Weekly Brief: eCall delayed again?

Weekly Brief:  eCall delayed again?

In this week’s Brief: European Parliament, TomTom, Alibaba Group, AutoNavi, Mitsubishi, Intel, Penn Schoen Berland, Hyundai, Google Places, Valeo and LeddarTech.

The eCall draft law requiring all new European car models to be outfitted with telematics devices that automatically alert emergency responders in the case of an accident cleared the European Parliament’s Internal Market Committee last week.

The technology will be free of charge to all car users, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) said. And they added a couple of new provisions: one enhancing data protection by prohibiting constant tracking of eCall-enabled vehicles and the other allowing the use a different emergency call system, provided that it is installed in a car and is compatible with eCall.

MePs also punted the ball down the field as to whether other vehicles, like trucks, coaches and buses, will have to be fitted with eCall as well. However, they waffled and said they’re open to postponing the October 2015 deadline for eCall's implementation – to when is unclear, although given eCall’s colorful history of delays, anything is imaginable.

Automakers, tier 1 suppliers and mobile network operators, therefore, remain in limbo, with eCall looming on a horizon of indeterminate proximity.

In other news, TomTom launched its real-time traffic service in China, Taiwan and Singapore. China, as the fastest growing auto market in the world, has faced swelling traffic congestion in its urban areas, and Taiwan and Singapore face similar congestion issues due to their small size and high road density. "The traditional responses to tackling congestion, such as building new roads and widening existing ones, are no longer effective in managing congestion levels,” said Ralf-Peter Schäfer, head of traffic at TomTom.

Also in Asia, Alibaba Group, China’s biggest e-commerce firm, put forth a $1.58 billion bid to buy AutoNavi. AutoNavi is China’s largest mapping and navigation company and has partnered with TomTom to build its traffic information service in China. Alibaba Group already owns 28% of AutoNavi.

In Japan, Mitsubishi unveiled a predictive human machine interface (HMI) that anticipates a driver’s needs based on operational history and current conditions on the road. The product comes wrapped in hyperbole – an “Ultra-simple HMI” built around a “highly intelligent” predictive technology. But it seems to deliver some genuine innovation with voice control and auto projection of options onto the windshield. The goal is to reduce engagement with any of the vehicle’s four primary on-board devices (navigation, phone, air conditioner and audio-visual equipment) down to two moves and 15 seconds.

Returning stateside, a new study found that 44% of Americans would like to live in a driverless city, where cars, buses and trains operate intelligently and automatically without people driving them. When asked how automated transportation could affect their cities or towns, Americans cited reductions in the number of traffic incidents (40%), traffic (38%) and the amount of carbon emissions (34%). More than one-third (34%) expect to see a driverless city in 10 years or less. The study was commissioned by Intel and conducted by market research firm Penn Schoen Berland.

Hyundai announced that its Blue Link telematics system will graduate into its second generation this spring with the sale of the 2015 Genesis. One significant upgrade is destination search powered by Google Places API.

Finally, French automotive parts manufacturer Valeo announced plans to roll out a range of advanced driver assistance solutions based on infrared LED technology. Valeo will partner with LeddarTech, a manufacturer of advanced detection and ranging solutions, and plans to focus on emergency braking in urban environments. The goal is strengthen its advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) package to meet new EuroNCAP standards in Europe.

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 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, 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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