If you had attended the biennial Convergence transportation electronics conference in 2002 or earlier, you likely would have heard automotive engineers discussing technology and consortia aimed at creating new methods for delivering in-car news and entertainment with digitally stored music and programming.

And, whether you knew it at the time or not, you would have been in the midst of the infotainment revolution that has spawned Bluetooth wireless connectivity standards and the growing interaction of in-vehicle entertainment systems, with consumer electronic devices such as cell phones and MP3 players that Bluetooth makes possible.

In fact, Convergence has helped create or facilitate numerous key consortia and standards that dramatically are changing vehicles and the way consumers interact with them. Some, such as Bluetooth, directly impact consumers. Other consortia, such as Autosar and FlexRay, help auto makers and suppliers cut costs and enhance the functionality of various automotive systems and subsystems.

Autosar is a German-led organization created in 2003 to establish an open standard for automotive electrical/electronic architectures. The group hopes to nudge the industry closer to a worldwide software standard for automotive electronics, with potentially vast implications for the development of future “mechatronic” components that combine mechanical and electronic functionality.

Likewise, FlexRay promises to enable future electronic “by-wire” steering, braking and other functions by speeding and simplifying the way information is transferred throughout vehicle data networks.

Speaking at a recent panel discussion in Detroit sponsored by the Automotive Press Assn., Convergence 2006 Vice Chairman Ronn Jamieson and Convergence Transportation Electronics Assn. Board Members Cary Wilson and Herb Kaufman could not identify for reporters which technologies being discussed at this October’s Convergence conference might someday equal Bluetooth or the MP3 player in significance, but there will be plenty to choose from.

With the overall theme being “Reinventing the Automobile,” infotainment, safety and advanced propulsion systems will be major topics covered this year, they say, a far cry from when the event was started 30 years ago mainly as a means of coping with emissions and regulatory standards.

The 3-day event is Oct. 16-18 in Detroit at Cobo Center and is expected to attract about 8,000 of the world’s leading technologists, engineers and executives to discuss topics related to the future of vehicle electronics.

Vehicle-to-vehicle communications or “V2V” definitely will be a hot topic. This technology uses a computer and Global Positioning System technology to enable a vehicle to know its exact position in relation to the vehicles surrounding it.

With such technology, vehicles can anticipate and react to changing driving situations and instantly warn drivers with chimes, visual icons or by vibrating the seat with a haptic alert. If the driver fails to respond to the alerts, the vehicle could bring itself to a safe stop, avoiding a collision.

Wilson, of CTEA, says the human machine interface (HMI) also will draw much attention at the confab but with a new twist. Previously, attention was focused on simplifying how the driver interacts with HMIs, such as the BMW iDrive.

This year, there will be more focus on HMIs in the rear seats, and attendees will discuss how the HMI can make vehicles fun, Wilson says.

CETA board members also say companies looking to hire engineering professionals will be on hand at the SAE International Career Fair, which will be co-located at the Convergence conference. For further information, visit www.ctea.org.

dwinter@wardsauto.com