Automotive News Europe BERLIN - Traffic is getting the attention of carmakers.
At the SAE's conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems last month, automakers like Daimler-Benz and BMW showed their ideas for keeping cars moving. If cars can't be kept moving, no one will buy them.
Perhaps as important was the large contingent of politicians who attended the Berlin conference. If there is no political will to spend tax money, there will be no infrastructure.
Germany might lead the way.
The German government committed itself to supporting the development of telematics with subsidies of DM4.0 billion ($2.2 billion) over the next 10 years. Matthias Wissmann, Germany's federal minister of transport, made the announcement.
More than 4,000 participants visited the event. Organizers said it was the largest exhibition of ITS technologies ever.
About 175 companies presented products and solutions for road, rail and other traffic. Results of worldwide research and new technical developments were presented at the congress in more than 650 papers from 1,050 speakers.
The decisive issues are 'how we can organize transport in the 21st century,' said Wissmann, 'and especially how we will be able to handle the traffic growth, which is accelerating worldwide.'
Telematics is generally defined as communication between the car and the outside world. It includes entertainment, communications and vehicle-locating devices which are available now. The future will see more automatic route finding, cruise control and safety mechanisms.
Wissmann predicted European sales of 'DM150 billion-DM200 billion up to 2010 for road transport telematics. The potential that will develop on the world market cannot yet be estimated in any way.'
Traditional means cannot solve the problems of fuel efficiency, safety and the environment, said Ines Uusman, chairwoman of the European Transport Council of the EU and Luxembourg's minister of transport. 'It is essential to try to use new ways to tackle these problems. Intelligent Transportation Systems will in many cases be the solution.'
To make some projects reality, policies and laws need to be developed. Many speakers called for a partnership of private companies and public authorities.
Neil Kinnock, transport commissioner of the European Commission, said new technologies are essential to keep traffic moving, because the old solution won't work.
'There is a constant build up in passenger and freight transport demand,' said Kinnock, 'and there is no politically acceptable, economically affordable, or environmentally tolerable possibility of building new infrastructure on a scale that could meet that demand.'
Products presented at the Berlin exhibition included:
Satellite navigation and positioning systems
New telecommunications devices
Emergency call systems
Traffic guidance systems for roads
Automatic speed and braking systems
Electronic toll systems were also widely discussed. They offer an infrastructure that could pay for itself.
Automakers have been working for years on many aspects of telematics.
'At BMW we have the necessary know-how. The development of a car is of similar complexity to the development of the road system,' said Horst Teltschik, BMW board member. 'This know-how about system management is also applied to tasks concerning traffic.'
Together with Philips Car Systems, BMW developed the navigation system Carin, which is an optional feature on the BMW 5 and 7 series as well as the Range Rover.
It will be joined within a few years by Companion, a warning and information system for drivers, which will be integrated into roadside guardrails. Adaptive Cruise Control is also expected to arrive in this period.
Opel, VW and Daimler-Benz are developing telematics services.
The Daimler system is called Tegaron. 'Our offerings aim at a real mass market,' said Peter Mertens, managing director of the Debis subsidiary. 'Telematic services in the car will soon be a fact of life, like the airbag is today.'