The needle points to "E." The big rental van and its trailer have guzzled down yet another tank of gas. This time, however, it's late and nothing but a dark, lonesome highway stretches out ahead. Every several miles there's a turnoff to some small town, but
the signs don't always say how far these burgs lie off your route or whether there are gas stations in them. You've just started hunting down the road map when you remember that the van comes equipped with a voice-activated telematics system, a two-way wireless communications unit connected to both the Internet and a Global Positioning System (GPS) locator. Punching a button on the dash, you say, "Gas." After a pause, a mechanized voice reads aloud a roster of nearby service stations, including the brand of gas, the distance to each station, even the price per gallon of unleaded regular. Although it's a bit farther away, you choose the third entry on the machine-verbalized "text-to-speech" list because you have that brand's credit card. The electronic voice responds with step-by-step driving directions to your next petroleum oasis.
This article was originally published with the title Driving the Info Highway.