Some people consider the beginning of telematics to be linked with the history of the car-radio. In 1974 the ARD (German national radio) and the Blaupunkt Company developed the 'ARI' (traffic-information radio). Certain ARI-capable stations were able to interrupt the running program or music-cassettes for traffic news. In 1988 the Radio-Data-System went a step further with the automated search for traffic stations. This was followed in 1994 by the Traffic Message Channel, which made possible, almost incessant, short text-messages concerning tailbacks caused by accidents or other stoppages.
The enhancement functioned by means of road-sensors, making it independent of human tailback warnings. In the meantime, the number of active mobile-phones in cars, at least in metropolitan areas, has increased so strongly, that one can observe their changes of location, thus recognizing tailbacks and being able to send the information directly, without radio reception, to devices able to receive mobile-phone transmission. Manufacturers of cars in the upper classes sometimes offer this feature, for a suitable monthly- or annual fee.
Let's leave the topic of the latest innovations in navigation-systems and return to the origins of telematics. In the above picture, you can see one of the first two-way-radios, the device was used by the police force in the 1960 Ford Taunus 17m. Indeed, in this case the expression is not quite appropriate, telematics means the correlation between tele-communication and computer science. Can the investigation and analysis of mobile-phone data or the police-radio be described as telecommunication?
All these systems were already wireless, a typical characteristic of telematics. By the way, don't confuse telematics with telemetry, which is also a wireless transmission. In this case it concerns more the transmission and the influencing of vehicle data, well known and commonly used e.g., in Formula-1 racing. This is based on the motto, that if the gearbox is not likely to last until the end of the race, it would be better to take the car out of the race now.
Over and above the enhanced navigation features, there is also the automatic transmission of reports to and from the car, e.g., an emergency call, a breakdown or even the downloading of updated factory settings. The following or tracing of a stolen car is also already very often possible. The future is much too promising to be able to describe everything in detail. If every car featured this type of system (in the mini-box), traffic reports would no longer have to be detoured through the various traffic newsrooms but could be processed directly.
It was only in the year 2000, that telematics became a business segment which was to be taken seriously. Since then the growth rates have sky-rocketed. Mercedes, together with the 2003 Maybach and their subsidiary FleetBoard, moved into unknown territory by integrating the systems into utility vehicles. The new system 'Command-Online', has removed the remaining bugs. More than in the motor car branch, telematics are probably more useful in the field of utility vehicles ... 03/13