Delphi Automotive Systems, an international supplier of transportation and mobile electronic systems, announced Tuesday at a New York City press conference that it entered into a strategic alliance with Palm, Inc., maker of the popular line of Palm Pilot handheld devices. The deal will result in the development of hands-free access to the personal digital assistants while driving.

The goal of the alliance, according to J.T. Battenberg, III, Delphi's chairman, CEO, and president, is for Delphi to create a mobile multimedia system for use in cars and trucks that will dock and synchronize with a Palm V handheld device using Palm's HotSync technology. This new technology will give drivers hands-free access to their Palm's content while in their vehicles.

Battenberg said that the market for in-vehicle mobile multimedia capability, which is only 18 months old, is expected to grow at a rate of 30 percent each year for the next five years. That translates to an expected $2.9 billion of new business for Delphi through 2006. In 2000, Battenberg said, Delphi expects to have mobile multimedia revenue of $200 million.

Palm, Inc. says that it is the world's most popular brand of handheld computing devices, with more than 6 million purchased worldwide to date.

Battenberg said that Tuesday's announcement of an alliance with Palm fits in with Delphi's announcement last week that it was partnering with Ericsson Mobile communications AB, a large manufacturer of wireless telephones, to integrate Ericsson embedded cellular phone modules with Delphi's telematics technologies.

Battenberg said that more partnership announcements will be announced in the near future.

As described by Battenberg, the new system will use a mobile docking station that will fit into a vehicle's cup-holder and plug into a standard 12-volt source, such as a cigarette lighter. This docking station, which will be available for all models and makes of cars, will allow drivers to access the functions of their Palm device while keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.

Battenberg stressed the safety concerns that were addressed by Delphi in developing the technology for the mobile docking station. The docking station will have voice-to-text and text-to-voice speech recognition capabilities.

The Delphi/Palm system will include two enabling software technologies: Palm's HotSync technology will transfer data between the Palm handheld and the docking station, while Delphi's voice technologies will enable users to listen to stored data through text- to-speech feedback and to input data into their Palm handheld device through voice commends using speech-to-text functionality.

According to Battenberg, users of the system will be able to download and read e-mail messages, scheduled appointments, and other stored information. In addition, users will be able to: Dictate and send e- mail; record new appointments and memos; download and read simple Internet text, including directions, breaking news, stock quotes, and sports scores; and, request that a phone number recorded in the Palm handheld be dialed through Delphi's hands-free phone.

Another feature expected to be available on the new system is location-based information, such as giving directions to the nearest gas station, specified retailer, or service provider.

Both Battenberg and David Wohleen, president of Delphi's Electronics & Mobile Communications Sector, who was also present at the news conference, repeatedly stressed the safety factor of the new Delphi/Palm system which is totally controlled by voice commands.

The Mobile Productivity Center (MPC), which is Delphi's name for the new system, is expected to be available before the end of 2000. Battenberg said that no pricing information was available at this time.

More information is available at Delphi's Web site at www.delphiauto.com