DETROIT – The involvement of two auto makers in a consortium aimed at paving the way for hard disk-drive proliferation in cars may hasten the rate at which removable hard drives flood the vehicle market in coming years.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. are actively supporting the Information Versatile Disk for Removable (iVDR) usage consortium, which was formed in 2002 between consumer electronics firms and a laundry list of suppliers to develop an iVDR platform for a broad range of devices, including automobiles.

They include Fujitsu Ltd., Aisin AW Co. Ltd., Sanyo Electric Corp. and Pioneer Corp.

The subject of removable hard drives is broached during a panel discussion on mobile digital entertainment at the Convergence International Congress on Transportation taking place here this week.

The drives, theoretically, can be swapped in and out of an iVDR port in the instrument panel as conveniently as a cassette. They can be used for storing movies, music, TV programs recorded off digital television recorders, such as TiVo, and maps for navigation programs.

The massive amount of storage capacity on the drives nearly represents unlimited personalization options, says Niall Berkery, Pioneer Electronics vice president-product planning.

The drives could represent an intermediate step between today’s CD-, DVD and satellite-based systems currently in vehicles and wireless technology.

Auto makers, such as Toyota and Nissan, stand to benefit greatly if a standard removable hard-drive platform is established, considering a boom of such technology is predicted for later in the decade.

Moving data-storage devices ubiquitously between vehicles of different makes will ensure the technology is utilized, current and not a detriment to resale values.

Berkery cites numbers from the TrendFOCUS market research firm that suggest removable hard-drive penetration in vehicles could grow to 10 million units by 2010, up from about 750,000 in 2004. The number could reach 2.9 million by 2007, which means a significant spike is expected between 2008 and 2010.

Top among factors driving the growth is the desire for more personalization, Berkery says. With the advent of TiVo, which allows people to digitally record television shows for later viewing (often minus the commercials), car owners are becoming accustomed to being entertained on their own terms, he says.

Removable hard drives would enable people to store TiVo recordings and transfer them to TV screens that are fitted in the car. The same could be done with video games; music libraries stored on MP3 players; driving directions; and personal information, such as address books and calendars.

jstoll@primediabusiness.com