Weekly Brief: Forget smartphones, MWC was all about the connected car

The mobile industry’s signature conference turned into a five-day exhibition about the future of the connected car. Andrew Tolve reports. 

Connected car mania descended on Barcelona as the mobile industry gathered for Mobile World Congress 2017AT&T turned an entire wing of the conference into a Connected Car Showroom complete with interactive experiences that demonstrate connected car features of today and the future. There was a “Cars as a Service” breakout session and a worldwide debut from PeugeotDaimlerBMWAudiGM and Ford were also in attendance; Ford constructed a City of Tomorrow exhibit complete with self-driving “Autolivery” vans that launch drones from their roofs.

None of this is typical. Mobile World Congress is the mobile industry’s signature event, as Wimbledon is to tennis or Augusta National is to golf. This is supposed to be the place where smartphones, smartwatches, tablets and virtual reality devices take centre stage. Then again, cars added more cellular service to their dashboards than any other mobile device in the first quarter of 2016, a datapoint that has captured the attention of everyone from telecoms to app makers. It showed in Barcelona. 

Here is a recap of the past week’s activities:

Peugeot unveiled its vision for the self-driving car of the future, the Peugeot Instinct. The plug-in hybrid concept car features both a Drive Mode and an Autonomous Mode, much like a Tesla Model S, and an onboard Internet of Things platform called “ArtikCloud” from Samsung that allows the car to automatically sync with devices and conform the cabin to individual preferences.

Honda launched its MyHonda Connected Car platform across the European continent. MyHonda utilises telematics solutions from Bright Box, powered by the Cisco Jasper Control Centre automated IoT connectivity management platform, to deliver vehicle information and diagnostics, automatic scheduling of maintenance and GPS tracking for location-based services.

Ford is adding 4G to new Ford vehicles in Europe through a partnership with Vodafone. The technology is called FordPass Connect — that’s a fancy way to say an embedded 4G modem that serves as a WiFi hotspot for all devices in the car. Plus it provides real-time traffic updates and allows drivers to check in on their cars and even control some features from their smartphones, no matter where their car is located.

General Motors announced that it too is adding 4G to some of its vehicles. Thanks to a partnership with Telefonica Mexico, a 4G Wifi hotspot will appear in a handful of 2018 Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac and Buick models as part of the OnStar package in Mexico.

BMW had a BMW i3 on hand to demonstrate its new gesture-controlled parking feature. A technical evolution of the remote control parking system, gesture-controlled parking allows a driver to manoeuvre his or her car in and out of a parking space, with the whole process initiated by the driver from outside the vehicle with a simple wave of the hand.

MercedesBenz rolled a Concept EQ onto the exhibition floor so show-goers could check out its virtual reality cockpit features, and an E-Class Coupe so they could explore its COMAND Online connectivity platform. Mercedes also took its “smart ready to share” platform live, which makes it easy for drivers to share their cars with friends and co-workers without having to physically hand off a key.

Qualcomm is working with TomTom to revolutionise how high-definition maps get made. Rather than fleets of dedicated vehicles logging hundreds of thousands of miles to collect raw data, Qualcomm’s Drive Data Platform allows any connected car on the road to become a participant in crowdsourcing map data, contributing real-time inputs like traffic and weather. TomTom plans to use the platform for its HD Map, which assists automated vehicles to precisely locate themselves on the road and help determine which way to manoeuvre, even when traveling at high speeds.

Huawei and Vodafone showed off an Audi with the ability to connect to nearby cars via the use of cellular technology called Cellular V2X (C-V2X). This was the first demonstration of its sort on European soil; conference goers could hop into the driver seat and see a range of C-V2X applications, from emergency braking and pedestrian warnings to live video feed from nearby vehicles to help avoid dangerous road conditions.

SAP announced that a host of big name partners have joined the SAP Vehicles Network, including NokiaHertzMojio and Concur Technologies. Through the network, member companies can offer secure, convenient services — independent of devices or vehicles — such as parking, fuelling and location-based food services, tailored for the business traveler or the individual consumer.

Outside of the conference, ChargePoint announced that its EV charging stations are coming to Europe. The Silicon-Valley-based startup just wrapped up a round of funding to support the expansion, led by $82 million from Daimler. ChargePoint already has 7000 charging locations in North America.

Finally, Ford is bringing live TV to infotainment screens. The company announced that it’s all-new Expedition out this fall will come with dual-headrest rear seat entertainment system monitors that allow passengers to watch movies and video – even TV shows and live sporting events – streamed from a home cable or satellite system. The system is called EVO by developer VOXXHirschmann Corp.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources. Sign up here to receive the Weekly Brief in your inbox every Monday.


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