Are mobile phones good enough for implementing telematics?

Edmunds.com has road tested the telematics services offered by Ford Sync (mobile phone solution) and Lexus Enform (embedded cellular module).

Excerpts from Edmunds:

Ford Sync –

..As the name indicates, ‘Traffic, Directions and Information (TDI)’ downloads directions to a destination, reports on traffic along the way, finds Points of Interest (POIs) such as business listings and can also cull personalized news, sports and weather info. The best part is it’s free for the first three years, doesn’t require a nav system and uses the vehicle owner’s cell phone. But that last bit is also the worst part. More about that later…

..But because the system uses the owner’s cell phone it’s only as good as the connection. As I drove through some of LA’s coastal canyons, where reception is weak to nonexistent, so was TDI. And on several occasions when I requested routing and traffic info — and needed it ASAP — either my phone dropped the call, I got a crackly connection (except in this case amplified over the vehicle’s sound system) or an “all circuits are busy” message

..Plus, unlike traditional navigation systems that access an on-board map database to reroute you when you blow a turn, Sync connects to an off-board server for mapping data. So it often has to reconnect in order to reroute you, which can be frustrating when you’re trying to get somewhere in a hurry or you’re not familiar with the area. Whereas I found TDI to be useful in areas I’m familiar with, a colleague at our sister site, Inside Line, had trouble while traveling in remote areas during a cross-country drive…

..But since TDI is essentially a free service when you buy a new car (Ford estimates it will cost about $100 a year after that), in the immortal words of Elwood Blues: Whadaya want for nuthin?…

WATCH VIDEO OF FORD SYNC TDI HERE.

Lexus Enform –

..The Lexus Enform with Safety Connect system we tested in a pre-production HS 250h is a much more traditional telematics system — maybe too much so. Modeled after market leader OnStar, Enform doesn’t offer a radical departure like Sync’s 911 Assist. And although it’s free for the first year, after the trial period Enform with Safety Connect will cost $264.90 a year, or $139.99 a year for only the Safety Connect aspects of the system…

..Despite it’s me-too approach, our experience with Enform was overwhelmingly positive. I found that the connection was more robust than with Ford’s TDI in remote areas, and I particularly liked the mouse-like controller that’s used to operate aspects of the system…

..eDestination makes it easier to set up a batch of trips or plan multiple stops, and Destination Assist is much faster for finding POIs and more reliable than TDI since you deal with a live person instead of a remote server. Because I tested it back-to-back with the Taurus, I asked an Enform operator to find Santa Monica Seafood. First she gave me the original location, and when I asked if there was another she gave me the new location as well. Again, I had to wonder if this would have been possible using a nav system with a map database that was even month’s old…

WATCH VIDEO OF LEXUS ENFORM HERE.

Read full article here.

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