Weekly Brief: German carmaker consortium closes the deal on Nokia HERE

In this week’s Brief: BMW, Daimler, Audi, Nokia HERE, Facebook, Uber, Baidu, Google, Apple, DefCon, Black Hat USA, Tesla, Lookout, Charlie Miller, Chris Valasek, SPY Car Act, Chrysler, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Harman, BMW, PG&E, Quantum Inventions, Risk Technology, Driveway, Metropolitan Transport Authority and Mobileye.

 

It’s finally final: BMW, Daimler and Audi have purchased Nokia HERE for $3.1 billion. The deal closes months of back-room negotiations and public rumors that any of a host of big names would acquire one of the top digital mapping and location service companies in the world. Facebook was reportedly interested, as was Uber, as was Chinese search giant Baidu.

 

But in the end it was the German car consortium that landed the coveted prize, giving them an open mapping platform that will guarantee their independence from the likes of Google and Apple as maps and navigation become ever more central to the connected car — and the self-driving car in particular.

 

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, at which point the consortium plans to move the HERE business case forward as a platform open to all customers.

 

In other news, car hacking took center stage at the world’s biggest hacking conferences, DefCon and Black Hat USA in Las Vegas, where the focus was on the Internet of Things and the connected car. DefCon featured an entire Car Hacking Village replete with cars like the Tesla Model S for hackers to play with. This proved a bit awkward for Tesla, as a couple days before the conference kicked off it was forced to issue a software patch for six flaws exposed by researchers from cybersecurity firm Lookout who were able to take control of a Model S and shut it down at low speeds. The hackers even gave a presentation on it right around the corner from the Tesla booth.

 

At Black Hat, hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek discussed their recent high-profile hacking of a Jeep Cherokee, which got featured in Wired Magazine, was cited by U.S. Senators as one of the reasons the new SPY Car Act is necessary, and led to a voluntary safety recall of 1.4 million Chrysler vehicles to fix the faulty software (for more TU-Auto analysis, read here). The goal of both conferences was to expose weaknesses in systems and to encourage their dismantling, but also to stimulate thought on how they can be rebuilt with higher standards of security.

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an investigation into Harman, whose Uconnect dashboard computer proved the weak link in the Chrysler hack. NHTSA says it wants to determine the nature and extent of similarities between Uconnect and other Harman infotainment products provided to other carmakers. If sufficient similarities exist, the investigation will highlight unidentified security issues in other Harman products that might allow unauthorized third-party access to, and manipulation of, networked vehicle control systems.

 

It got worse for Chrysler and Harman when three Jeep Cherokee owners announced that they intended to slap the carmaker and auto supplier with a massive class action lawsuit. The crux of their case is that Chrysler knew about the security flaw back in early 2014 but did nothing about it until the hackers publicly embarrassed the company in Wired Magazine a few weeks ago. The suit would demand compensation for jeopardized security for potentially more than a million drivers, as well as a mandatory recall to fix all compromised vehicle software.

 

“There is no good reason for the same vehicle system that runs Pandora to have the capability to talk to the brakes,” the plaintiff’s attorney said to Wired. “This is the real defect with these vehicles. Our goal with this lawsuit is to force Chrysler and Harman to conduct a proper recall where the actual issue is addressed.”

 

BMW and PG&E launched iChargeForward, an 18-month pilot in the San Francisco Bay Area that encourages drivers to forego charging their electric vehicles when the grid is under peak pressure. Participating BMW i3 drivers receive text message alerts from BMW whenever PG&E needs them to back off charging. Down the line, smart technologies that constantly communicate with the grid and can monitor charging without the need for driver input may replace the text-message-based system, but for now it’s a start. The incentive is a $1000 gift card up front and a $500 gift card at the end for the 100 participating drivers.

 

Insurance telematics is coming to Singapore. Local navigation and routing company Quantum Inventions has partnered up with global telematics firm Risk Technology to develop a navigation solution that enables users to see driver behaviour information. The device collects the info by monitoring core parameters such as acceleration, deceleration, speed, location and time of day. QI and Risk plan to offer the device to insurers as part of usage-based insurance programs. They’ll also go direct to consumer (individuals and fleets) through a gamified app that encourages drivers to improve their driver score.

 

UBI remains an attractive investment, even if it’s yet to deliver the massive breakthroughs that many in the industry predicted would arrive by now. Last week Drivewise.ly, the iOS and Android app that helps insurers identify and reward safer drivers, racked up another $10 million in funding for its parent company, Silicon-Valley-based Driveway. The funding came mostly from Russian investors and will be used for growth in new markets and talent acquisition.

 

Finally, remember the Intelligent Speed Adaptation pilot we detailed last month from the city of London, which is trying to make its busses the safest, smartest vehicles on the road? Looks like New York City was taking notes. The Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) has a pilot underway in its buses for driver alert, pedestrian alert, and crash avoidance technology. The city meanwhile is considering a bill that would mandate crash avoidance technology across its fleet of 28,000 vehicles. If the bill passes, the city will kick things off with a pilot of Mobileye driver alert and automatic braking technology in 100 city-owned vehicles.

 

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.

 

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