The next step in the evolution of on-board navigation will be interactive travel assistance. New systems like General Motors' OnStar use both cellular telephone and global positioning technology. Opel will make OnStar available on all its car models in Germany and the UK in the 1999 model year.
OnStar allows hands-free communication with an operator. But before a voice connection is made, the system sends data with the car's identification number and location to an OnStar center. The caller gives a password to access services, including traffic information, route advice, roadside assistance and a personal travel guide. Telematic vehicle diagnosis and theft tracking will be added later.
General Motors already offers OnStar in the USA at a cost of $1,300. Users also pay a monthly fee plus charges for each call.
Heinrich Stallmeister, head of navigation systems at Opel, said that OnStar is not an in-car navigation system and will be offered with Opel's existing Carin system.
'But integration of both systems is a clear industry trend,' he said.
Starting in April, Micro Compact Car will offer a similar system for the Smart, called Mobility Box. Spokesman Wolfgang Riecke said it will include emergency and breakdown services and an information hotline.
Hardware, supplied by Mannesmann/VDO, will cost about $1,100.
Ford's new Focus will be offered with TAS (Travel Assistance System). Ford has not said when it will be available.