Cellphones move into cars, to hit satnav makers

A driver uses his smart phone while in traffic in Encinitas, California December 10, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Blake

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Technology that allows cellphones to be used as navigation devices in cars took a step forward on Thursday, putting more pressure on the makers of in-car satnav systems.

German car industry group Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) unveiled a standard for the technology, which is being pushed by Nokia, the world’s top cellphone maker.

The personal navigation device (PND) industry, led by TomTom and Garmin, has been hit badly by competition from navigation-enabled smartphones.

When the new “terminal mode” standard is included in cars -- likely starting next year -- it enables consumers to plug a wire to their smartphones in the car and without any additional setup issues to use navigation or other features of their phones directly from a screen built into the car.

Wider adoption will however take time, industry players and analysts say.

“Immediate impact of this is limited, but if you get a credible, good enough experience from the phone navigation in the car -- it removes the need to have any PND,” said Tim Shepherd, analyst with research firm Canalys.

Navteq, the world’s largest digital mapping firm, said it was seeing interest in the new technology across the industry.

“We have seen a lot of interest in terminal mode from system vendors and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers),” Navteq’s Chief Executive Larry Kaplan told Reuters in a recent interview.

Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Erica Billingham