|The connected car will enable drivers to select from huge volumes of information that
surround the car (See chart.). Drivers can get immediate information on traffic jams and
restaurants within two kilometers from their current location.
The car makers will be able to increase the product value of their cars by offering information services to
customers. Car navigation system makers will be able to expand their market by enhancing product performance.
Car and Car Navigation System Makers Provide Contents
The Vehicle Information and Communication System (VICS) service, by which the VICS Center sends road traffic
information to a car navigation system, is the first trend toward realizing the connected car in Japan.
The service was inaugurated in 1996, and was available in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and six prefectures as of the
end of March 1998.
The VICS service offers unidirectional online information, but it is the first step toward bidirectionally
connected cars because it offers road traffic information whenever desired.
Car and car navigation system makers have begun to offer extended VICS service. This provides drivers with
news, weather, parking lot, restaurant and other information on a real-time basis.
The players leading the service are car makers including Daimler-Benz Japan Co., Ltd., which quickly
established Daimler-Benz InterServices Telematik Japan Co., Ltd. in April 1997 and started Intelligent
Traffic Guidance System (ITGS) as an information provision service.
Toyota Motor Corp. established Toyota Media Station Inc. (TMS) in July 1997, and started a test information
provision service named MONET in November of the same year. In April 1998, the test service was switched over
to a commercial service.
Following the two makers, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. established Compass Link in December 1997, and plans to
inaugurate the Nissan Car Life Support Service (tentative name) around September 1998. It now is offering a
Car navigation system and other makers are moving into the information provision service field as well.
Sony Corp. built Mobile Link, a home page created in November 1997 for a car navigation system on the
Internet. It developed it jointly with six companies including IBM Japan Ltd. and Dentsu Inc.
Using a car navigation system with a Web browser to access the home page enables various kinds of information
edited for the car navigation system to be read. Sony released a car navigation system with a Web browser
simultaneously when it built the home page.
Matsushita Communications Industrial Co., Ltd., which plans to release a car navigation system with a Web
browser in May 1998, also intends to build a home page. This car navigation system is capable of sending and
Mitsui & Co., Ltd. plans to launch an information wholesale business to gather information in real time about
occupation status of parking lots of by-hour rental systems and deliver the information to information
The company is progressing with a test to gather information of rental parking lot status by using a personal
handyphone system (PHS) and low earth orbit communication satellites in cooperation with Park 24 Co., Ltd.,
which manages the largest parking by-hour rental system. It intends to launch the business by the end of
Securing Revenues is Key
Keys to success in the new market are enhancing contents and securing revenues.
Users would like free access the contents like the existing Internet service.
In that case, information providers will have to get revenues from the information source site and not from
the users. It is necessary for the information source site to have a system that enables the service to run
as a business, eg, in an optimum combination with advertisements.
Currently, there are two approaches to offering service. One is to provide free information as a home page on
the Internet. The other is to use a dedicated format and protocol to provide information as a dedicated
service with payment. Both have merits and demerits.
The former is provided by a service operating group organized by seven companies including Sony and IBM
Japan. Users need not make payments except for the communication charge. At present, however, contents for
the car navigation system are small in number. The service operating group cannot expect to gain profits in
this business yet.
The latter is employed by an information provider established by car makers including Daimler-Benz and
Toyota. It can provide contents to meet with the users' car models and ages. But, the service provider must
keep providing useful contents in the future.
Government Offices Promote ITS
Government offices plan to help with the infrastructure by looking into the future.
In July 1996, four ministries and an agency co-drafted promotion of the Intelligent Transport System (ITS).
They are the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Posts and
Telecommunications, Ministry of Construction and Metropolitan Police Office.
ITS is a widened conception, including automatic fee collection and road control, and is not limited to
enhancement of the car navigation system. The group aims to put ITS into practical use from 2000 through
The government offices concerned and private enterprises have agreed, as the final target, to support the
details specified in ITS. But, both parties are using different approaches to realize the plan.
The government offices will use the VICS service for a wide range of purposes. Car and car navigation system
makers are aiming more narrowly at information provision services by further extending the VICS service.
Chart: Transition of information system for cars
In the future, real-time area information will be available in a car.
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