Adoption of Bluetooth has been steadily increasing since its OEM automotive debut in the 2003 Saab 9-3 and, although the technology will continue its momentum in new 2004 models from Acura, Audi, Lexus, Lincoln, Maybach, Toyota and others, its role will be limited, according to the findings of a new US research study from ABI.

Protocols based on 802.11, such as DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications), promise to fill the need for longer range, higher bandwidth applications that will not only link vehicles with roadside data access points, but between each other. Ratification of the new DSRC protocol is expected by the end of 2004, with aftermarket automotive offerings quickly following suit. Aftermarket 802.11-based automotive products will appear by the end of this year, initially focused on entertainment applications.

"While Bluetooth serves as an ideal automotive PAN (personal area network) protocol, it is not meant to be a 'do-it-all' technology," said report author Frank Viquez, ABI's director of automotive electronics. "There are a myriad of other wireless technologies currently under evaluation for inter and intra-vehicle safety, telematics, commerce, information, and entertainment-type applications. These partially include Ultra Wideband, RFID (radio frequency identification), DSRC, 802.11, 802.16 (WiMAX), and satellite."

Despite the multitude of wireless technologies currently under scrutiny for their automotive potential, ABI's study sees Bluetooth and 802.11 as the early favourites. According to the study, the global installed base of vehicles with factory-fitted Bluetooth or 802.11-based hardware will reach 25 million vehicles in 2008.