NTT DoCoMo Inc. is working with automobile maker Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. to build its wireless communication technologies into future Nissan cars. The companies will use NTT DoCoMo's 3G (third generation) and wireless Internet I-mode services to provide Nissan drivers with services such as access to information by simple voice command, they announced Tuesday at a joint news conference in Tokyo.
The technology is expected to be included in the next generation of Nissan automobiles, and will enable Internet access, entertainment and convenience services such as electronic billing at a gas station, or immediate connection to an insurance company in the event of an accident, according to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president and chief executive officer (CEO).
Nissan announced its strong commitment to telematics (telecommunication and computing) technologies at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, according to Ghosn.
Nissan has been looking for ways to accelerate the development of such telematics technology, and has concluded that faster wireless networks are necessary, such as those carrying 3G services, said Patrick Pelata, Nissan's vice president.
NTT DoCoMo rolled out its 3G service, branded Foma, last October, and is currently seeking corporate partners for the service. This partnership is another opportunity to promote Foma for the new industry, Keiji Tachikawa, president and CEO of NTT DoCoMo said.
NTT DoCoMo will provide mobile multimedia services, using I-mode and Foma, while Nissan will provide devices and systems for telematics, safer HMI (human machine interface) technologies for driving, and distribution channels for vehicle sales, their joint statement said.
The companies will work together on four areas -- onboard communication terminals, a portal to host the services, the services to be offered, and business models for future markets.
Other automobile manufacturers are developing telematics technologies, and Nissan needs to differentiate its services, said Tachikawa. "We need to develop applications to differentiate ourselves from the others, and to come up with unique services," he said.
The planned services include access to information through a voice recognition engine. For example, a driver could ask for a restaurant or a gas station while driving, and be given information about those available in the surrounding area.
Another potential offering is cross-industry services, whereby businesses receive information from the vehicle and can provide service based on that information. For example, an insurance company could adapt a client's car insurance policy based on the mileage information it receives from the car.
NTT DoCoMo and Nissan are also planning to develop services such as mobile electric commerce and links to broadcasting media. For example, a driver could order food before getting to a restaurant or download and purchase a song while driving, the statement said.
The companies expect the first services to be rolled out in 2003, followed by cross-industry services and integrated services in 2004, the statement said.
"A car has been seen as a transportation tool," Ghosn said. Now Nissan hopes to transform it into something more essential to day to day life, he said.
The partnership is not exclusive, both companies said. NTT DoCoMo is eyeing the global expansion of its Foma and I-mode services, and hopes to roll out similar telematics services in Europe, North America and other Asian countries with other partners, Tachikawa said.