Weekly Brief: Let the automotive app wars begin

Weekly Brief: Let the automotive app wars begin

In this week’s Brief: Apple, Google, Open Automotive Alliance, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, NVIDIA, BMW, Mercedes, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Ford, Hyundai, TomTom, Telit Wireless, NXP, ATOP and Asset Protection Unit.

Ever since Apple announced iOS in the Car, its mobile platform for automobiles, last June, industry watchers have awaited Google’s counterpunch. The wait is now over with the Jan. 6 announcement of the Open Automotive Alliance, a global alliance of Google, Audi, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. 

Timing from each automaker will vary, but the first cars with Android integration are expected by the end of this year.

The move positions the two software giants for an all-out war in 2014. The Open Automotive Alliance is expected to make it easier for mobile app designers to transition to the automotive space and design individual apps that work across the automotive segment. iOS in the Car has already made inroads with the likes of BMW, Mercedes, General Motors and Honda.

“Millions of people are already familiar with Android and use it every day,” said Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome & Apps at Google. “The expansion of the Android platform into automotive will allow our industry partners to more easily integrate mobile technology into cars and offer drivers a familiar, seamless experience so they can focus on the road.”

In other news, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reneged on a promise to finalize its decision about V2X technology by Dec. 31, 2013. 

The NHTSA was supposed to signal to automakers whether vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology would be mandatory in future models, or if the technology would be encouraged through further research and targeted programs. The NHTSA was busy testing V2X technology throughout 2013 in Ann Arbor and still plans to make an announcement within the first month of the new year.

Ford announced that it will make its Ford SYNC AppLink available on 3.4 million more vehicles in 2014. The free upgrade will apply to vehicles manufactured between 2010 and 2014 and will enable current Ford owners to access and control smartphone apps via voice commands. SYNC AppLink was first rolled out in 2010 and now includes an ecosystem of more than 60 smartphone apps for both iOS and Android.

Hyundai announced that its next generation of products, starting with the 2015 Genesis, will allow owners to connect with their vehicles using wearable devices like Google Glass. Hyundai's Cloud-based Blue Link platform will sync up to the wearables and make features like remote start and maintenance information quickly accessible. Hyundai plans to launch a Blue Link Glassware application in early next year with the 2015 Genesis sedan.

TomTom launched a new range of portable navigation devices in the United States and Canada. The TomTom GO PNDs feature Interactive Map, 3D Maps and Lifetime TomTom Traffic, which allows drivers to pinpoint traffic and make real-time decisions about the fastest alternate routes.

In the first major acquisition of the year, Telit Wireless purchased NXP’s ATOP business for $9 million, subject to closing. ATOP is an automotive-grade solution, which enables vehicle manufacturers to implement telematics services like eCall in a single, compact and cost-efficient package. 

Finally, in an unusual piece of news, a telematics black box last week helped sentence a man to 11 years in prison for attempted murder. The drama unfolded in Glasgow, Scotland, where a man attacked another man, then drove off without realizing that a telematics tracking system was embedded in his car. When the assailant claimed he was in a different part of the country at the time of the attempted murder, police were able to expose his lie thanks to the telematics device.

“It is extremely pleasing to have been an important cog in convicting an individual like this,” said Neil Thomas of Asset Protection Unit (APU), the motor anti-fraud team responsible for the device, at the trial in Edinburgh.

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, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.

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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