Oracle and Wingcast, a telematics company formed by a partnership between Ford Motor and Qualcomm, announced Thursday that they will build and staff a telematics development laboratory in San Diego, California.
Telematics is the auto industry name given to in-vehicle access to digital data.
The services developed in the lab will be rolled out in Ford and Nissan Motor vehicles in the 2003 model year, which, according to Harel Kodesh, Wingcast's president, is in about a year's time.
The first services will be real-time local traffic reports, based on the location of the car and its speed. All of the services will be accessed through hands-free, voice-enabled text-to-speech and speech-to-text technology.
Following delivery of services for live traffic reports and suggestions for alternate routes, Wingcast will operate as an ASP (application service provider) offering applications providers, including Oracle as well as Oracle competitors, access into the car for their CRM (customer relationship management), SFA, and other enterprise-level applications.
When Oracle CEO Larry Ellison was asked during a teleconference Thursday if safety would still be a concern if a hands-free operator of a car is not "mind-free," Ellison responded that it is better than the current situation.
"I would rather have a sales person driving along and listening than looking for papers or trying to dial, which is the situation you have today," Ellison said.
Meanwhile, Kodesh said he was unperturbed by the large telematics lead currently enjoyed by General Motors, which at present has more than one million subscribers to its OnStar service.
"The big difference between us and OnStar is we are offering information from outside the car into the vehicle, not just safety and security, which is a fairly narrow view of what users need. The concept from moving from the outside in is unique to Wingcast," Kodesh said.
Nevertheless, OnStar is currently deploying similar services such as voice access to e-mail and the ability to dictate e-mails in the car.
The development laboratory will be staffed by both Oracle and Wingcast engineers and will focus on business-to-business solutions, according to both Kodesh and Ellison. No date was given for the opening of the lab.