French government bans speedcam-warning devices, as Ford and Google announce smart vehicle partnership

French government bans speedcam-warning devices, as Ford and Google announce smart vehicle partnership

The French government announced a ban on the sale and use of speedcam-warning devices in France. Those who sell such devices will face up to two years in jail and fines as high as €30,000; those who use them in their cars, if caught, will earn six points on their driving licenses, plus a €1,500 fine. Officials did not announce when the ban will take effect but said the government was hoping to reduce fatal accidents, which have increased by 10 percent on French roads in 2011. France’s three largest speedcam warning manufacturers, Coyote System, Wikango, and Inforad, quickly responded with the formation of a new alliance, the Association of French Suppliers Implementing Driver Assistance Technologies, and called for their customers to join a nationwide protest on May 18. “Mobilisons-nous!” blares the organization’s freshly minted website. “L’interdiction des avertisseurs de radars est injuste!” The largest planned demonstration will be at the steps of the parliament building in Paris.

Volkswagen launched a new car-sharing concept called “Quicar—Share a Volkswagen” in Hanover, Germany. The program will designate 50 locations around the city where customers can collect and return cars. The first model in the fleet will be the VW Golf BlueMotion outfitted with a new telematics solution for bookings, reservations, and vehicle management. Additionally, all vehicles will sport navigation and entertainment systems, and customers will be issued a memory card that can save individual destinations and routes.

Ford and Google announced a partnership to create smarter vehicles. Google will supply Prediction Technology that can convert driving data into useful real-time predictions, such as where a driver is headed at the time of departure. Ford plans to study how this technology can optimize hybrid electric vehicles. One thought is to create encrypted driver data usage profiles. These profiles would allow hybrids to anticipate their drivers’ routes and driving practices and therefore maximize fuel and energy efficiency over the lifetime of the vehicle.

Audi of America released a new roadside assistance app for smartphones. The Audi Roadside App leverages the Audi customer’s pre-registered vehicle information, a smartphone’s GPS capabilities, and an intuitive interface to help ease calls for roadside assistance. The app lets drivers clarify what assistance they need—jump start, fuel delivery, tire change, or tow—and locates the nearest dealerships. The app is available as a free download on iPhone, Android, and some BlackBerry devices.

TomTom extended its US portfolio of real-time traffic products to industry partners. The real-time traffic portfolio enables customers to deliver solutions based on the most accurate, up-to-date traffic information. Traffic planning agencies, for example, can reduce costs by eliminating the need to install or maintain fixed measurement systems, and fleet companies can save money by ensuring their vehicles spend less time in traffic. Real-time traffic products are already available to industry partners in most of Europe, and additional countries will become available to partners this year.

TomTom also debuted a new stable of entry-level PNDs in Europe, dubbed Start 20. The PNDs establish larger display screens, 4.3 to 5 inches, for entry-level devices. Start 20s also come loaded with a MicroSD card slot that will allow drivers to access richer content as it becomes available in the future. The devices vary in cost from €140 for a single-country map to €180 for 25 countries and a 5-inch display.

Navmii hit a new milestone of two million navigation users, just six months after the launch of NavFree, the app offering free navigation on iPad and iPhone, and 12 months after the launch of Navmii GPS Live low cost navigation apps. The company operates on a freemium model, funded by advertising and upgrades like safety camera and live traffic data. Navmii is now active throughout Europe and is raking in 15,000 new customers a day. This year the company plans to add a European-wide version of Navfree, a new US version of Navfree, and free navigation for other mobile platforms, including Android.

DICE Electronics released an automotive interface that lets drivers integrate iPod or iPhone connectivity into their cars and control Internet radio through the steering wheel or consol buttons. 2011 Silverline DUO Integration Kits include the Livio Car Internet Radio app, which offers 45,000 radio stations with no monthly fees. Kits for selected Toyota, Lexus, Scion, Honda, Acura, BMW, Mini, Nissan, and Infiniti vehicles are currently available for $189.99. VW, Audi, and Mazda will be available in the coming months. “I quit listening to CDs when I purchased my satellite radio back in 2003, [and] I cancelled my satellite radio subscription when I installed the DICE Duo plus Livio into my car,” Livio Radio founder and CEO Jake Sigal said. “I'm excited we can finally share our engineering development with the rest of the world.”

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, join the sector’s thought leaders at Telematics Detroit 2011 in Novi, MI on June 8 and 9.

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