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Nissan and DoCoMo to develop in-car telematics

NTT DoCoMo is working with car manufacturer Nissan to build communication technologies into future Nissan cars.

The voice-activated technology is expected to be included in the next generation of Nissan cars, and will enable Internet access, entertainment and convenience services such as electronic billing at a petrol station, or immediate connection to an insurance company in the event of an accident, according to Carlos Ghosn, Nissan's president and chief executive officer.

Nissan announced its strong commitment to telematics technologies at the Tokyo Motor Show last October, according to Ghosn.

Nissan has been looking for ways to accelerate the development of such telematics technology, and has concluded that faster wireless networks are necessary, such as those carrying 3G services, said Patrick Pelata, Nissan's vice-president.

NTT DoCoMo rolled out its 3G service, branded Foma, last October, and is currently seeking corporate partners for the service. This partnership is another opportunity to promote Foma for the new industry, said Keiji Tachikawa, president and chief executive of NTT DoCoMo.

NTT DoCoMo will provide mobile multimedia services, using I-mode and Foma, while Nissan will provide devices and systems for telematics, safer human machine interface technologies for driving, and distribution channels for vehicle sales, their joint statement said.

The companies will work together on four areas - onboard communication terminals, a portal to host the services, the services to be offered, and business models for future markets.

Other automobile manufacturers are developing telematics technologies, and Nissan needs to differentiate its services, said Tachikawa. "We need to develop applications to differentiate ourselves from the others, and to come up with unique services," he said.

NTT DoCoMo and Nissan are also planning to develop services such as mobile e-commerce and links to broadcasting media. For example, a driver could order food before getting to a restaurant or download and purchase a song while driving, the statement said.

The companies expect the first services to be rolled out in 2003, followed by cross-industry and integrated services in 2004.

"A car has been seen as a transportation tool," Ghosn said. Now Nissan hopes to transform it into something more essential to day-to-day life, he said.

The partnership is not exclusive, both companies said. NTT DoCoMo hopes to roll out similar telematics services in Europe, North America and other Asian countries with other partners, Tachikawa said.

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