Cars that talk? Directions on-the-go? Concierge services a la touch of a button and voice- command response, while motoring down the highway? Automatic phone-in for help when you can't call? The truth is, many of these in-car, luxury telematic's services have been around since the mid-nineties, when GM developed its unique and innovative OnStar system. Today, other automakers have joined The General in the telematics market, and have upped the ante by offering a wider array of services, just as GM has also updated its offerings.
We took a closer look at the technology delivered by today's U.S automakers and their telematics systems, such as BMW's Assist Safety Plan and Tele Service, GM's OnStar, the Lexus Link, and the Mercedes-Benz's TeleAid and COMAND. All mix computer technology and telecommunications systems with personal assistants, to help drivers ride more safely and also have more security, by offering a wide variety of information and support services, meeting needs that range from directions and road assistance to emergency aid--all provided wirelessly via hands-free communications. An important caveat with each of these systems exists, however. If you read the fine print, you will learn that no system guarantees any of its services if your vehicle is out of cell-phone range or GPS reach. Plus, these advanced systems are not available in all models, so check and be clear before making your model purchase.