If your car knew the speed limit, it could help you avoid getting speeding tickets. If it knew of a hill up ahead, it could gear down ahead of time. New technology from Navteq and M/A-COM Technology enables just this kind of behavior.
The companies partnered to come up with the Map and Positioning Engine module (MPE), a device designed to communicate location information to a car's drive systems. This module makes it easy for automakers to include location-aware behavior in their cars.
The MPE uses Navteq's mapping data, which includes elevation changes, along with protocols to communicate with a car's drive computer. What automakers do with that data is entirely up to them, but it opens up a number of possibilities.
Along with the situations mentioned above, a terrain-aware car would know the radius of upcoming turns, and be able to sound a warning or even hit the brakes if you were approaching too fast.
Cars with factory-installed navigation systems already have this capability, but few automakers take advantage of it. The MPE makes it possible, and economically feasible we assume, to give cars without in-dash navigation systems this capability.