Cars will be major Net-service vehicles

Mercedes models to come will provide dynamic maps using information from other cars that have traveled a route, download movies from video stores via short-range wireless networks and pass on information from connected home appliances such as an empty refrigerator, said Ken Enders, vice president of marketing for Mercedes Benz USA, a subsidiary of Daimler Benz.

With the average American commuter in a vehicle for 90 minutes each day -- and up to five hours in New York or the San Francisco Bay Area -- autos will become a common place to seek information from the Internet, he added.

Trade show attendees should get used to seeing auto makers at computer events -- Mercedes-Benz is the official automotive sponsor of this year's Comdex -- as the two industries begin to cooperate more.

When it comes to reliability in hostile environments, Enders said, the automotive system is ahead of the IT industry: embedded computers in cars continue to operate in baking-hot temperatures or while sprayed with water. "Your PC can't do that," he said.

"The power of combining the marketing expertise and the technological innovation of both our industries could be exponential," Enders said. "Don't be surprised to see more of the likes of me at future computer trade shows," he added.

Mercedes and some other automakers already are using GPS (global positioning system) information and mobile connectivity to provide emergency services and directions to drivers, and the range of services soon will expand, Enders said. Internet connectivity will help expand the offerings to include data such as dining recommendations, entertainment programs and even maps that keep up with construction obstacles and other changes on a driver's commute route, he added.

"Cars have become the next big untapped platform for mobile e-services," Enders said.

The key to making auto Internet services useful will be to deliver information filtered according to a driver's location and, most importantly, preferences, he explained.

"Marketing a swanky new Asian restaurant to a driver based on their proximity is a no-brainer today. But [in future], we will be able to do it only to drivers who like Asian food," he said.

Speaking after the presentation, Enders said that dynamic mapping based on federated computing could have the answer to the eternal parking space question.

"That application I can see extending to parking spaces. ...You would know if a vehicle was in a space or not," Enders said. But wouldn't that result in a race for spaces between all drivers subscribing to the service? "Things aren't perfect. This is not a perfect solution," he concluded.

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