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Why are the sales of electronics for your car expected to rise 12 percent this year?

More and more people are buying electronics for their cars, but what's the big deal?
More and more people are buying electronics for their cars, but what's the big deal?
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Walking toward your locked car, you reach into your pocket and simply press a button on your key chain. Within an instant, your car is unlocked, and you step inside and start the engine. You need to find your friend's new apartment, but you don't know quite where it is -- lucky for you, you have the address written down and your trusty GPS receiver is in the glove compartment. After you power it up and punch in the location, you're on your way. The only thing this ride needs is a little music, so you plug your iPod into its docking station and turn up the volume.

We don't think about it too often, but the cars we drive to work, school and everywhere in between rely on electronics more than ever before. Not only are electronics essential to the inner workings of our cars' chemical functions; they now provide us with entertainment and information we may want or need during our drive.

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In-car electronics, once thought to be a lagging business in the automotive industry, are now part of a fast-growing market in the auto industry. As we found out this year during our trip to Las Vegas for the 2008 Consumer Electronics Exhibition (CES), one of the big themes many companies are pushing is the seamless integration of electronics systems in our vehicles.

The people making the product aren't the only ones thinking about it -- consumers are extremely interested in these gadgets, too, and sales for in-car electronics are expected to rise about 12 percent in 2008. With advances in wireless technology and satellite information systems like GPS receivers, drivers are trying to make commutes to work and long distance trips much easier. The money they pour in to do so is creating $12 billion in revenue.

In this article, we'll take a look at some of the technology fueling the electronics market and how they make life easier for drivers.

A man admires the excellent integration in a new car in Seoul, South Korea.
A man admires the excellent integration in a new car in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

There's actually a specific name to describe the computer and electronic technology involved in our cars -- it's called telematics. The vehicle telematics business has been changing very rapidly over the past few years, with advances in cell phones, the Internet and GPS receivers, but there are a few sections we can look at to understand the increased demand for in-car electronics.

Satellite navigation

How did some of us get around before GPS? For those of us with a terrible sense of direction, GPS receivers are great tools -- they use radio signals transmitted from satellites to send detailed maps, specific directions and important locations like gas stations and restaurants to a tiny box mounted on the dashboard. Most GPS receivers are battery powered and can be integrated into your car's audio and power systems, and their assistance have made them increasingly popular for car owners.

Mobile data

Constantly checking e-mail on BlackBerry devices is considered pretty standard by now, as many busy workers suffer from what's known as "ringxiety,"­ but what if wireless technology could be integrated straight into your car? Cell phones and hands-off sets are becoming a big part of in-car electronics -- the new Land Rover LRX, for instance, has an iPhone dock that lets you control many of the vehicle's functions from the phone itself -- and some companies are producing crosses between a laptop and a GPS for more wireless connectivity. Many of these systems plan to use WiMax, the new cellular Internet based in large cities, so people can check e-mail and get directions while they sit in traffic on their way to work.

Vehicle tracking and trailer tracking

This kind of technology, unless you're a spy, is mostly used by transportation and delivery businesses that send out large fleets of vehicles and products. Delivery trucks, taxi companies and repair and maintenance companies all can use sophisticated electronics to track workers and plan out important and sometimes complicated routes. These devices can increase efficiency and cut down on losses caused by human error, so more companies will most likely be willing to spend a little extra on a decent tracking system for security.

The business of vehicle telematics and other in-car electronic systems is getting the best of both worlds -- businesses are willing to spend on advanced products for better efficiency, and consumers are looking for the easiest way to integrate all their gadgets. For lots more information on cars, electronics and in-car electronics, see the next page.

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Sources

  • Kessler, Michelle. "'Pimp my ride' turns into 'tech my ride.'" USA Today. Jan. 9, 2008. http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2008-01-08-cars-tech_N.htm
  • Weir, Richard. "Empire State Building car zap mystery." New York Daily News. Jan. 27, 2008. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2008/01/27/2008-01-27_empire_state_building_car_zap_mystery.html
  • "What is vehicle telematics?" UK Telematics Online. http://www.uktelematicsonline.co.uk/

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