2012 Year in Review Weekly Brief—12.31.2012

2012 Year in Review Weekly Brief—12.31.2012

In this week’s Brief: Hughes Telematics, Mercedes-Benz, Towers Watson, Nissan, Google, Pandora Radio, Intel, Honda, Buick, Chrysler, Sprint, Ford, Telenav, Accenture, Clarion, Agero, Jungo, Ixonos, TomTom, Garmin, Nokia, Amazon, UpNext, Apple, Yelp!, Facebook, ABI Research, Motaquote, Zurich Germany, Ford, State Farm, Mazda, Subaru, Cadillac, BMW, Nissan, Volvo Trucks, Delphi, OnStar, IBM, PGE, Agero, Eifrig Media, Skobbler, Shanghai OnStar, AutoNavi, Denso Corporation, WirelessCar and China Unicom

Each Monday at Telematics Update we highlight the latest announcements, trends, and product unveilings from the previous week in the telematics industry. On this, the final Monday of 2012, we thought it was only fitting to glance back at the year in full and pull together a review of telematics 2012. It’s been an exciting year, one that has witnessed telematics continue to shift from niche product to mainstream offering and expectation. Here then is a look in the rearview mirror.

Hughes Telematics

It’s hard to argue against Hughes Telematics landing the top spot on the 2012 year in review. In June, the telematics provider was acquired by Verizon for $612 million, marking the biggest acquisition in the history of the telematics industry. Verizon forked over that hefty sum in order to expand its capabilities in the automotive and fleet telematics marketplace and to accelerate growth in M2M services applications.

At the start of 2012, Mercedes-Benz had already announced that Hughes was powering the second iteration of its telematics platform, mbrace2, a cloud-based system that provides drivers with features related to safety, infotainment, personal assistance and vehicle care. Then in September Hughes formed a strategic alliance with Towers Watson to provide a cost-effective way for U.S. insurers to rapidly go to market with a usage-based insurance product. From insurance telematics to infotainment to acquisitions, it was a banner year for the Atlanta-based telematics power.

OEM connected platforms

Telematics may have started as rudimentary data collection and basic safety services, but 2012 proved that in-vehicle connectivity and infotainment platforms are now on the radar of every major brand.

We already mentioned Mercedes-Benz and its new mbrace2 platform. In July the OEM added the Mercedes-Benz App Store, which allows drivers to download apps on their mobile phones and add them directly to their vehicle’s Comand infotainment system.

Nissan meanwhile announced the new infotainment platform NissanConnect, the product of a collaboration with technology innovators such as Google, Pandora Radio and Intel to develop class-leading connected content and services to drivers and passengers in a way that doesn’t distract the driver.

In April, Buick debuted the IntelliLink in-car connectivity system, which uses Bluetooth or USB to connect the driver’s smartphone to a touch screen in the dash. The system will come standard on every 2013 model year vehicle.

In July Honda waded into the infotainment market with its new HondaLink service, a cloud-based solution that offers drivers a selection of Internet-streamed sites, including Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp restaurant listings.

Chrysler then launched a new version of its Uconnect Access platform, which teams up with Sprint to offer a wireless and fully connected platform that no longer relies on a smartphone to provide the connectivity.

Ford launched its in-car connectivity system SYNC in Europe and integrated “Scout,” a personal navigation assistant from Telenav, into its Ford SYNC AppLink. Scout customizes its navigation tips to the user and provides personalized information about where to go, when to leave, how to get there, and what to do upon arrival.

Third-party connected platforms

Some car brands have been internally developing telematics and infotainment platforms for years. Others, responding to the rising wave of consumer demand, are just entering the field now. A recurring theme of 2012 was the arrival of new, third-party infotainment platforms that OEMs can purchase and customize in a way as to be seamlessly integrated into their brands.

In January Accenture debuted a Connected Vehicle Integrated Solution that aims to make it easier for OEMs to design and integrate in-vehicle infotainment technologies such as on-board devices, telematics and mobile connectivity. Accenture estimates that in-vehicle infotainment could give OEMs up to $200 in added revenues per car in mature markets every year.

In June, Clarion launched its “Smart Access” platform, which is designed to function as Clarion’s proprietary telematics system as well as a common telematics system for car manufacturers. The platform enables smartphone connectivity and the easy integration of vehicle relationship management and customer relationship management systems.

In the first week of December, Sprint followed suit with Sprint Velocity, an end-to-end, connected-vehicle solution designed for automakers to develop, integrate and market in-vehicle communications systems. Automakers can use Sprint Velocity as a complete turnkey solution or on a modular basis to suit their customized needs.

The following week, Agero announced “AgeroView”, a cloud-delivered infotainment display system that allows automakers to update apps, push content, and deliver data and services on demand over the lifetime of the vehicle. Through AgeroView, dealer service support can be delivered instantly, content and service updates downloaded invisibly, and owners can customize the user experience with the touch of a button.

