Weekly Brief: Leaks from Ford, Apple & Tesla

Weekly Brief: Leaks from Ford, Apple & Tesla

In this week’s Brief: Microsoft, QNX, Ford, The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics, BlackBerry, Bloomberg, Accenture, San Francisco Chronicle, Apple, Tesla Motors, Octo Telematics, Renova Group, Intact Insurance, belairdirect, Hyundai, MNSOFT, UIEvolution, Red Bend Software, Mobile World Congress, GM, Toyota, Chevrolet, Motiva Group and The Landscape Group.

Microsoft is out, QNX is in. That’s the news that leaked from Ford last week and was first reported by The Hansen Report on Automotive Electronics. After several years of Ford customers complaining of glitches with their SYNC infotainment systems (frozen touchscreens chief among those complaints), Ford dumped Microsoft and the expense of licensing its technology, and went with the faster, more nimble and more cost-effective QNX.

This is a win for BlackBerry, which purchased QNX in 2010, and continues to spar with Microsoft to become the primary software supplier for automotive operating systems. Microsoft, QNX and Ford are yet to comment on the news, although Bloomberg suggested that Ford is feeling pressure to step up its performance on the infotainment front given the fact that connected car features have become one of the most important selling points for 39% of auto buyers, according to an Accenture study.

Sticking with leaked news, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last week that Apple’s top dealmaker, Adrian Perica, met with Tesla Motors’ CEO, Elon Musk, late last year to discuss a possible acquisition of Tesla by Apple. At the time, Tesla was confronting a battery fire imbroglio. But Apple – eager to make further inroads into the connected vehicle environment – is reportedly still interested in opening discussions. Whether the tech giant will move forward with Tesla remains highly speculative (it would be a roughly $24 billion acquisition were it to materialize), especially since Apple has built its empire on in-house innovation rather than acquisitions. Nonetheless, the story of an Apple on wheels (the iCar?) is too alluring to go away anytime soon.

In other news, Octo Telematics launched operations in Canada, marking yet another frontier for the global usage-based insurance leader. Octo is fresh off a $405 million acquisition by Russian company Renova Group, which aims to launch Octo into the Russian market as well. The company has already landed contracts in Canada with Intact Insurance and belairdirect.

Hyundai’s infotainment company, MNSOFT,announced a new over-the-air technology that allows the company to keep in-car navigation systems current with the latest maps. The technology sends incremental updates using a mobile phone as a Wi-Fi network host. The solution includes a mobile database management system that ensures that the update only include the newest, latest data — a challenge that has derailed many a previous attempt at similar solutions. MNSOFT says the solution is close to being commercially ready.

Similarly, UIEvolution and Red Bend Software announced that they have partnered up on a proof of concept that enables in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems to be updated over-the-air using a smartphone. The solution intends to use the smartphone to download new IVI information over wireless or Wi-Fi networks. When the smartphone is paired with the vehicle, it will automatically upload the updates to its IVI system. The partners plan to demonstrate the concept at this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Reports suggested that the polar vortex that gripped the United States in January had a negative effect on car sales for GM, Ford and Toyota. On the positive side, GM reported that, thanks to the frigid weather, its RemoteLink telematics app set single-day and single-hour request records. For all of January, Chevrolet owners made 2,909,674 requests through the app. Of that total traffic, 55% were for remote start and 15% were to check the car’s vehicle data, such as tire pressure or oil life. Owners of Volt extended-range electric vehicles also queried how the frigid temperatures affected charging levels.

Finally, first came fleet tracking, next comes – wait for it – lawn mower tracking. That’s the latest news from Motiva Group, which has retooled a convoy of 250 ride-on mowers belonging to The Landscape Group to provide real-time data on how each vehicle is being used. The system is precise enough to keep track of when each machine is cutting grass, picking litter or running idle. Look out lawn mowers day dreaming in the daisy patch!

“It was a complex request, but we came up with a solution which will provide tracking information for their whole fleet and which will give their contract managers direct details of how the machinery is being used,” says Paul Holdcroft of Motiva Group. “It will provide information on driver behavior that can help reduce fuel costs and improve productivity by as much as 20%.”

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 contributor to TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Insurance Telematics Europe 2014 on May 6-7 in London, Telematics India and South Asia 2014 on May 28-29 in Bangalore, India, Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 on May 28-29 in Toronto, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, Advanced Automotive Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan, and Telematics Munich 2014 on Nov. 10-11 in Munich, Germany.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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