Weekly Brief: Let the 4G LTE ad wars begin

In this week’s Brief: Chevrolet, Audi, GoGo, Volvo, WirelessCar, SK Telecom, Telecom New Zealand, Bentley, Vertu, CONSOB, Vodafone, Cobra Automotive, VW, Passat, The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab and Monotype Imaging Holdings Inc.


Chevrolet set the 4G LTE ad wars in motion last week with a campaign in the U.S. across TV, cinema, mobiles and tablet, in-flight, internet radio and events. Unlike “telematics,” “4G LTE” is a catchword that requires little education on the part of the brand, yet encompasses many of the connected features that carmakers are eager to advertise. Audi, the first car brand in the U.S. to roll out 4G capabilities, made the initial 4G ad gambit with a series of ads featuring British comedian Ricky Gervais (take a look here).


Chevrolet’s ads will link the freedom that Wi-Fi enables with the beloved American theme of independence and liberty for all, in this case courtesy of a car brand offering the largest deployment of vehicles with built-in 4G LTE capabilities across cars, trucks and crossovers. The campaign includes a partnership with GoGo in-flight Wi-Fi that allows fliers to connect through unlimited Facebook access during flights.


“Bringing 4G LTE Wi-Fi to customers through Chevrolet cars, trucks and crossovers allows an entirely new level of connectivity in transportation,” says Paul Edwards, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Marketing.


In other news, it was a busy week in Asia, as Volvo delivered its first vehicles equipped with Volvo On Call to Chinese customers. Volvo On Call in China gives Volvo owners a direct line to a dedicated concierge — anytime, anywhere, for guidance, bookings, news and more — and provides other services like emergency-call, remote door unlock, stolen vehicle tracking and immobilization. Volvo On Call is powered by WirelessCar, whose telematics service provider architecture is built around a flexible smartphone application programming interface, which Volvo Cars now offers for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone platforms in China.           


In South Korea, SK Telecom signed a memorandum of understanding with Telecom New Zealand for cooperation in business and technology with regard to Internet of Things (IoT). The two telcos will specifically focus on the smart car, telematics and the smart city and aim to iron out cost-effective approaches to IoT business opportunities while creating a massive market around the connected car on the global scale. No word yet on when or where the two telcos will get to work.


In the U.K., meanwhile, Bentley said it will soon unveil an exclusive, luxury line of smartphones for its drivers. The phones will be manufactured in partnership with Vertu, with whom Bentley just penned an exclusive five-year partnership. We’re pretty skeptical that Bentley’s offering will usher back in the popularity of the 1990s car phone, although you never know what sort of trend/business model that Bentley might set in motion. The first Vertu for Bentley phone is planned for launch in October and will be followed by four others.


In Italy, regulator CONSOB approved Vodafone’s acquisition of Cobra Automotive Technologies S.p.A., Vodafone has made the deal final. Vodafone says its intention is to create a new global provider of connected car services that can offer Vodafone’s automotive and insurance customers a full range of telematics services. Vodafone’s offer values Cobra at €145 million.


VW announced that the head-up display (HUD), though far from the industry standard many telematics commentators once thought it would become, will be appearing in the new VW Passat out late this year. The Passat will include a fully digital instrument cluster, an extendible HUD that projects key information onto the windshield, as well as Emergency Assist, Trailer Assist and Traffic Jam Assist. Dealers will give buyers the option to choose which monitors and displays they want in their vehicles.


Finally, what’s the ideal font style for drivers safely glancing at their dashboards? The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s AgeLab says that it has developed a new, streamlined methodology for testing the legibility of typefaces on screens under glance-like conditions. MIT is working with Monotype Imaging Holdings Inc. on the project, and the two have researched the minimal time needed to recognize whether or not a string of letters was a word as opposed to a nonsense string.


The results of the tests found that on average, a humanist (Frutiger) typeface could be read accurately in shorter (8.8 percent) exposure times than a square grotesque (Eurostile) typeface. The researches also tested Chinese characters. The ultimate goal is to create a more flexible, cost- and time-effective way for designers to test specific typeface legibility under glance-like behavior – and help OEMs select a legible typeface for in-vehicle displays.


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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