Weekly Brief: Audi goes 4G

Weekly Brief: Audi goes 4G

In this week’s Brief: Audi, AT&T, Vodafone, Apple, Google, TomTom, Jasper Wireless, Mobily, ATrack, KORE Wireless, Consumer Electronics Association, Apple, Honda, Volvo, Mercedes and Ferrari.

The first car with embedded 4G LTE connectivity will hit dealership lots in April, Audi announced last week at the press introduction for the 2015 Audi A3. The ramped up wireless data connection will power a suite of apps and services through Audi connect – from navigation terrain display and movie streams to automated emergency response and e-mail and social media feeds, all up to 10 times faster than Audi connect via 3G. Audi’s 4G LTE connection will run on AT&T in the United States and on Vodafone in Europe.

With news of Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Projected Mode commanding so much attention right now, both of which would preclude or minimize the need for additional in-vehicle data plans, the most important component of the Audi announcement was the pricing. In the United States, users will get six months free, then will have the choice between $100 for 5GB of data across six months or $500 for 30GB across 30 months.  Given the fact that 11 movie downloads would gobble up all 5GB in the six-month plan, it’s potentially a hefty price to pay, especially when Audi starts to offer CarPlay or Projected Mode as alternatives this summer. 4G LTE will enter Audi’s entire lineup as new vehicles come to the market.

In other news, it was a busy week for telematics in emerging markets. TomTom took its Speed Cameras service live in Brazil, where it recently introduced its traffic information service. TomTom Speed Cameras offers drivers up-to-date warnings of nearby fixed and red light cameras, as well as speed enforcement zones. It can pinpoint more than 17,000 speed cameras in Brazil and integrates into in-dash and mobile navigation systems if carmakers so choose.

In Saudi Arabia, Jasper Wireless agreed to provide Mobily, one of the local leading communications companies, with a platform to deliver a range of machine-to-machine (M2M) applications and services. Jasper’s Cloud-based offerings include custom device provisioning, instant activation, real-time diagnostic tools and detailed billing and usage reports. Mobily says it specifically plans to target connected vehicles in Saudi Arabia, along with utilities, construction and m-health.

In Taiwan, the country’s leading telematics hardware manufacturer, ATrack, penned a deal giving its customers access to KORE Wireless’ network services in more than 150 countries worldwide. The deal cuts both ways, with KORE wanting to partner with quality device and application providers in Asia (one of the fastest growing M2M markets in the world) and ATrack wanting to provide its customers with quick and easy access to a wireless carrier if they don’t already have one. Existing customers can stick with existing wireless providers if they prefer.

Back in the United States, the Consumer Electronics Association published a new round of research suggesting that a slight majority of Americans are aware of and eager to adopt the connected car. By the numbers, 59% deem in-vehicle technology key when buying a new car; 47% would like apps to be integrated into and tailored for the car; 42% plan to buy an in-vehicle connected device in the next 12 months; and 46% are dissatisfied with the existing technologies in their cars.

Following its announcement of CarPlay, the iPhone integration platform for cars, Apple rolled out iOS version 7.1 of its mobile operating system, which now includes CarPlay functionality. Scores of OEMs are lined up to integrate the platform, and Honda, Volvo, Mercedes and Ferrari have already demoed solutions.

Apple also secured a patent for harnessing the iPhone to detect and respond to in-vehicle emergencies. Native, OnStar-type solutions shouldn’t be shaking in their boots yet, but the patent protects an iPhone-based system that can detect abrupt deceleration from a specified velocity, at which point it sends the vehicle location to emergency responders. The system may also respond to airbag deployment sensors.

In addition to its 4G announcements, Audi debuted a new app for Audi connect that allows a vehicle to recognize the timing of upcoming traffic lights and to adjust its speed accordingly to minimize fuel burn and stops and starts. “Audi Online Traffic Light Information” pulls it off by establishing a link between the car and the traffic light network via the central traffic computer in each town or city. On the approach to a set of lights, the instrument cluster shows the driver the speed to select in order to pass through the light during a green phase.

Finally, what if every lane divider in the world was not just a strip of paint on the surface of a road but also a strip of magnets below, embedded within the concrete to convey precise location coordinates to autonomous vehicles? Volvo says that it has not only entertained such a notion but created a 100-metre-long track at the company’s testing facilities in Hällered, Sweden, to test it out. The magnets are buried less than an inch below the surface and function with a far higher degree of precision and reliability than conventional GPS.

The scientists working on the project acknowledge “it is fully possible to implement autonomous vehicles without changes to the present infrastructure,” but say the magnets are a relatively cheap solution to introduce a greater degree of accuracy. “Our experience so far is that ferrite magnets are an efficient, reliable and relatively cheap solution, both when it comes to the infrastructure and on-board sensor technology,” says Jonas Ekmark, preventive safety leader at Volvo Car Group. “The next step is to conduct tests in real-life traffic.”

As for all the digging required, they’ll leave the logistics for another day.

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 Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Insurance Telematics Europe 2014 on May 6-7 in London, Telematics India and South Asia 2014 on May 28-29 in Bangalore, India, Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 on May 28-29 in Toronto, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, Advanced Automotive Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan, and Telematics Munich 2014 on Nov. 10-11 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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