Weekly Brief: All the news from LA Auto Show and beyond

Weekly Brief: All the news from LA Auto Show and beyond

In this week’s Brief: Car Connectivity Consortium, LA Auto Show, Ford, Parkopedia, Volvo, Sprint, CalAmp, Tesla Motors, TomTom Business Solutions and INRIX.

Why on earth should automakers bother with expensive onboard computers and infotainment systems when they can simply piggyback on the content and connectivity of smartphones?

This was the tacit question that the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) posed at the LA Auto Show last week when it rolled out the new version of its MirrorLink standard, which enables car makers to rely on drivers‘ smartphones for data connection, GPS and app content. The original MirrorLink standard (1.0) offered just three apps, dubbed Call, Drive and Music. The new standard (1.1) opens the system up to third-party developers and provides them with a one-stop shop to create apps that are interoperable between a majority of the world’s most popular cars and handsets. 

Those in the embedded camp still maintain that relying on a smartphone’s data connection, processor and GPS antenna is asking for trouble when it comes to speed, quality and consistency of service. But CCC believes that the smartphone is more than capable to provide the bulk of a car’s connectivity and that a seamless user interface across multiple vehicles and devices will be a clear win with consumers.

“Right now, car connectivity is all about content,” said Jörg Brakensiek, technical work group chair of the CCC. “The sooner we can make content suitable for in-car consumption, the sooner car connectivity will achieve its promise.”

Also at the LA Auto Show, Ford announced that it has produced its 10 millionth SYNC-equipped automobile just six years after launching the infotainment system. Today, nearly all Ford retail vehicles are sold with advanced infotainment technologies, and the company ranks first in ABI Research’s OEM connected automotive infotainment Competitive Assessment.

“SYNC has helped us to think and act more like a technology company,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president of global marketing, sales and service. “It has forever changed how we look at our business and how we respond to our customers.”

Parkopedia, meanwhile, announced that it will provide Volvo with a global in-car parking service. Parkopedia provides users with real-time insight into the availability of parking spaces in cities and towns – the company monitors more than 28 million spots in 40 countries. Parkopedia didn’t say much of its arrangement with Volvo, but presumably the app will run via Volvo’s new Sensus Connected Touch infotainment system, when it rolls out in 2014.

Also at the auto show, Sprint released Sprint Velocity Connect, which expands the Sprint Velocity platform to allow automakers to add telematics control units, on-board diagnostic devices and embedded in-dash head units as they see fit. The result: greater customization and ability for automakers to deploy these solutions either before or after a vehicle is sold thanks to Sprint Velocity’s Cloud-based architecture.

Sprint says that the new platform is operational today and that partner CalAmp has already deployed a plug-in device that OEMs can leverage for additional mobile services.

It was a busy week outside of Los Angeles as well.

Tesla Motors responded to its recent spate of vehicle fires with an over-the-air software update. The update modifies the Model S’s air suspension to result in greater ground clearance at highway speeds. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, continue to downplay the fires when he compared the probability of a Model S bursting into flames to getting struck by lightning.

TomTom Business Solutions introduced a new road-toll reporting functionality for its fleet management platform. WEBFLEET toll reporting provides a real-time analysis of toll costs incurred for each trip, allowing transport companies to better manage expenses and provide customers with transparent invoices. The functionality accounts for all applicable national tolls in France, Germany, Austria and Slovakia.

Finally, INRIX launched its vaunted INRIX XD Incidents. Rather than rely on radio station personnel, XD Incidents detects accidents and road closures by automatically correlating real-time traffic flow data with information from nearly 400 public and private sources, including media partners, departments of transportation, emergency responders and community reports via social networks like Twitter.

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

Andrew Tolve is a regular contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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