Ford venture will introduce internet-based in-car communication by 2001

FORD THIS week announced its commitment to make advanced in-car communications a reality for millions of drivers by joining forces with two technology providers to form Wingcast, a new joint venture company.

Entertainment, navigation, voice communication and safety services via wireless internet access developed by Wingcast will be widely available in its model range by 2004, said the automotive giant.

The other partners include Qualcomm, a digital wireless communication developer, and Cartell, a Michigan-based wireless equipment manufacturer.

Wingcast’s chief executive is former Microsoft executive Harel Kodesh. He said: `Cars and trucks will soon be the fastest growing mobile platform for seamless communications and digital information services.’

Analyst International Data Corporation have estimated that wireless information services – known as telematics – will form a market worth $42bn by 2010.

By 2003, Ford expects three million vehicles to have telematic capabilities. By 2005 half the new vehicles sold in Japan, North America and Europe could have telematics capability.

Ford expects the first telematic services are appear in its luxury models in 2001. Fellow car giant Nissan is co-operating with Ford, and will also use luxury cars to introduce the services.

Japan already has in-car internet access provided by the big three – Honda, Toyota and Nissan – through the country’s widely-used satellite navigation system. However, none of the services are profitable.

General Motors also has a system, called OnStar, currently in development. It plans a million telematic-capable vehicles by the end of this year.

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