Weekly Brief: CES 2014 wrap-up

Weekly Brief: CES 2014 wrap-up

In this week’s Brief: Gartner, BMW, NHTSA, Valeo, Audi, GM, Ford, Google, Hyundai, Honda, Nvidia, Mazda, OpenCar, Jaguar Land Rover, Bosch SoftTec, QNX, Toyota, AT&T, Ericsson, VoiceBox, Synchronoss, Accenture, Toyota and Kia.

The day before the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) got underway in Las Vegas, Nevada, last week, Thilo Koslowski, vice president of the automotive division at Gartner, said that “in 10 to 15 years, automobiles will become the coolest mobile device, cooler than smartphones and even tablets.” A day later, under the neon glow of the conference floor, that prediction seemed anything but far-fetched.

Indeed, automobiles and telematics played such a central role at this year’s show that one journalist remarked that the “C” in CES should stand for “Car,” while David Strickland, outgoing administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), dubbed the consumer electronics industry’s annual bonanza in Sin City “the fourth major auto show in America.”

Here’s a recap of the major telematics product unveilings and trends to emerge at this year’s show.

The driverless car

Autonomous vehicles were all the rage in 2013 — largely in conceptual form. This year at CES, they started to materialize in tangible, consumer-ready (or soon-to-be-ready) features.

BMW rolled out automated parallel parking in its new i3 electric car. Automated parking solutions have been on the market before, but they’ve required drivers to keep their foot at the ready on the pedal and their fingers pinched around the steering wheel. With the i3, drivers can shave, people-watch, even play games on their smartphones. With one press of a button on the central console, the car and its ultrasonic sensors take care of the rest.

The technology comes courtesy of French manufacturer Valeo, which was at the show independent of BMW as well, demonstrating a self-parking feature that allows a vehicle to parallel park or pull into a spot nose or tail first — without a driver even in the car. Valeo has created an iPhone app that allows drivers to park their cars from afar. The company says the technology could work on a key fob as well, though no automaker has stepped up and adopted the solution yet.

Audi, meanwhile, debuted its own automated parking feature as well as a traffic assist function as part of its Audi connect platform. The traffic assist featured is called “Piloted Driving” and allows drivers to be as passive as they were in that BMW i3 while it was parking, only here the Audi vehicle can be moving at up to 39 miles per hour in highway traffic. Audi demoed the feature in an A7 at the show and says that it’s moving it toward factory installation — though no hard dates yet on a roll-out.

Third-party apps

To followers of the telematics industry, the third-party app theme at this year’s CES also won’t come as a surprise, as it’s been brewing ever since Ford and GM rolled out open developer platforms at CES 2013.

This year, GM took it a step further with its Connected by OnStar App Platform, which allows designers to build apps whose connectivity and data both come straight through the in-car modem. This strips the smartphone out of the equation, though it’s unclear if GM will now start to charge drivers an additional data plan to power the apps when the platform goes live this summer in the Corvette, Volt, Trax, Impala, and Malibu. GM says Connected by OnStar will launch with 10 apps, including iHeartRadio, TuneIn and NPR.

Ford answered with news that it will launch the next generation of AppLink in Europe next month. The new iteration of AppLink will grant third-party developer access to an array of vehicle data, from tire pressure to fuel consumption, odometer to the lock/unlock status of doors, all in the aim of building new apps and value-added services.

To kickstart development, Ford will host a developer conference this June in Detroit, with the focus on funneling breakthrough mobile apps into the car through Ford SYNC AppLink.

In the days leading up to the CES, rumors swirled that Google would launch a new Android for the Car platform in answer to Apples iOS in the Car platform. The day before the show got started, Google confirmed the news, announcing that it would also form a global alliance — the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA) — that works toward open innovation in the automotive space and makes it easier for mobile app designers to create individual apps that work across the automotive segment. Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Nvidia have joined the alliance.

Mazda announced a partnership with OpenCar to roll out a new app platform called OpenCar Connect. Since the platform will be customized to Mazda’s safety and HMI requirements, third-party app developers will be able to create automotive-grade apps with little expertise in the automotive space or its safety requirements. “We invite third-party developers who share Mazda’s game-changing spirit to further our vision for safely enhancing drivers’ connected lifestyles,” Mazda said in a release.

Finally, Jaguar Land Rover showed off its new smartphone integration platform, InControl Apps, which it developed through a partnership with Bosch SoftTec. At CES, Jaguar Land Rover had a host of initial third-party apps on hand, from iHeart Radio to INRIX, Parkopedia and Stitcher, and said that it planned to encourage more third-party development in the months ahead. The apps are both Android and iOS compatible.


On the connectivity front, Audi declared itself the first automaker to fully integrate 4G LTE into the vehicle, with the help of QNX. The 4G capabilities will impact Audi connect first and foremost, allowing Audi to integrate data-rich services like high-speed video conferencing and fast online updates. Audi also has its eyes set on car-to-X features like a traffic light information service that informs drivers the ideal speed to follow to catch green lights.

GM said not so fast as it too has plans to roll out optional 4G LTE services to its cars this summer, including the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette, Impala, Malibu and Volt. The OnStar 4G service will work as a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot, and passengers will be able to connect their smartphones, tablets and laptops for high-speed wireless Internet in the car. This will render access to surrounding Wi-Fi moot, no matter where the car goes.

AT&T, which is eager to be a fixture on the 4G LTE automotive front, meanwhile announced a new connected car platform, AT&T Drive, which allows automakers to join their existing platforms and services with a robust set of add-on services from AT&T and partnering companies like Ericsson (global application delivery framework), VoiceBox (natural language to vehicles), Synchronoss (Cloud platform solution) and Accenture (connected vehicle services).

AT&T also announced the AT&T Drive Studio, a new 5,000-square foot space in Atlanta featuring working garage bays, a speech lab and a full showroom to exhibit the end-to-end solutions that AT&T and its contributors can provide automotive manufacturers. The studio will also act as a hub where AT&T can respond to needs of automotive manufacturers and the auto ecosystem at large.

Concept cars

Finally, on the conceptual front, a number of automakers debuted future-looking models, starting with Toyota and its FV2 “Future Mobility Concept.” The vehicle has the look of Batman’s motorcycle, but with two wheels at the back rather than one and a pod to enclose the driver. The car offers advanced V2X technology and syncs up with a driver’s heart rate and biorhythms to detect things like mood, drowsiness, etc. Toyota says the concept is less about the car and more about integrating its lessons into everyday vehicles, creating new modalities of driving along the way.

Kia unveiled a “User-centered Driver Concept” (UCD), which is a concept for infotainment built around a widescreen head-up display that offers an augmented-reality snapshot of driving info like speed, navigation and traffic. The concept also includes a hand gesture controller, which uses advanced infrared light and camera sensors to provide drivers access to radio and navigation options with simple hand or finger movements. A wireless charging system for smartphones and an LCD cluster that offers a 3D view of vital vehicle info round out the system.

(For more of our reporting on this year's CES, see CES 2014: Ford, Audi and NHTSA and CES 2014: More connected future from the carmakers.)

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.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.

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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