Telematics is the field of advanced communications-based electronic technologies for vehicles.  Some have included the typical car radio within this definition, while others appear to include only those applications providing more advanced function.  A typical modern telematics suite will include navigation assistance, voice communications, and entertainment functions.

The opportunity for telematics is massive; that is, to the extent it will encompass in-vehicle entertainment, cellular and other voice communications, radar detectors, navigation systems, theft and security applications, vehicular operations and safety applications, including traditional and un-integrated components already deployed in this field, the size of the market is potentially billions of dollars per year, and growing.  Of course, this opportunity encompasses existing markets and vendors, so the unmet need is significantly less.

One particularly pressing need encompasses providing real-time road condition information to vehicles, allowing immediate response by drivers, thus making the roadways more efficient.  Sensors can be part of the infrastructure, or mounted in moving vehicles, automatically mapping road conditions, which are then output in an optimized fashion to the user, for example based on present location and/or itinerary. In addition, telematics systems may provide telecommunication capabilities to allow each vehicle to act as a mobile node of an ad hoc network. The core benefits of the system are real-time communication of road and travel conditions, weather, and traffic control devices, between vehicles, with automated processing by a navigation system, and presentation without unnecessary distraction to the driver.  Next generation telematics systems will also provide adaptive updating of the navigation system database and support for in-vehicle entertainment.  The gains in efficiency to the driver will be a powerful incentive for adoption.

Mr. Hoffberg filed his first patent application in the telematics field in 1998, which ultimately matured into US Patent Nos. 6,791,472, 6,429,812, and 6,252,544, and other patent applications are pending.

One proposed system seeks to communicate in near real time traffic information over distances of greater than 1000 meters between hops, and supporting multiple hops and delayed data retransmission (store and forward).  The information communicated includes node local database contents, as well as sensor readings, which may include image or video data.  A receiver may then consolidate a set of received database records with its own, and process sensor data in context.

Self Organizing Networks, also known as Ad Hoc Networks, do not require centralized control to provide communications between nodes, and can be quite fault-tolerant and robust.  They have application in both fixed topology and mobile node architectures, such as telematics.  Typically, the protocol provides the ability to forward data packets over multiple "hops", thus extending the communication range over that of a single transmission, assuming territorial coverage by participating nodes.

Mr. Hoffberg made a presentation entitled "Control of Ad Hoc Networks Using Game Theory" on March 8, 2004 (session w142) at the Wireless Systems Design Conference and Expo, San Diego.  This paper outlines aspects of game theory, and then discusses a sophisticated protocol for allocating control over resources in a mobile ad hoc network, while providing anticipated benefits to all network members.  The result is an economically efficient allocation, which provides incentive for all interested parties to adopt it.  The protocol is relatively complex, and conveys value information for arbitrating access to the physical communication layer resource prior to conducting the communication, and which accounts for usage afterward.  The protocol communications may be consolidated with route discovery communications.

While 802.11 b/g/n radios are well short of ideal for meeting the specifications required for an inter-vehicle mobile ad hoc network, capable of communicating data at a sufficient rate and distance to fulfill the critical system requirements with a reasonable margin, with use of high gain directional antennas, the capabilities are generally sufficient to meet a significant portion of the desired telematics system requirements.  Critical elements of this radio include a smart antenna system, capable of communicating with multiple remote nodes simultaneously, to bridge and route packets geographically.

The target platform is a hardened telematics computer, with support for standard computer networks, IEEE 1394, USB, wireless ad hoc telecommunications, GPS, and interface with the Vetronics (vehicular electronics) bus.  Sensors include video, electromagnetic radiation (radar, laser, radio emission), weather, and inertial sensors.  The system will also encompass complete navigation functionality.  Entertainment and navigation options will also be available.