By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sales of aftermarket car navigation units are expected to reach approximately 50,000 units this year as many suppliers enter or re-enter the market, prices decline, and real-time traffic options become more prevalent.
Total onboard CD- or DVD-based U.S. navigation sales (including OEM) could reach 100,000 units in 2001, increasing to 360,000 in 2002 and 580,000 in 2003, estimated one supplier.
Most current navigation systems provide simple driving directions and are aimed at frequent travelers, a niche market that is not expected to gain mass appeal, said suppliers and retailers. But through the addition of real-time traffic reports combined with the generation of directions around traffic congestion (known as dynamic rerouting), the market is expected to rapidly expand. With this feature the audience for navigation spreads to include commuters, soccer moms and any driver seeking to avoid traffic.
"That is the home run. Something the average consumers would find an attraction, where right now, we're only appealing to the road warrior," said Tim Lavoie, president of Tim's Car Tunes, Indian Orchard, Mass., and a leading retailer of the Clarion AutoPC (soon to be renamed JoyRide).
Added Kent Pu, president of navigation software company Infogation, San Diego, "Navigation is not a daily need. Most people know where they are going, so from early on, we realized that real-time traffic is the important element."
The first in-car application of real-time traffic combined with dynamic rerouting is expected to hit the market in the next few months with the launch of the Clarion JoyRide. Working with Cue Corporation, Irvine, Calif., which provides a traffic update service and FM-based receiver, and Infogation, Clarion will offer the option of real-time traffic updates, and for the first time users will also be able to select a choice of detours around congestion. Users may opt for either a five-mile or 10-mile detour, said Infogation.
The Cue real-time traffic module is offered as a $149 option to the JoyRide, plus a $60 annual service fee. The Cue module will also be offered in conjunction with new navigation systems from Pioneer and Alpine and is used by OEMs such as BMW and Volvo, according to Cue president Gordon Kaiser.
Cue collects traffic incident data from MetroNetworks and speed data (based on the rate of travel of vehicles taken from sensors in the road) currently through three suppliers including TANN, Newport Beach; Calif; Traffic.com, Philadelphia, and SmartRoute, a subsidiary of MetroNetworks based in Boston.
Cue then translates the data into an over-the-air format, encrypts it and broadcasts it via satellite to 200 FM radio stations in 65 markets. It is then picked up by the Cue receiver and decoded by a combination of Cue software and proprietary software and then displayed in map format with color-coded icons (in the case of Clarion's JoyRide). Cue has plans to add national weather alerts and flight delay alerts, according to Kaiser.
Pioneer is about to join Clarion in offering real-time traffic updates with a Cue module option, however it will not offer dynamic rerouting initially. The company is launching in June or July a DVD-based AVIC 9DVD navigation system, which also plays DVD-video, at a suggested retail price of $2000. For an additional $350, users can get the Cue module with the first year of service free. Additional service is offered at the rate of $60 per year, said the company.
Also teaming up with Cue will be Alpine, which plans to offer a DVD navigation system with both real-time traffic and dynamic rerouting, possibly at the end of this year, according to manager of product promotion Todd Van Zandt. The system, which was shown as a prototype at CES, will be a standalone DVD navigation system, rather than also playing DVD-video.
"We don't want navigation to be an accessory. If your system has navigation and video then the family is either watching a video or doing navigation and we don't want it to be an either/or situation," said Van Zandt.
Audiovox, which recently launched a line of CD-ROM based navigation systems produced by VDO, plans to offer real-time traffic updates with the option of dynamic rerouting by the end of this summer, according to Tom Malone, senior VP of the mobile electronics group.
"Our units are already enabled for the service and we're in discussion with one of the service providers for the traffic update information," he added, noting that the name of the service provider will be announced in the future.
Another newcomer to the DVD navigation market is Panasonic, which showed a prototype unit at CES and says it is currently finalizing production plans. No launch date has been set and features have not been finalized.
"It is still pending whether it will be both navigation and DVD-video," according to Rob Lopez, national marketing manager. He added, "There's no question that [real-time traffic and dynamic rerouting] will be the direction for technology. I couldn't say when we will implement a dynamic rerouting service or navigation using real-time traffic but our intention and our goal is to include that feature."
Blaupunkt says it is also working on real-time traffic delivery although no launch date has been set.
Besides examining a real-time traffic option, Eclipse said it will upgrade its voice-controlled Commander system to offer MP3 decoding and new navigation features, such as announcing the direction and speed the driver is traveling. The new Commander will be available in July at the existing suggested retail price.
Whereas current real-time traffic reports show traffic incidents in a general area, soon the reports will be personalized to the driver's location, said Infogation's Pu. The user will have an ID and will input specific driving routes to a Web site. When a traffic incident occurs within that route, the driver will be notified. Pu says this service is a year away from implementation.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.