Hughes Telematics Can Track Your Teen Driver

Hughes Telematics is developing a Web site to let consumers check on the mechanical health of their cars, lock or unlock doors, and even track teen drivers.

Antone Gonsalves, Contributor

January 8, 2008

3 Min Read

Hughes Telematics is developing a Web site for consumers that could connect remotely to their vehicles, enabling them to check on the mechanical health of their cars, lock or unlock doors, and even track the travels of their teenagers.

Hughes, an Atlanta-based automotive technology company, demonstrated the system to reporters Monday in a Chrysler SUV at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Mercedes-Benz and the Chrysler Group plan to make the Internet-connected in-car systems available in 2010 models.

The first generation of Hughes' DriveConnected system will use a cellular network for receiving data at about 100 Kbits per second. By around 2012, however, Hughes expects to deliver two-way, broadband connectivity over a satellite network.

Car owners will configure and access many of the system's services through a Web site. To complement the system's onboard navigation, for example, a family member could use the site to send directions to a driver.

In time, people will be able to put in the site the kinds of places they like, such as museums or Thai restaurants, and the in-car system would notify the person by electronic voice when the car is approaching such a location.

One of the more unique future services will be "teen tracking." If a parent hands the keys over to their child, they can use the Web site to track where the vehicle is at any given time. The site can also keep a record of where the vehicle has been and how fast it was driven to get there.

Hughes skirts privacy issues by having an indicator in the car that lets the driver know when the vehicle is being tracked. "It doesn't happen, unless the consumer wants it," Kevin Link, a Hughes VP at CES, told InformationWeek.

The in-car system can be configured through the Web site for accessing e-mail, and for providing local sports, weather, news, traffic reports, and other services. People also will be able to upload music to the system.

Within the car, control of the system will be done through voice recognition technology supplied by partner VoiceBox Technologies. "Our theory is two hands on the wheel," Link said. Responses to e-mail will be recorded and sent to the recipient as an attached audio file.

Besides the advanced services, the system would have the more traditional safety and security features found in other in-car systems, such as GM's OnStar. The features include emergency calling to police or for roadside assistance.

In terms of remote diagnostics, however, the Hughes system goes a step further by enabling car owners to go on the site and see whether the oil or tire pressure is low, or whether there is an engine problem that needs servicing.

In addition, the car will communicate to the site whether it is in compliance with emission standards. E-mail alerts can be set up on the site, so when there is a mechanical problem, the drive is notified.

Most of the services described above are not available today. "A lot of this is conceptual," Link said. "It's not in the car today, but will be developed over the next 18 months for use by Chrysler."

Initially, the system will have safety and security features, remote diagnostics capabilities, in-car navigation, and some other services, Link said. More will be added as Hughes increases bandwidth in moving from a cellular to a satellite network, which is expected to happen in time for the 2011 model year.

Hughes' rival in in-car technologies is Microsoft, which has developed a Bluetooth-based hands-free system called Sync in partnership with Ford. Sync today is used mostly for cell phone calls and e-mail, and for playing music from a connected portable music device, such as an Apple iPod or Microsoft Zune.

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