ball echoes the safety theme by highlighting Visteon’s efforts in collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, near-side object warning, night vision and lane departure warning devices.

Roland Berger’s Mr. Heidingsfelder says estimates of $50 billion revenues from telematics in 2010 are extremely optimistic. He suggests the number may in fact be only half of that, arguing that consumers will not buy into telematics services in a big way unless the price is substantially lower than $20 a month.