Weekly Brief: Android Auto goes live, first compatible aftermarket devices hit store shelves

In this week’s Brief: Android Auto, Pioneer, Apple CarPlay, AAA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Delphi,  New York Auto Show, Google, Audi, CES 2015, Black Hat Asia security conference, Tesla, CANtact, TomTom, Mojio, Deutsche Telekom and KPMG.

It ain’t cheep, but Android Auto is finally available to the masses. Pioneer released three aftermarket car stereo head units that feature Android Auto integration last week. The devices allow consumers to extend the Android platform from their smartphones to their cars in a way that’s purpose-built for an automotive environment — a simple interface, voice control to minimize distraction, easy access to music, navigation and communications.

The devices require Android 5.0 smartphones to operate the Android Auto app. They’re also compatible with Apple CarPlay. They retail for $700 (AVIC-8100NEX), $1200 (AVIC-7100NEX), and a whopping $1400 for the most feature-rich device (AVH-4100NEX), although lower prices have already cropped up on Amazon. Whether the Android Auto/Apple CarPlay combo is enticing enough to warrant the hefty price tag remains to be seen. Other aftermarket devices featuring Android Auto and CarPlay are expected this summer.

In other news, distraction plays a part in 58% of all teen crashes, according to a study released by AAA. That number jumps to 89% if you’re just looking at road-departure crashes — a mind-boggling number, especially considering that previous figures from the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggested that only 14% of teen crashes were due to distraction. The AAA study analyzed roughly 1700 videos of teenagers in the six seconds leading up to crashes. Top forms of distraction were interacting with passengers in the vehicle (15%) and using cell phones (12%). We connected car folks can look at that latter number as evidence that connected cars with bluetooth integration can mitigate this form of distraction. But first, we should gulp and make damn sure we’re putting safety at the very top of our prioities.

A self-driving car from automotive supplier Delphi set off on the longest journey yet for an autonomous vehicle — a coast-to-coast oddysey from San Francisco to New York for the New York Auto Show on April 4. Delphi has no illusions of becoming a Google and making its own self-driving cars; it’s merely in the business of building autonomous vehicle technology to supply to other carmakers. The self-driving car is an adapted Audi SQ5 crossover. No surprise on the carmaker, given Audi’s participation in a Bay-Area-to-Las-Vegas self-driving adventure back at CES 2015.

At the Black Hat Asia security conference, former Tesla whiz kid Eric Evenchick unveiled a $60 device that anyone can use to cyber hack into an automobile. The device, which Evenchick has labeled the CANtact, plugs into a USB port on one end and into the OBD2 port on the other, creating a simple bridge from computer to the automobile's CAN bus. Evenchick says he wants to make life easier on researchers. Carmakers say, "Thanks so much buddy ole pal."

TomTom ventured into the freemium waters for the first time with its new TomTom GO Mobile app for Android. The app comes with real-time traffic info, offline maps, speed camera warnings when available and up to 75km of premium navigation directions for free each month. Want more than 75km? Upgrade with a simple in-app purchase. One year will set drivers back €19.99, three years €44.99.

Vancouver-basd Mojio concluded an $8 million round of funding, with Deutsche Telekom coming in as lead investor. Mojio has designs on expansion in the U.S. and Europe with its connected car platform — a so-called plug-and-play solution that taps into a vehicles on-board diagnosic port, then connects the driver to a universe of apps. Everything from diagnostic snapshots to driving scores to improve gas consumption to automatic social sharing of a car’s location with pre-selected friends and family.

Developing connected cars and autonomous driving technology is set to add 320,000 jobs to the U.K. economy, according to new research from KPMG. The U.K., along with Germany and the Netherlands, has proven an early hub for connected car development. Just last week we covered Chancellor Osborne’s 2015 budget announcement, which set aside £200m for self-driving pilots on U.K. roads. The study from KPMG estimates that these pilots are worth £51 billion to the U.K. economy.

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 TU contributor.

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