n. The long-distance communication of computer data.
Other Forms
Broadly speaking, telematics represents the convergence of four familiar technologies: the automobile, computing, wireless communications and the Global Positioning System. Several manufacturers, including General Motors, Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, already offer new-car buyers factory-installed telematics systems that provide emergency assistance and navigational aids. Some also provide access to personalized communications, like concierge services or on-demand voice-synthesis stock quotations.
—Todd Lapin, “When the Cubicle Has a Crankshaft,” The New York Times, June 14, 2001
1979 (earliest)
The EEC commission is to launch a programme to help European telematics, the new vogue word for the high-growth industries of telecommunications, computers, microchips and databanks. At their think-in in the Belgian Ardennes last weekend, the commissioners agreed it would be nice to help European industry catch up with the Americans and the Japanese. The commission wants Europe's telematics industry to capture a third of the world market by 1990.
—“Telematics,” The Economist, October 13, 1979
Telematics — which combines telecommunication and informatics (information science) — is not a new word. It dates to 1979 and even has a perch in the Oxford English Dictionary. What is new, however, is that this once obscure nook of computer science has become astonishingly popular, if you measure popularity by the number of times newspapers or magazines use a word. First, consider the following citation statistics from the Nexis media database:

1980-1984: 109 citations
1985-1989: 806
1990-1994: 1,406
1995: 718
1996: 467
1997: 639
1998: 895
1999: 964
2000: 2,933
2001: 1,821 (less than six months)

As you can see, the use of the word telematics has exploded over the past couple of years. The reason is that the auto industry has begun associating telematics with so-called "vehicle-based information systems," such as the OnStar service offered by General Motors. As the above New York Times citation shows, the media has bought into this revised definition. In their reporting, telematics isn't the broad science of transmitting data over long distances, but the auto industry's narrow category of delivering wireless communications, navigational assistance, and Brady Bunch reruns to the minivan.