A host of companies also announced MirrorLink-compatible solutions over the course of the year. Sony introduced several new in-dash infotainment systems, for example, that feature full touch screen capability and universal smartphone connectivity. Jungo and Ixonos likewise launched a complete end-to-end MirrorLink solution for in-vehicle infotainment implementers in the mobile and automotive industries. The pre-integrated MirrorLink solution will reduce the development cycles and R&D costs of Tier-1 implementers of automotive IVI systems and provide interoperability for MirrorLink support.

Map Apps

As smartphone penetration continues to soar and smartphone integration into vehicles continues to climb, it’s only a matter of time before the dominant players on smartphones become key movers in the automotive and telematics space.

Nowhere is this dynamic more apparent than with maps. Whereas telematics stalwarts like TomTom and Garmin continue to manufacture PNDs or navigation apps that cost a fee to download, the titans of the mobile phone space took 2012 as an opportunity to unveil a fresh round of mapping and navigation applications, many of which are free, making it hard for traditional navigation providers to compete.

In November, Nokia re-launched its mapping and location services as HERE, a “location cloud” that delivers maps and location experiences across multiple screens and operating systems. The rebranding includes the release of a maps application for iOS based on HTML5 that will include offline capabilities, voice-guided walk navigation, and public transport directions.

Amazon announced that it was working to integrate native mapping into its iOS- and Android-based apps and to offer a stand-alone navigation software. To expedite the process, in July the online sales giant acquired 3D mapping company UpNext, which offers maps and navigation apps for the iPad, iPhone, and various Android devices.

Apple meanwhile launched “Eyes Free,” a new vehicle integration for Siri, and in September unveiled its first native mapping app—the Apple Map App for iOS 6. TomTom supplies the map data and Yelp and Facebook contribute POI and social features. Apple was hoping that the introduction of a native map app for the iPhone 5 would diminish Google’s mapping role on the iPhone, but early flaws with the Apple Map App gave Google a window to introduce its own mapping application for the iPhone 5.

In December Google delivered with a free app that offers turn-by-turn directions, spoken instructions, and saved favorite locations. The app quickly claimed the top spot for free apps on iTunes and is already one of the most frequently used apps for in-vehicle navigation in the U.S. and Europe. Apple’s director of mapping was fired as a result, and in one of the more humiliating mapping moments in recent history, Apple’s CEO came forward in December and recommended that iPhone users download Google Maps in place of the Apple Map App.

Insurance telematics

Hardcore insurance telematics enthusiasts believe that it’s only a matter of time before car insurers are leveraging telematics to track and assess every driver on the road. Current penetration rates suggest that insurance telematics still has a long ways to go, but 2012 shows that the nascent industry is continuing to gain traction.

In March, ABI Research projected that 89 million people around the globe will subscribe to insurance telematics by 2017, and in April a study found that 57 percent of drivers believe they will switch to a telematics or “black box” insurance policy in the next five years.

We already mentioned Hughes Telematics’s foray into the insurance telematics arena. Towers Watson’s DriveAbility service helps insurers convert driving data into industry-applicable metrics to enable new insurance products and services for consumers. Hughes will utilize its automotive telematics platform, In-Drive, to offer enhanced data services and provide the connectivity for additional telematics features.

Sprint also stepped into the UBI arena with an integrated, end-to-end usage-based insurance services offering. The services revolve around a small device that plugs into the diagnostic port of a car and captures vehicle information and driver behavior data that is transmitted over the Sprint wireless network.

Not to be overlooked, TomTom partnered with insurance broker Motaquote in February to launch Fair Pay Insurance, a product that uses driving ability and behavior to allocate premiums, rather than flawed risk factors like postcode, gender, and age or vehicle type. In October, TomTom then partnered with insurer Zurich Germany, offering its fleet management and telematics capabilities for Zurich’s newly launched product, Zurich Fleet Intelligence.

Finally, Ford rolled out a program in conjunction with State Farm’s insurance telematics program so that Ford drivers with SYNC-equipped Ford vehicles can reduce their auto insurance premiums by using the embedded Vehicle Health Report feature to report their mileage.

Pedestrian safety

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have been teetering on the brink of mainstream integration for a few years now. 2012 saw the first concrete steps towards integration, and much of that energy was directed toward brake assistance for protecting pedestrians.

In February, Mazda added an advanced safety technology called Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) to its new crossover SUV, the Mazda CX-5, which was launched in the spring. SCBS uses a laser sensor to detect a vehicle or obstacle in front and automatically reduces the extent of the brake rotor travel to quicken braking operation.

At the New York Auto Show in April, Subaru debuted its new EyeSight driver assistance system, which uses forward facing cameras with pedestrian recognition capability to warn drivers of approaching pedestrians on crosswalks and in roads. The system will hit dealerships in 2013 Subaru Legacies and Outbacks.

In September, Cadillac released a new advanced safety system that harnesses a network of sensors to automatically stop the vehicle in low-speed conditions to help avoid crashes. Cadillac’s Front and Rear Automatic Braking acts like a virtual bumper, slamming on the brakes as a last resort to help drivers in heavy traffic or in parking lots and driveways where the driver might fail to see another vehicle or object in his path.

