Weekly Brief: INRIX taps car big data to revolutionise billboards

At high motorway speeds, you can't process much from a billboard. Maybe a word or two. A bold image. In gridlock, on the other hand, you can consume whole passages of text, plus disclaimers in fine print. It's a quandary that has vexed advertisers for years.

Enter INRIX, which just wrapped up a five-week field trial that connected digital billboards in Montreal and Toronto to traffic flow data generated by cars driving by them in real-time. Based upon the speed of flow, the billboards were able to display one of four different ads for yogurt company Dannon.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. INRIX generates billions of real-time data points from in-car navigation systems (Volvo, Audi and Ford are all customers) and from its mobile navigation app, INRIX Traffic. Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) possibilities abound. Picture storefronts changing their advertising based upon the type of car driving by, or the race or age of the driver inside; or real-time updates and warnings zinging back and forth from car to car.

INRIX and Dynamic Outdoor, the company that makes the digital billboards, are now processing the data to see if the trial generated local spikes in Dannon sales.

Renault has already trialled a similar system to advertise its new Megane in West London. Developed and tested over the past 12 months by Digital Out-Of-Home (DOOH) advertising specialists Ocean, the vehicle recognition technology was used for the first time at their Holland Park Roundabout location in West London. The campaign, featuring the French car brand’s new compact family hatchback, is based on the popular car journey game, I-Spy.

In other news, Daimler trained its crosshairs on Uber with the 60% acquisition of ridesharing company Hailo. Daimler plans to merge Hailo with its existing ridesharing venture, MyTaxi, to create one of the largest ridesharing companies in Europe. MyTaxi is popular across mainland Europe; Hailo focuses on the UK and Ireland. Hailo headquarters, R&D and staff will move to Germany.

A team of top auto safety advocates are alarmed at the US government’s perceived blind love for self-driving cars, despite evidence that the technology isn’t ready for prime time. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)is yet to take action following the first fatal accident involving a robot car (a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode), and is permitting the rollout of similar features in cars like the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E Class. The advocates, who include a former NHTSA director Joan Claybrook, the executive director of the Center for Auto Safety Clarence Ditlow and the executive director of Consumer Watchdog Carmen Balber, charged in an open letter that NHTSA “inexcusably [is] rushing full speed ahead” to promote the deployment of self-driving robot car technology instead of developing adequate safety standards “crucial to ensuring imperfect technologies do not kill people by being introduced into vehicles before the technology matures”.

The advocates wrote a second open letter to Mercedes-Benz, excoriating the automaker for advertising its new E Class as “a vehicle that can drive itself”, while leaving it to a barely legible asterisk in fine print to point out that the “vehicle cannot drive itself but has automated driving features”. The advocates believe the ad could give consumers “a false sense of security in the ability of the car to operate autonomously”, leading to potentially deadly ramifications. Decide for yourself here.

Tesla ditched Mobileye, the Israeli supplier of the image sensors for Tesla’s Autopilot system. Whether this is fallout from the Autopilot crash in Florida back in May or just a natural Tesla transition to in-house software for the camera portion of Autopilot, as Tesla claims, is unclear.

Ford announced that its entire 2017 line-up, from cars to SUVs to light trucks and electric vehicles, will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The upgrade comes courtesy of the new SYNC 3 connectivity platform. Another forward-facing SYNC 3 feature: over-the-air updates via Wi-Fi to ensure the platform stays astride of future technology.

Finally, mapping company HERE unveiled a trifecta of super-personalised navigation features. Users of the HERE app will now receive real-time traffic alerts along routes they usually travel, thus enabling better planning. They’ll get recommendations for nearby gas stations based upon personal preference for brand and average distance they’re willing to drive to save a few cents. They’ll also get off-street parking recommendations based on the price they like to pay and how far they’re willing to hoof it to get to their destination.

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


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