Weekly Brief: Let the intelligent navigation era begin

Weekly Brief: Let the intelligent navigation era begin

In this week’s Brief: Opel, Chevrolet, University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, TomTom, Google, Inrix, Garmin, Google, Flutter, United States Patent and Trademark Office, Consumer Electronics Association, Clifford, Cobra, Kenwood, Simple, SiriusXM, Sony, QNX, Cadillac, Acura and Nokia HERE.

What if navigation systems – rather than simply guide drivers from point A to point B – could calculate the most efficient route based on current traffic, car type, topography and a host of other factors? Opel might well be onto an answer as part of its research project iZEUS (intelligent Zero Emission Urban System).

Last week, the German car maker announced plans to test the concept of “intelligent navigation” on Ampera, its extended-range plug-in vehicle and the overseas twin to Chevrolet Volt. Opel says its system will base navigation decisions on current road conditions, topography, weather, battery temperature and performance of air-conditioning, in the hopes of both reducing range anxiety and eliminating reliance on gas-powered generators in electric vehicles. The field trial will unfold in Stuttgart, Germany.

"The connection between mobility and sustainable energy supply has always been of key importance to Opel, so much so that we offer our customers green-energy electricity contracts for the Ampera,” says Christian Kunstmann, head of development for powertrain electrification at Opel. “The iZEUS project is about bringing this experience to the development of simple and customer-oriented accounting systems for battery charging."

Also on the navigation front, an independent benchmarking study from the Transportation Research Institute at the University of Michigan crowned TomTom’s iPhone Navigation App and GO 2535 PND as the most accurate after-market products for real-time traffic data. Dubbed “Stuck in Traffic,” the study found that both products accurately detected traffic jams two out of three times. Not bad, especially when stacked up against the competition: Google was second with 52% accuracy, Inrix third with 38% and Garmin fourth with a lackluster 22%.

In other news, Google purchased Flutter, a hand-gesture recognition company, and a day later filed for a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for gesture-based in-car controls. Flutter’s technology utilizes an in-dash camera to capture driver gestures (road rage outbursts aside) to control in-car features, theoretically eliminating the need to hit dashboard buttons or controls. Google says that, similar to its impetus for self-driving cars, the goal here is safer roads and less driver distraction.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) in the United States launched a multi-stage campaign to educate consumers and policymakers on the positive role that electronics can play in enhancing driver safety. Consumer electronics gadgets carry the stigma (many say rightly) of being distracting for drivers, a perception the association and sponsoring organizations Clifford, Cobra, Kenwood, Simple, SiriusXM andSony would like to change.

First step: a new website that highlights electronics that can improve hands-free functionality, reduce eyes-off-the-road time and provide advance warnings about road conditions and lane changes.

QNX announced a noise control solution aimed at improving the performance of voice-recognition technology. In place of a traditional hardware solution, QNX’s “Acoustics for Active Noise Control” is a pure software solution that reduces unwanted engine noise. QNX says that, in addition to outperforming hardware solutions, its software is also a lot cheaper. QNX plans to deploy a team of its engineers to assist OEMs with acoustic tuning.

On the infotainment front, a number of OEMs announced in-dash upgrades for existing models. Cadillac says its CUE connectivity system will now come standard-fitted in the model year 2015 Cadillac Escalade. The model year 2014 ILX model from Acura, meanwhile, will come with Pandora radio and AcuraLink telematics services. And the 2014 Hyundai Sonata SE will feature an upgraded user interface with enhanced voice recognition commands and improved navigation screens.

Finally, Nokia HERE unveiled a community-based approach toward filling in black spots on maps in developing nations. HERE plans to launch a crowd-based mapping pilot in which handpicked local experts will be able to add missing streets, bridges and points of interests (POIs) using a tool called “Map Creator.” A community map moderation system will ensure accuracy and quality, and the information will then be combined with HERE’s traditional industrial data.

"Sophisticated map-making is already a human- and capital-intensive business,” says Michael Halbherr, executive vice president of HERE. “Add to this the fact that the world around us is constantly evolving with the addition of new roads, new infrastructure and even new names, and cartographers simply can't keep up. In vibrant, fast-growing countries like India, a community mapping approach, paired with input from the right experts, means HERE can keep pace with the ever-evolving landscape so that our maps are never obsolete.”

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 Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas.

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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