Weekly Brief: Abracadabra, Tesla Model S turns into self-driving car

The Tesla Model S went to sleep Tuesday night and awoke the next morning a self-driving car. Talk about an upgrade. It came over-the-air (OTA) as part of Tesla’s latest software update, Tesla Version 7. Tesla AutoPilot, as the feature is dubbed, only works on about 60,000 Model S and X vehicles manufactured in the past 12 months with integrated forward radar, a forward-looking camera and long-range ultrasonic sensors into its standard hardware. Tesla drivers are legally required to keep one hand on the steering wheel when AutoPilot is engaged and the feature only works on roads whose lane dividers are clearly marked. Still, this is big. It’s even got new late night talk show host Stephen Colbert crooning about it.

In other news, Ford plans to invest $1.8Bn (£1.16Bn) in connected car technology in China in the next five years. The American automaker’s sales have been slipping in China recently, and it hopes smart-car features specifically tailored for the Chinese market, like greater smartphone integration and texting capabilities, can help it differentiate itself.

The automaker also announced the SYNC AppLink Challenge Dublin, a 24-hour mad dash for developers to generate new ideas for Ford’s voice-activated connectivity system. The winner takes home £55,000 and future app development opportunities with Ford. The challenge is set for the start of November at this year’s Web Summit in Dublin, where Ford executive chairman Bill Ford will give a keynote.

Mitsubishi wants in on the OTA update game. The head-unit manufacturer has integrated the Movimento OTA platform into its new FlexConnect architecture. The goal is to:

a)      Shorten software deployment times;

b)      Do customers a favour by eliminating the need for dealership visits and;

c)      Keep head-units feeling current with the latest trends, even as the cars that house them age.

Continental stepped up its augmented reality push with AR Creator, a new software suite that fuses data from in-car sensors to project useful images onto the dashboard — say an arrow or a building name. The platform was designed by Elektrobit’s automotive division, which Continental purchased for $680M back in May. Continental says it plans to leave Elektrobit as a stand-alone company.

Reported road casualties are up 4% in the UK, according to The Department of Transport, with pedestrians accounting for three quarters of the increase in fatalities between 2013 and 2014. “Driver behaviour” was listed as the primary cause — a kitchen sink term for everything from distraction to incompetence. The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) is encouraging carmakers to take swift action and invest in more ADAS technologies, specifically pedestrian detection, to curb the trend.

Three-out-of-four global consumers consider connected car technology an important feature for their next car purchase, according to a study conducted by the AT&T Drive Studio and Ericsson. The two canvassed customers in the US, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and China. Keep in mind that customers are often more likely to say they’re interested in technology than they are to actually attracted by it, especially if it adds cost to their purchase as many ADAS and high-end connectivity features do. The Wi-Fi hotspot ranked as the top feature that US customers are willing to purchase for their car.

Finally, thanks Mercedes-Benz for eliminating one of the joys of childhood – crashing toy cars. The automaker released a set of ‘uncrashable’ cars with high-power magnets embedded under their hoods. Kids were unhappy; this brilliant ad to promote Brake Assist PLUS ensued.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *