The future of networking may be mobile, but it's not neccessarily wireless - it could be wheeled instead. Even a relatively ordinary car now has dozens of microprocessors, and automotive networking is set to be one of the fastest growing areas of IT in 2006.

So many motoring-related firms want to buy space at the upcoming CeBIT trade fair in Hanover that the organisers plan to give them a telematics pavilion of their own, and with that in place, can a dedicated Auto Networking World exhibition be far behind? Knowing the motor industry, it could well be somewhere a bit more exotic than northern Germany, though...

Telematics covers a huge range of systems, from GPS navigation and digital mapping, through driver assistance and electronic traffic safety to fleet management - plus of course entertainment.

When Microsoft announced its AutoPC - now supplanted by Windows Automotive - there were jokes about suffering the Blue Screen of Death in the fast lane of the autobahn. The change of name hasn't taken that risk away, but the open road is a nightmare for mechanical and electronic systems anyway, what with extreme temperatures and fearsome levels of dust, damp, vibration and electromagnetic noise.

However, CeBIT's senior VP Dr Sven PrĂ¼ser says the big problem for auto manufacturers is the cost of independently developing all the firmware they need, while maintaining backwards compatibility with earlier versions as otherwise a replacement part might refuse to work on a car with older software.

He says that's why the telematics firms are rushing to offer standard off-the-shelf equivalents.

Still, those AutoPC jokes may have a nub of truth, and yes, one day you might have to stop on the hard-shoulder and reset the car - by closing the bonnet and all four doors simultaneously - before you can drive on.