Future Ford cars to include 'net access

Voice-activated communications and information systems offering security features and Internet access will be standard in 2001 model-year Lincoln luxury cars made by the Ford Motor Co.

The telematics information and security systems will be optional in the Ford Focus car offered in Europe in that model year, and will be expanded to include nearly all Ford vehicles globally in the next few years, Ford announced yesterday. Telematics are advanced in-vehicle communications and information systems and services, including wireless phones, satellite radio, navigation systems and Internet access.

Customers have told Ford that they would rather have safety and security features instead of Internet-related services, so the company intends to focus first on making safety features standard in vehicles, the company said. As telecommunications and computer costs drop, Ford will make related features standard.

Safety and security, information and entertainment, and telephone features all will be added this year and include the following:

-- Automatic collision notification, which contacts an operator to identify and locate vehicles involved in crashes in which air bags deploy. The system also will make a voice call to the vehicle to find out additional information about the crash and what kind of emergency assistance is needed.

-- Emergency assistance will be offered via an emergency button that contacts an operator for immediate police, fire or medical help.

-- Roadside assistance so that drivers of stranded vehicles can call an operator who will let them know where they can obtain services close to their location.

-- Operator-assisted concierge service with operators who will offer directions to gas stations or how to find the nearest hotel.

-- Internet access optional service that also will allow users to customise the information they receive. Users will be able to check their e-mail and calendars, as well as get news and stock updates.

-- Drivers in major metropolitan areas will have access to traffic updates delivered to their vehicles.

-- Hands-free voice control for in-vehicle telephone use, including speed-dial commands. Telephones also will be the way that drivers activate other telematics services.

Future services will include satellite radio; Internet surfing and music downloading; synchronization between in-vehicle telematics systems with laptops and other computer devices; electronic tracking of stolen vehicles; and the option to have Ford remotely monitor the vehicle's operating systems and schedule regular maintenance checkups.

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Nancy Weil

PC World

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