Honda Upgrades Its In-car Telematics System

By: Rain Stockton

Tokyo Japan's Yuri Kageyama writing for the AP reported that Honda's car navigation system already takes the fastest route to a destination through avoiding traffic jams. Now, drivers will get information with regard earthquakes and warnings of heavy rainfall ahead on roads.

Shown to reporters in Wednesday, Honda Motor Co.'s service will be offered beginning with the redesigned Fit subcompact which is set to go on sale in Japan later this year. Executive Manabu Nishimae said that there are no plans so far to offer it overseas. He told the reporters that their company believes that information services are an essential part of a quality of a car.

Drivers pay mobile phone bills for relaying data, though the service is for free. For frequent users, data transmission cards for a set monthly fee of about $8 are available. Over 530,000 drivers use the current navigation service in Japan, and that figure is nearly 40 percent of Honda owners.

E-mail warnings with the latest upgrade will be sent to a pre-assigned address when car with the system is in an area of a strong earthquake. It is handy in a quake-prone nation like Japan. Icons of exclamation marks pop up on the monitor if heavy rain is forecast on a planned route.

Japan's No. 2 auto manufacturer and maker also upgraded its map system so that updates take just a few minutes to be downloaded. Disks with map data had to be changed up to now.

Based in Tokyo, Honda said that it found a way to compress data so that portions of a map, such as new roads, get relayed piecemeal. Furthermore, it said that driving time is cut on the average by 20 percent.

All the major automakers in the world offer car navigation services that include some that give guides to nearby restaurants. Not only that, some automatically calls ambulances in cases of accidents and connect to human operators.

One of the featured capabilities of Honda's system is that it collects information from individual Honda cars on the road. In the new earthquake notification service, for example, the system will be able to show which roads have been shut down.

General Manager Takeshi Imai said that this kind of detailed information could even tell drivers exactly which lane of a freeway is congested. He further said that Honda's telematics is already moving toward its next level.

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