Disruptive Innovations in the Automotive Space

Innovation in the automotive space is notoriously difficult. Nothing is straightforward, having to take into account different regulatory environments with each country along with concerns about driver safety and distraction. The ground is already littered with technologies that seemed to be good, but for one reason or another failed to gain traction in the marketplace. As difficult as it is to predict what the next-generation connected car will look like, we can still make some accurate guesses about the areas on which future development will likely focus.

First and foremost, innovation is likely to rethink navigation as we know it. Image recognition systems will also come to the fore, monitoring both objects in the driver's path and the drivers themselves. With all the data generated, analytics will also feature prominently. Some will be there for the driver's own benefit, but some will also likely be put there by the OEM as a way of generating ongoing revenue.

The future connected car will be an 'app-rich' environment. Despite the OEMs' still-ambiguous attitude toward offering more than a few apps for their cars, some innovative companies are now promising to change this by providing OEMs with tools to create apps on the spot with just a few lines of code whenever a creative or an unforeseen need presents itself. Today, people select tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices based on the apps they offer rather than on their technical parameters. The same could also be true with car purchasing in the not-too-distant future.

During a session at the recent Telematics Detroit conference, a number of companies were invited to present what they hope to be the next disruptive innovations in the automotive space.


Augary connects ADAS to the Cloud. They take camera and location data from phones, in-car systems and helmet-mounted cameras to deploy real-time ADAS safety features, such as lane departure warnings,  pedestrian entering path of motion alerts, or following distance tracking. This also includes providing real-time alerts for law-enforcement agents, allowing them to correlate license plates within their vicinity with historical data on the Cloud to spot cars suspected of being tied to crimes.

Another benefit of aggregating the camera data in the Cloud is the ability to provide real-time mapping updates to all users passing through the same area. “We turn every system that runs our software into a Google street view car and we collect information that is of need to that data partner,” says Augary CEO Dima Kislovskiy.

Augary's technology is also enabling the parents of teenage drivers to monitor their children's driving habits by logging in to see the analysis of their driving behavior.


The NHTSA reports that 80% of collisions are due to driver inattention and rage. While using their phone, drivers, on average, take their eyes off the road for five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. Eyeris hopes to make driving safer with their next-generation driver attention and emotional monitoring. Using a dashboard-mounted infrared camera, Eyeris' AI software understands human emotions, monitoring visual attention and reading facial micro-expressions in real-time with an unprecedented degree of accuracy.  

“It is predictive emotional distraction,” says Eyeris founder and CEO JR Alaoui. “Our technology provides the recognition of the full range of seven universal emotions, five metrics, three mood indicators. We also do age and gender recognition…. eye tracking, gaze estimation,  eye openness and eyelid velocity blinking detection based on duration as well as frequency, and facial occlusion.” Alaoui says it can tell if a driver is tired, in pain, suffering from road rage, or feeling sad or afraid. It can also tell when a person is applying makeup, eating something or holding a phone while driving.

Depending on the car manufacturers' preferences, this can then trigger an OnStar call or switch on adaptive cruise control or a light on the right-hand side of the vehicle, should the driver drop their phone in the passenger seat.



Vicinity Systems helps drivers find better routes for their journeys, by creating fully customizable graphic representations of the route ahead. It displays the environment (landscape, traffic, weather and pollution alerts) along with information about restaurants and parking, which can be delivered either visually, as an audio narration, or simply as summary alerts.

On the analytics side, Vicinity Systems provides OEMs with information about customers' driving habits and retail preferences, which can be used to generate relevant targeted offers by selected retail, food and insurance partners, giving the OEMs a source of ongoing revenue from their existing customers.  


According to Joshua Smibert, Director of Growth and Content for Roadtrippers.com, trip planning is a fragmented market, in which 83% of people use maps and other resources when planning road trips. On average, travelers use five apps or websites to plan a single trip. That's four apps too many, says Smibert.

RoadTrippers.com is a web and mobile platform that streamlines discovery, planning, booking and navigation into a one-stop road trip planner. It offers points of interest within a specified range of miles from the travel route, with ten million points of interest grouped into categories, with emphasis on the quirky, offbeat, local, mom-and-pop.

It also helps travelers calculate fuels costs based on the MPG specific to their car and recommends the best stations to fill up. Even though originally designed to address the market for long distance, once-in-a-lifetime roadtrips, Roadtrippers' ultimate goal is to gather metadata on daily users of their software, connecting drivers with their cars and providing refined recommendations based on driver profiles. 

“One of the things that makes us unique is that we know where people are going before anyone else,” says Smibert.


CamFind  offers a mobile visual search engine which uses computer vision and proprietary software to identify and provide information about objects, landmarks, and products in the camera's view without the need to input any text. Though not specifically designed for automotive use, one of its potential applications would be to point the camera at a dashboard indicator light in order to identify the problem and then pull up the correct page in the repair manual or even YouTube videos explaining repair procedures.


The company that was voted by audience of automotive professionals as having the most interesting proposition was SmartCar.  It is a startup by the inventor of the GlassTesla app, which allows a user wearing Google Glass to send commands to their car remotely, such as finding their car, locking or unlocking it, turning on the thermostat and many other uses.  The software is able to gather data from Tesla, model it to figure out a person's driving habits in order to anticipate their next commute and preemptively heating or cooling their car before they enter it. Another area of use is energy savings.  By determining where the electric car is, the range of mileage the car will need and the times they will need it, the GlassTesla app allows users to save 40% to 50% on their recharging bills taking advantage of off-peak hours.

What SmartCar offers to OEMs is a developer platform which will enable them to use client libraries to build apps quickly and simply with only three lines of code required for programming an app that can, for example, unlock the car, open the sunroof, determine the altitude or direction the car is facing and countless other uses. Using the SmartCar Cloud API, one developer built a James Bond-style app for a Pebble smartwatch where clicking a button would cause the car horn to beep and startle a dog or anyone else who happened by. 

At the moment the SmartCar API only works for Tesla, but they expect their platform to be applicable to any vehicle in the near future. 

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2014 on September 24-25, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics West Coast 2014 on October 30-31 in San Diego, USA, Telematics Munich 2014 on November 10-11 in Munich, Germany, Connected Fleets USA on November 20-21 in Atlanta, USA and Consumer Telematics Show 2015, January 5 in Las Vegas. 


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