Weekly Brief: MapQuest back in game with on-demand roadside assistance

Weekly Brief: MapQuest back in game with on-demand roadside assistance

In this week’s Brief: MapQuest, Apple, Google, Urgent.ly, INRIX, Samsung, KORE Telematics, ABRY Partners, RacoWireless, Tele2, L&T Technology Services, University of California San Francisco and TomTom.

Once-mighty MapQuest reclaimed a bit of its pioneer status with a new emergency response feature in its free navigation app. MapQuest app users can now summon a tow truck to their location on-demand for flat tires, dead batteries, lock-outs, empty fuel tanks, you name it. All it takes is a tap of the “roadside assistance” button on a smartphone and a user will connect to a nearby service provider all within the MapQuest integration. That’s a first for a navigation app and a feature that may allow third-place MapQuest to claw itself back into the game with Apple and Google (MapQuest currently ranks a distant third with roughly 44 million users).

Urgent.ly, the startup whose roadside assistance technology MapQuest has taken nationwide for this service, dubs itself the “Uber for roadside assistance.” As with Uber, Urgent.ly users can watch service providers approach and pay via credit card once a service is complete. MapQuest charges no additionals for the service and says it will split all revenue that it helps Urgent.ly generate. Your move Apple and Google.

Sticking with navigation, INRIX signed a strategic partnership with Samsung to integrate its real-time traffic and navigation services into Samsung’s newest line of mobile devices. That will include Samsung’s new smartphone with a wraparound screen, the Galaxy Note Edge, and its new smartwatch, the Gear S. When planning out a trip, Gear S users will be able to see the best time to leave on their watches, as well as expected travel time in current traffic to their destinations.

On the M2M front, KORE Telematics announced a major financial shakeup, as it ceded a majority interest of its company to private equity firm ABRY Partners, then turned around and used some of the newfound capital heft that ABRY provides to purchase RacoWireless in an all-cash deal (amount not disclosed). RacoWireless offers end-to-end connectivity solutions, with cloud-based platforms for fleet management and connected car safety and infotainment features some of its core offerings. KORE says the synthesis of the two companies

will deliver “an unprecedented portfolio of connected technology, location-aware solutions, and management tools in a way that has never before been experienced in the industry.”

Watch John Horn, President of RacoWireless and frequent attendee of TU conferences, discuss the acquisition and its implications for the Internet of Things here.

Swedish telecom company Tele2 entered into a strategic partnership with India-based L&T Technology Services, with the goal of generating M2M and IoT solutions for the transportation vertical in Europe. The two will focus on auto, aero, rail, shipping and off-highway and specialized vehicles. Remote monitoring of engine performance. Real-time updates on departure and arrival times for passengers. These are the types of solutions the two plan to pursue in the future.

In cyber security, aftermarket startup Zubie copped to the fact that a recent hack attack by Argus Cyber Security revealed Zubie’s product to be vulnerable to a wireless remote takeover. Not the sort of thing customers want to hear when they go to plug in an aftermarket telematics device like Zubie, which culls data from the car to power a smartphone-based monitoring system for everything from vehicle location to driver behavior. Zubie says that it worked with Argus to shore up the gap that would have enabled the installation of malicious malware.

Further technical information about how Argus hacked into Zubie's product is posted on Argus' blog.

In driver distraction news, a new study out of University of California, San Francisco, pointed out the seemingly obvious — Google Glass messes with a driver’s concentration. Who would think that a computer on your eyeball could do so a thing? Specifically, the study found that Google Glass creates a dangerous blind spot in the driver’s peripheral vision on the right side, right about where the camera is positioned and where drivers go to check the rear-view mirror and right-side mirror. UC San Francisco is in the midst of running a larger study, as the first one just involved three candidates tested over 60-minute intervals; Google countered that any eyewear or headwear potentially creates blindspots in peripheral vision and says that it’s doing its best to minimize distraction given that starting point.

Finally, TomTom announced that starting in 2015 it will embrace “real-time maps” for its business customers. Before you get too excited, note that by “real-time” TomTom means that its new MultiNet-R platform will update maps monthly. That will change to weekly come 2016. TomTom says the goal is to keep business customers up-to-date without the need to install a full map update every month.

“With MultiNet-R, we leverage the strength of our new transactional mapmaking platform to bring customers the next generation in maps: real-time maps,” says Charles Cautley, managing director of TomTom Maps. “TomTom can now deliver high quality map updates faster than any other mapmaker on the market. This combination of speed and quality ensures the best end user experience.”

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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