REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 27, 2000 — According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Americans alone spend more than 500 million commuter hours in their cars every week. For many drivers and passengers, the automobile is more than a way to get from point A to point B — it’s also a mobile office and entertainment center.
“Computers already regulate many of the automobile’s performance and safety functions, but their role in keeping its driver and passengers informed and entertained hasn’t yet reached its full potential,” says Dick Brass, Microsoft’s vice president of Technology Development. “And as people become accustomed to real-time information and entertainment at home, why shouldn’t they have the same level of service on the road?”
Delivering real-time in-vehicle computing and communications via the Internet has much to offer drivers and passengers alike. Drivers can benefit from navigation help, access to roadside assistance, news and traffic updates that save time and improve safety, plus email and instant messaging that can help them keep in touch with work and family from the road. Passengers can enjoy Internet access and digital media via back-seat entertainment systems. Bits and pieces of this integrated approach currently exist, including Global Positioning System (GPS) units, and even cradles for cell phones. The next step for automotive design is to implement a scalable, flexible solution that can fit every type of price tag and car model, from an entry-level sedan to the most exotic roadster.
The technology that can make this happen is just around the corner. According to Strategy Analytics, a market research firm, 50 percent of all new cars and 90 percent of higher-end models will be equipped with real-time data services (or “telematics”) by 2006, and the Westwind Research Group predicts that the subscription market for telematics could grow to over $20 billion per year by 2005.
But making in-car computing a reality, Brass notes, also requires a common software platform that effectively brings the home and office computing environments into the automobile. “For the best consumer experience, you need software that works seamlessly with technology found in today’s homes and offices,” he says. “You need to give users access to the same email, messaging services, digital media and other real-time services they can get at home, and you need to give it to them in an integrated, consistent way.”
This is the principle behind Microsoft’s .Net initiative, and the guiding force behind Windows CE for Automotive — an operating system built on Windows CE that makes possible new categories of in-car computers that are capable of safely providing drivers and passengers with hands-free communication, access to personalized information on the Internet, the ability to summon emergency services and roadside assistance, and other convenience and productivity applications. As an open platform, it gives millions of Windows CE developers the power to quickly create powerful in-car computing solutions using a wide array of hardware and software components.
Automotive electronics manufacturers are already lining up behind Windows CE for Automotive, committing to develop products on the platform that will be available to consumers as early as 2001. Microsoft this week announced a strategic agreement with Robert Bosch GmbH, the number one supplier of automotive electronics in Europe, to develop a family of in-car computing products based on the platform. Previously, a group of Japanese automotive component manufacturers — including Clarion, Denso Corp., Aisin AW Co. Ltd., and Xanavi Informatics Corp. — announced plans to standardize their development environments on the platform, through the formation of the Windows CE for Automotive Forum.
For Bosch, the benefits of adopting Windows CE for Automotive are clear. “Adopting the platform allows us to accelerate development cycles and speed up the roll-out of an intelligent software platform for telematics applications.”
“Bringing the power of the Internet into the car has plenty of clear benefits — drivers can be safer and more efficient, and passengers can keep themselves entertained,” Brass says. “The technology that can make this happen is here today, and now that people are lining up behind Windows CE for Automotive, we’re taking a big step toward making the Internet as much a part of your future driving experience as your radio is today.”