BMW then launched the UR:BAN project, which aims to develop new driver assistance and traffic management systems. The project will pursue high-resolution sensor systems that help drivers detect pedestrians and cyclists in a busy urban environment while allowing drivers to maintain control of the driving experience.

In October Nissan debuted a technology to help reduce accidents caused by pedal misapplication. The “Emergency assist for pedal misapplication” uses four cameras of the Around View Monitor and ultrasonic sonar to detect if the car is currently in a parking space or not and if there are obstacles such as walls in the direction the vehicle is traveling. The technology debut on the new Nissan Elgrand MPV in December.

Finally, Volvo Trucks unveiled an advanced emergency braking system equipped with early collision warning to help prevent severe accidents caused by inattention. “Collision Warning with Emergency Brake” combines a radar and a camera that work together to identify and monitor vehicles in front.

Wireless charging

Electric vehicles are already among us, yet how the widespread rollout of charging stations and charging infrastructure is still unclear. So too is the best way to manage range anxiety. 2012 saw further ideation on the topic, and a few tangible results.

In January Delphi started work on a wireless charging system for consumer devices that will automatically transfer power to mobile electronic devices. A magnetic field from a source resonator in the vehicle provides power to the devices, enabling in-vehicle, high efficiency device charging that is safe for humans without the hassle of cords or connections.

In February OnStar invited utilities, energy companies, and tech firms to develop Smart Grid solutions for the Chevrolet Volt using a set of proprietary OnStar application programming interfaces, or APIs. The set of Smart Grid APIs are focused on a variety of recently developed solutions from OnStar like “Demand response,” which connects utilities to companies that have intelligent energy management products.

In April IBM teamed up with Honda and PG&E on a new pilot project that allows communication between electric vehicles and the power grid. The project is testing an EV’s ability to receive and respond to charge instructions based on the grid condition and the vehicle’s battery state, thereby allowing energy providers to more effectively manage charging during peak hours.

In September Honda launched HondaLink EV, a smartphone app and personalized web portal to assist owners with wirelessly managing vehicle charging, mapping their available driving range and setting their interior cabin temperature remotely. The system runs on Agero technology and is available for the 2013 Honda Fit EV.

Speedcam Wars

2012 got off to a confrontational start on the speed camera front when the French government signed into law a rule that officially bans speedcam warning systems anywhere on French roads. If the systems are owned, sold, transported, or used on French roads, drivers will lose points on their licenses and receive hefty fines. The measure ignited a round of protests from French citizens.

Elsewhere around Europe, speedcam warning systems continued to gain traction. In April, the Blitzer.de PRO speedcam warning app launched for the German market and within days had claimed a coveted spot in the top ten for highest grossing apps. The app is the product of Eifrig Media and Skobbler and goes for €0.79 per download, or for €9.99 for a lifetime subscription.

In May TomTom released the TomTom Speed Camera app for iPhone. Powered by a driving community with 1.6 million drivers in 15 European countries, the app gives drivers access to fixed and mobile speed camera alerts. It also gives drivers 95 percent coverage of fixed camera locations and real-time updates for mobile speed cameras.

Emerging markets

Telematics as an industry found its footing in the developed markets of Europe and the U.S. These days, however, one is as likely to find developments in Brazil or Dubai as it is in New York City or London.

Despite moderate sales in China’s passenger car sector in 2012, this year proved to be another strong one for the Chinese telematics market. Shanghai OnStar, the first major telematics venture in China, announced that its base of subscribers across China reached 450,000 in May, 2012. The company was the first telematics company in China to launch a mobile app that integrates turn-by-turn navigation, which, since 2011, has addressed 13.8 million requests.

TomTom and AutoNavi introduced real-time HD Traffic to drivers across China in February. HD Traffic is a navigation product that provides precise delay times and the exact location of traffic jams. The Dutch-Chinese joint venture hopes to cover up to 30 Chinese cities by the end of 2013. In October AutoNavi launched AMAP, China’s first map app for Windows 8.

In March, DENSO Corporation began testing vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure technology on public roads in China. DENSO V2X technology will be used to wirelessly communicate the vehicle position and speed of emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire engines to surrounding vehicles and roadside infrastructure.

In October, WirelessCar announced an expansion of its global supplier relationship with BMW. WirelessCar will now provide the back-end telematics service platform for China Unicom, a Tier 1 supplier for BMW ConnectedDrive in China.


The list could go on, which is what 2013 is for. We look forward to the next round of exciting news and announcements, week after week, month after month. Please feel free to e-mail Andrew Tolve, the Weekly Brief editor, if you have news you would like us to consider. His email is: [email protected].

For exclusive business analysis and insight about telematics applications, see Industry Insight: Telematics and Apps
For all the latest information and trends in V2X and driver safety, visit V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 20-21 in Frankfurt.

Coming up in 2013: Consumer Telematics Show 2013 on January 7 in Las Vegas, V2X for Auto Safety and Mobility Europe 2013 on February 19-20 in Frankfurt, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam, Insurance Telematics Europe 2013 on May 8-9 in London and Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on June 5-7 in India.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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