Portable navigation system maker TomTom, whose products are critically acclaimed in Europe, and automotive interior specialist Johnson Controls have announced a joint development relationship to integrate the former’s devices into vehicle electronic systems.

Johnson Controls has created a ‘Bluetooth mobile device gateway’ targeted for production in 2008 model year vehicles. This technology enables an electronic device like a TomTom satellite navigation system to communicate with the car’s communication network, resulting, the companies claim, “in innovative and safe navigation”.

Most TomTom satnav units sold in Europe already incorporate Bluetooth which is used primarily to link with the user’s mobile (cell) phone. This acts as a modem to contact TomTom’s server for downloading live traffic information to the navigator. Many of the company’s navigators also include a hands-free, in-car phone system that uses the same Bluetooth link.

The new Johnson Controls technology provides a fast and efficient solution to incorporate the latest satellite navigation devices into new cars, the companies said in a joint statement.

Through Johnson Controls’ voice recognition technology, the user will be able to verbally command the TomTom ‘GO’-branded device for even greater ease of use.

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Consumers will also see intuitive features as a result of the collaboration, such as automatic notification by a TomTom device that fuel is low, also receiving directions to the nearest petrol station.

The driver of a vehicle equipped with Johnson Controls’ Bluetooth mobile device gateway can benefit from navigation directions and MP3 sound being wirelessly provided over the in-car stereo speakers – some of the latest TomTom navigators include an MP3 player – and an image viewer.

Another example showcasing the innovative information is that the driver would be able to select a POI (point of interest) – such as a nearby restaurant – on a TomTom device touch screen. The system then could automatically dial the restaurant’s telephone number, so the driver could make reservations via his/her mobile phone using the hands-free functionality of the TomTom device.

Wolfgang Reelitz, vice president of automotive sales at TomTom said, “The relationship is a perfect marriage of technological advancements which benefits both parties, and most importantly our customers. It proves our commitment to constantly innovate and provide the best satellite navigation experience. The system truly changes the in-car portable satellite navigation experience improving quality and functionality.”

“Consumers around the world increasingly are discovering the benefits of vehicle navigation devices, which deliver convenience, safety and ease-of-use,” said Jim Geschke, vice president and general manager of electronics, North America for Johnson Controls.

“TomTom is the leader in the retail navigation market, and we’re pleased to provide an advanced wireless gateway… for seamlessly integrating the company’s products in vehicle interiors.”