Weekly Brief: GM caps month of innovation by creating dedicated self-driving car team

Well this is getting repetitive. Another week, another headline-grabber from General Motors (GM) on the connected car front. The latest: the automaker has created a self-driving car unit dedicated to establishing GM as a leader in self-driving innovation. The Autonomous and Technology Vehicle Development Team will include a dedicated position for engineering innovation, another for building autonomous vehicle fleets and forging joint ventures with other self-driving car projects. GM’s former vice-president of global product programmes, Doug Perks, will take the helm.

If you’re wondering what the heck is going on here, we don’t blame you. Before 2016 rolled around, GM was perceived as a glacially slow adopter of connected vehicle technologies beyond its age-old OnStar. The company was conservative on the infotainment front and avoided words like “autonomous” or “self-driving” altogether, even when talking about features like Super Cruise. The sea change over the last month, first with a $500M (£344M) investment in ridesharing company Lyft, then the acquisition of Sidecar and ensuing launch of its own ridesharing service Maven, suggests a sharp change of tactics for the automaker in 2016. Anyone’s guess for what they do next.

Speaking of ridesharing, Uber launched a pilot to collect data from gyrometers and accelerometers in users’ smartphones to see how well or poorly its drivers are performing. Uber encourages all riders to rate their drivers after a trip is finished; the goal of the pilot is to corroborate that feedback with cold, hard facts from users’ smartphones. No word yet on where the pilot is underway.

In other news, The IBM Research Lab in Dublin, Ireland, is working on how to turn parked cars from a wasted urban resource — just sitting there taking up all that room — to a supplier of powerful information for the greater good. In particular, the lab wants to equip connected cars with motion detectors that help deter home break-ins, active gas leak sensors that help detect noxious fumes and detection sensors that can notify authorities when a lost pet is nearby. Connected cars catching lost cats. Good on ya, IBM!

On-demand parking app ParkWhiz acquired the largest parking app in New York City, BestParking. That gives ParkWhiz a coverage of 800,000 spaces in the US (in case you’re counting) and cements it as the largest parking app in the country, a distinction that’s only likely to grow thanks to its latest haul of $24M in Series C funding.

Canadian insurance firm InsureMy rolled out an insurance telematics pilot targeted at “innovative young drivers.” That’s code word for the parents of teenagers who are freaked out that their kids are off speeding, braking lights, cornering too fast, or just driving in general when they shouldn’t be. The “New Drivers Intelligence” programme keeps parents appraised of all these details while enabling their kids to prove that they’re actually good drivers. Pilot launches in Alberta and Ontario.

Finally, what about Africa? The connected car may be booming in America and Europe. It’s definitely hot in China and Russia. Latin America is light on embedded solutions but heavy on aftermarket alternatives. But the cradle of mankind is once again falling behind when it comes to technological advancement.

Enter PSA Peugeot Citroën and its new OpenLab in Morocco dedicated to bringing the car of the future to Africa. The lab is a joint effort between four Moroccan universities headlined by University of Rabat, the two American universities of Georgia Tech and Mississippi State, and a local Ecole Centrale engineering school. Plans call for a four-year research programme exploring sustainable mobility systems built around electric vehicles, renewable energy and the logistics of the future. The OpenLab in Morocco joins 12 other OpenLabs in Europe, China and Latin America.

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *