Nissan, NTT DoCoMo To Offer Auto Internet

TOKYO -- Japan's third-largest automaker, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., and mobile telecoms giant NTT DoCoMo Inc. said Tuesday they are teaming up to develop multimedia services for cars.

The move boosts Nissan's potential in offering "telematics," or Internet-based car information and entertainment services, while helping DoCoMo lay the groundwork for further growth in its nascent third-generation mobile network.

"Drivers and passengers will be able to enjoy the convenience of their own living room or office in their Nissan cars," the automaker's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, told a news conference.

The pact puts the automaker, which has also announced it will be offering a telematics service called CarWings in its new March subcompact, on an equal footing with or even ahead of rivals.

Auto giant Toyota Motor Corp., a major stakeholder in Japan's second-largest telecoms firm, KDDI Corp., is developing its telematics services and has an eight-month study agreement with General Motors Corp.

"KDDI's 3G service has lagged that of DoCoMo, and it could be argued that with the arrival of CarWings and the new tie-up between Nissan and DoCoMo that Nissan is edging ahead in certain areas," said Howard Smith, analyst at ING Baring Securities. He noted that CarWings is less than half the price of rival automakers' systems.

Honda Motor Co. is working with NTT DoCoMo's parent company, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. -- a fact that DoCoMo president Keiji Tachikawa said was not necessarily contradictory.

"It's good for there to be competition and customers to have various services to choose from," he said.

Services for the Japan market to be introduced from 2003 include advanced navigation information such as traffic information, weather reports and parking availability.

The information would also be accessible from other devices such as cellphones and personal digital assistants.

A year later, services on offer are expected to involve other industries.

Non-life insurance companies, for example, could monitor the amount of time and distance a car was driven, offering lower insurance rates for drivers who do not use their cars often.

Security services firms could be notified if the vehicle was stolen.

Other possible services slated from 2004 include electronic money, broadcasting and dedicated short-range communication technology such as electronic toll collection.