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April 13, 2012, 10:55 a.m.
Having recently taken delivery of a new car and paid extra to get the telematics feature, I was keen to experience the benefits. It was nice to have a bigger map screen placed firmly in the center console rather than trying to read my phone screen. And the voice commands are helpful when the car correctly guesses what I say. But is that all?
No it isn't. The pleasant surprise came on the way to visit a location in an unfamiliar part of the city. After being stuck in a traffic jam for about 10 minutes the nav system suddenly announced that as the traffic appeared to be heavy it was going to change the route and that I should take the next exit. It then guided me through some backstreets to my destination.
So the real-time nature of telematics delivered a tangible benefit. And while I was pleased to be the recipient of some efficient re-routing, I would have preferred it if the system had identified the problem earlier and diverted me before I got stuck.
I also think that had I known my destination in advance that I wouldn't have activated the nav system so would have missed out on this benefit. I don't use it on my daily commute, so will it provide the same assistance if there is a traffic incident ahead? How can it, if it doesn't know where I am going? I am not going to fiddle with the sat nav before every trip, but on weekday mornings it could ask if I am going to the office, and activate the route plan and automatically check ahead for traffic issues after a simple "yes" response.
Maybe some other manufacturers have these features already, but OEMs need to continuously improve the value proposition for telematics. Making it easier to benefit from the technology that is already there is one way. And improving the response is another. Making driving more efficient is definitely worth paying for.