Weekly Brief: GM launches in-car supermarket

General Motors wants to turn your dashboard into a hub for pre-orders and purchases. Andrew Tolve reports.

Feeling in the mood for a dark mocha frappuccino? How about a glazed doughnut or some spicy hot chicken wings? Now you can order any of these with a tap of your touchscreen in select General Motors cars, trucks and crossovers. That’s because GM rolled out the auto industry’s first commerce platform for on-demand reservations and purchases of goods and services last week. Dubbed GM Marketplace, the platform harnesses 4G LTE connectivity to connect drivers with their favourite brands in retail, fuel, hospitality, food, hotel and transportation through the in-vehicle touchscreen.

GM has an impressive line-up of big brands on-board. TGI Fridays lets drivers reserve a table; Starbucks, Wingstop and Dunkin’ Doughnuts enable pre-order and payment; Shell Gas leads drivers to the nearest Shell station and lets them pay from their dash. Marketplace also features a ‘shop’ section dedicated to offers specific to GM vehicles; for instance, purchasing Wi-Fi data, discounts for an oil change or deals on GM accessories. GM is adding Marketplace to millions of existing 2017 and 2018 model-year vehicles that have compatible infotainment systems, with continued rollout to compatible new vehicles in the coming months. A separate data plan is not required to use Marketplace.

In other news, Ford signed a partnership with Chinese Internet giant Alibaba to start selling Ford electric vehicles online through Alibaba’s search engine. This would give Ford a valuable direct-to-consumer sales model in China and might foretell an era when direct-to-consumer car sales reshape the car market in places like the US and the UK. Ford and Alibaba also plan to jointly explore mobility services, connectivity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and digital marketing.

Nissan has opened membership enrolment for a new car-sharing service in Japan called “e-share mobi”. The programme will launch on the 15th of January, 2018 and will initially feature the new Nissan LEAF and the Nissan Note e-POWER at about 30 stations in prefectures across Japan. Part of the idea is to generate excitement around Nissan’s new autonomous driving technologies and electric drive systems. No monthly fees required.

BlackBerry and Qualcomm plan to jointly develop automotive platforms for the next generation of connected vehicles. Qualcomm will supply the hardware and BlackBerry the software to build everything from virtual cockpit controllers to digital instrument clusters, infotainment systems and cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology. The two also plan to offer BlackBerry’s over-the-air (OTA) software and secure credential management (SCM) services through Qualcomm Snapdragon modems.

Renault unveiled a working prototype for its self-driving SYMBIOZ concept that it debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September. The SYMBIOZ Demo car is what Renault describes as an “extra mobile, modular and multi-purpose room” on wheels. There’s no centre console and transmission tunnel. There’s built-in lighting on the doors, individual seats for each passenger and a three-screen digital display developed by LG – features that led critics to call it implausible yet now there’s a working vehicle with Level 4 autonomous driving to boot.

Finally, Airbiquity updated its OTAmatic solution to make it easier for carmakers to run OTA software updates and data management campaigns. OTAmatic now includes an Edge Data Analytics Framework that anonymises and normalises vehicle data to generate value for carmakers and third parties. It also includes on-demand software updates that enables consumers to purchase new features and services post-vehicle sale.

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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