Forecasting massive growth for vehicle telematics by decade's end, IBM Corp. predicts future wireless innovations will enable drivers to send and receive far more automated information.

These systems most likely will be digital instead of analog and will seamlessly incorporate cell phones, personal digital assistants and other devices into the vehicle — probably via a wireless Bluetooth interface.

“IBM envisions the telematics platform as key to the wireless delivery of capabilities, such as horsepower on demand, vehicle software upgrades and repairs,” says James Ruthven, program director for IBM Telematic Solutions.

About 5 million vehicles today have some type of telematics content, a market valued at about $4.5 billion, according to ABI market research. That figure nearly will triple to $13 billion globally by 2008, ABI says. The telematics penetration rate in new vehicles is about 15%, which ABI forecasts will hit 45% in 2008. IBM forecasts a $23 billion market by 2007.

IBM has ambitious telematics goals, well beyond the role of software developer:

  • Telematics Resource Manager, a system IBM developed with Ford to provide hands-free and eyes-free Internet access.
  • An OnStar-type roadside service for Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.
  • The first e-owner's manual developed for OnStar rival ATX Technologies. Using voice activation, drivers can access vehicle information while on the road.