GM Adds Hands-Free E-mail Services to Next Cars

SAN MATEO (04/10/2000) - General Motors Corp. last week revealed its next step in deploying "telematics" -- in-vehicle computer and Internet services -- across its many vehicle brands. The first version, the Cadillac Infotainment System, will be installed in Seville and Deville 2001 models on sale this fall.

The integrated PC system will be rolled out in stages with a target of 30 GM makes and models all offering the same access to e-mail and Internet information services, using speech technology, by the end of next year.

GM also announced that its OnStar Virtual Advisor will include a built-in, hands-free wireless phone service with voice dialing by the end of the year.

The nationwide wireless service will be launched in partnership with Verizon Wireless, a newly formed company that was created by Bell Atlantic and Vodafone (see "E-cars take to the streets," March 13).

The Infotainment system will read e-mail messages while the car is in motion and will allow for viewing on an in-dash screen when the vehicle is stopped.

Also included is an infrared port for downloading e-mail messages to a personal digital assistant and a compact flash slot.

GM is also in the process of developing business applications for the telematics system for use in sales force automation, fleet management, and the rental car market.

"Our intention is to architect this system to be open so that many types of applications can be developed," said Mark Hogan, president of e-GM.

Access to e-mail on the road may appeal to many mobile workers.

"It's fantastic if you can get your mail while moving rather than stopping the car in the parking lot," said Ginny Povall, a specialist at The Kooper Group, a New York-based benefit consulting company.

Hogan emphasized safety concerns and reiterated that the hands-free, eyes-free interface will reduce driver distractions.

One analyst believes GM will seek to reinforce that message by gaining endorsements from a major consumer advocacy group.

"GM will make certain they have all of their bases covered when it comes to safety issues," said Adam J. Weiner, senior automobile analyst at Gomez Advisors, in Lincoln, Mass.

General Motors Corp., in Detroit, is at www.gm.com.

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