Weekly Brief: Ford’s retrofit smart tech for older cars

Car giant takes pity on the millions of vehicles manufactured on the eve of the connected car era. Andrew Tolve reports.

New cars get dated fast. Just ask someone with a car from five years ago with a CD player in the dash but no bluetooth, no WiFi, no advanced driver assistance systems or GPS navigation. Ford’s answer is the new SmartLink, a dongle that plugs into the OBDII port of any Ford or Lincoln car manufactured between 2010 and 2016 and delivers the latest connected tech to its dashboard. This includes smartphone-based remote start, lock and unlock, 4G WiFi hotspot capable of accepting up to eight devices, vehicle health, vehicle security alerts and vehicle location assistance.

Ford isn't the first automaker to jump into the aftermarket with 4G Wifi enabled devices but it is one of the first to debut a device that specifically targets its own vehicles with the hopes of bringing the entire fleet of Ford cars on the road up to date in terms of connected tech. Ford engineers built SmartLink in collaboration with Delphi Automotive and Verizon Telematics. The device will be available at Ford and Lincoln dealerships this summer.

In other news, Nissan and BMW joined forces with EVgo, America's largest public DC Fast charging network, to increase public access to DC Fast charging stations across the US. Some 174 locations in 33 states are now available to all EV owners in those markets, thanks to the new partnership, and more than 50 are planned to be installed in 2017.

US lawmakers proposed a new law that mandates a set of standards around cyber security in all new vehicles sold in the US. The SPY Car Study Act envisions a sweeping effort among carmakers, car suppliers, academics and government agencies (theNational Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology, the Department of Defence) to determine how to secure driver data and what firewalls are necessary to protect critical systems from malicious intrusion.

The lion’s share of automotive executives believe that leveraging driver and vehicle data to offer mobility services is the fuel for future business growth in the auto industry, according to the 2017 KPMG Global Automotive Executive Study. The KPMG research, which polled nearly 1,000 executives from top carmakers, found that 76% say one connected car generates more revenue streams than 10 conventional cars. Expectations for data-driven revenue are so great that 71% say measuring carmaker market share based on units sold is outdated.

LexisNexis Risk Solutionsdebuted a new analytics solution that can identify a driver by the way they handle their car — how they corner, how quickly they accelerate, etc. The tech is called Driver Signature and it could have a big impact on the usage based insurance market, where insurers offering UBI policies have to blindly trust that the policyholder is the person driving the car and not a partner, friend, young driver or parent. The Driver Signature telematics platform identifies drivers by processing vast amounts of data and is compatible with smartphone apps, OBDII devices and embedded connected car systems.

Finally, driverless cars could be a boon for road safety, increased productivity and… remote Irish pubs. An Irish senator by the name of Paddy Burke proposed last week that the Irish government should ramp up its efforts around driverless vehicle testing and adoption, in part because it could help revitalise rural areas, their historic pubs included.  Irish senators were discussing the Action Plan for Rural Development. Burke pointed out that it's way easier and safer to get soused in the countryside if you don't have to worry about the drive back home.

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

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