Weekly Brief: Man jams cell phones in cars, gets hit with $48k fine

Weekly Brief: Man jams cell phones in cars, gets hit with $48k fine

In this week’s Brief: Federal Communications Commission, TomTom, Garmin, Telenav, HERE, Google, Deutsche Telekom, T-Systems, Ford, Navigation Information Services, ERA-GLONASS, BeiDou, China FOT project, China-Sweden Research Centre for Traffic Safety and Volvo Car Corporation.

Hackers and vigilantes, back off. This was the message that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sent last week when it slapped a $48,000 fine on a Florida man for using a cell phone jamming device on his daily commute. The man, Jason Humphries, was arrested last year after authorities found him jamming local cell phone coverage during morning and evening commutes, effectively rendering all cell phones (including those of emergency first-responders) and connected in-car infotainment systems useless.

Humphries claimed that he was trying to do society a service by keeping people from talking on their phones while driving. However, the FCC didn’t buy it. And it noted that the jamming shenanigans of one guy on a single stretch of road in Florida goes to show the broader threat of hacking on the connected car. How telematics service providers, automakers and governments come together to make connected in-car infotainment jamming-proof remains to be seen.

(To find out more, see Telematics and data security.)

In other news, a number of companies in the telematics and connected car space posted first-quarter results for 2014.

Among the highlights, TomTom reported an overall revenue of €205 million, a 2% increase from Q1 2013 due to higher PND revenue in EMEA, higher sports revenue and a 29% jump in telematics-generated revenue; Garmin’s revenue jumped by 10% to $583 million, although that growth came largely from outdoor and fitness GPS solutions, while automotive sales were down 10%; Telenav earned $34.5 million, down 37% year-on-year due to declines in its traditional navigation solutions; and HERE's external net sales were €185 million, an increase of 13% year-on-year, driven by strong sales to vehicle customers.

Google added the location of a parked vehicle to its Android personal assistant, Google Now. The new service uses a mix of smartphone sensors and GPS to register the approximate location of a parked vehicle and provides walking directions back to it. Google warns that the service is not precise enough to know one parking spot from the next apart, but it can tell roughly where on the block the car was parked.

Deutsche Telekom’s IT subsidiary, T-Systems, introduced a new retrofit kit for cars that plugs into the OBD2 port and funnels diagnostic data such as mileage, battery voltage and brake status to the driver’s smartphone. It can also send the information to car dealerships, enabling them to respond quickly in case of an incident. A pilot is underway with dealerships in Germany, and the kit will be generally available later in 2014.

Telenav announced that it has extended its navigation product agreement with Ford to Dec. 31, 2017. The company also updated its Scout for iPhone app with some nifty crowd-sourced POI features. The new Scout includes a personalized dashboard with community-powered suggestions for where to eat and drink, and an arrival guide with parking suggestions.

Chinese delegates met with leaders of Russia’s Navigation Information Services (NIS) to explore Russia’s help in powering a Chinese eCall system. China is yet to mandate a national emergency response system, but it has already opened talks with the European Commission about an E.U.-Chinese partnership on this front, noting that it wants to learn as much as possible from countries committed to national response systems before unveiling a system of its own. A China-Russia partnership would blend Russia’s ERA-GLONASS with China’s satellite navigation system, BeiDou.

Finally, think of your most egregious behavior behind the wheel while stuck in traffic. Laying on the horn perhaps? Or hitting your flashers? Or flipping the bird? How about screaming? Hammering the dashboard? Venting on the phone?


Now imagine a colony of in-vehicle cameras capturing your every move and sending them off to researchers for careful study. Welcome to the China FOT project, a joint project of the China-Sweden Research Centre for Traffic Safety and Volvo Car Corporation that aims to study Chinese drivers under the intense pressure of traffic jams in China’s megacities. The ultimate goal is to test Volvo’s existing safety and driver support capabilities and to illuminate areas of opportunity for new solutions based on real driver behavior. The study starts May 1 and will last 10 months.

“The baseline behavior of a driver is pretty much the same wherever you go in the world,” says John-Fredrik Grönvall, manager traffic accident research at Volvo Cars Safety Centre. “However, the culture and the specific traffic environment are local factors that influence vital behaviors, such as how you take and avoid risks in intense city traffic. This is one of our main focus areas in the China FOT study.”

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 Telematics Update.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics Europe 2014 on May 6-7 in London, Data Business for Connected Vehicles Japan 2014 on May 14-15 in Tokyo, Telematics India and South Asia 2014 on May 28-29 in Bangalore, India, Insurance Telematics Canada 2014 on May 28-29 in Toronto, Telematics Update Awards 2014 on June 3 in Novi, Michigan, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, Advanced Automotive Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan, Insurance Telematics USA 2014 on Sept. 3-4 in Chicago, Telematics Japan 2014 in October in Tokyo and Telematics Munich 2014 on Nov. 10-11 in Munich, Germany.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Insurance Telematics Report 2014Connected Fleet Report 2014The Automotive HMI Report 2013 and Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013

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