In many countries, particularly the UK, it is an offence to use a handheld phone or similar device when driving. Most of us know that if caught you get a £30 fixed penalty or up to £1,000 on conviction in court (£2,500 for drivers of goods vehicles, buses or coaches). As a result, mobile phone companies have been revelling in the opportunity for up-selling handset customers. This additional sales opportunity has now been extended to car manufactures, with a recent announcement that Nokia has devised a hands-free communications solution with Bluetooth connectivity for automobiles.
In the first mobile-OEM auto manufacturer partnership of its type to date, except for the CDMA-based ONStar system (but in this case the whole system was branded GM and not co-branded with the GSM radio provider), Nokia’s latest communications device is an integrated vehicle solution that will first appear in Nissan’s Primera. Ford has also announced that it plans to support the system in some of its Focus models. Long overdue, the system integrates into a vehicle’s central console and offers hands-free operation using an N-FORM control system with a large colour display. The system also features a baseplate onto which various mobile holders can be mounted, which should make it compatible with a wide range of mobile phones from different manufacturers.
The mobile phone is operated using the Primera’s N-FORM controls and 7-inch colour display, where you can also browse the built-in phonebook downloaded from your mobile phone, scroll through saved numbers either alphabetically or by speed dialling, initiate and take calls, as well as put a call on hold in order to answer a second call. Other phone functions can be voice activated, using various speaker-dependent or speaker-independent commands. An external GSM antenna should improve sound quality in hands-free operation.
“We are pleased that our co-operation with Nissan has brought such successful results. Together, we have found a perfect solution to completely satisfy even the more demanding users of automotive communications systems”, says Marcus Stahl, General Manager Automotive Accounts, Nokia Automotive. The integrated communication system is already available in Europe although it’s not clear at this stage if the device comes as standard with the cars, whether you have to change the base plate in order for it to work with other phone manufacturers’ products, or whether there will be a ‘standard’ interface devised at a later date for all car makers.
It’s also interesting that Nokia is now shifting from the handset production side to the hands-free kit side, if indeed the system supports all hands-free capable mobiles – including competitors. Bizarrely, this puts the company amongst competitors such as JCI, Lear and other third-party ‘integration’ companies who already do this for aftermarket install systems.