Weekly Brief: Opel Brings OnStar to Europe

Weekly Brief: Opel Brings OnStar to Europe

In this week’s Brief: Berlin eCall conference, Opel, OnStar, Intelematics, ITS World Congress in Detroit, Porsche, INRIX, Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen, Toyota, Ford SYNC, Ford, Automatic, Masternaut, GM, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Talking about throwing a golden apple into the party. At the Berlin eCall conference, Opel announced that it will introduce OnStar in select European countries in 2015, a first for OnStar on the European continent and a tempting question to other carmakers: Should they wait for the public and perpetually delayed eCall service — latest word is that eCall won’t debut until 2017, two years after the October 2015 deadline, which had already been delayed too many times to count since eCall inception in 2001 — or go with a private emergency response service first?

Opel’s decision expands OnStar’s global footprint from the U.S., China, Canada and Mexico, where the service connects roughly seven million drivers and responds to roughly 5000 crashes a month. At the Berlin eCall conference, Opel didn’t divulge which models will sport OnStar come 2015 but it did say that the service will include OnStar Automatic Crash Response (ACR) and an Emergency Services button that can help summon fire, police or medical services to a scene. It also revealed that in addition to bringing OnStar to Europe, Opel will roll out 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots in its cars at the start of next year.

It was a busy week for real-time traffic, as well, as Australia-based Intelematics announced a major network expansion of its real-time traffic service at the ITS World Congress in Detroit. Intelematics will add more than 45,000 square miles to the SUNA RDS-TMC network by December 2014, representing a coverage footprint expansion of more than 80 percent in Australia. The service will be available at no additional cost to all existing and new SUNA customers via compatible in-vehicle satellite navigation systems and portable navigation devices.                                                                                               

Porsche meanwhile invested roughly $55 million in INRIX, the real-time traffic information provider whose data intelligence helps power navigation and POI services from leading automakers, including Audi, BMW, Ford, Mercedes, Volkswagen and Toyota. INRIX provides real-time traffic information for 4 million miles of roads across 40 countries. Porsche’s investment will give it approximately a 10 percent ownership stake.

“Connectivity between cars and infrastructure is one of the mega trends in the automotive industry,” said Philipp von Hagen, member of Porsche’s executive board responsible for investment management. “The need for traffic-related information and data-driven solutions is therefore growing fast. We see tremendous potential in this segment of the automotive value chain.”

Ford SYNC now allows drivers to access Apple’s Siri personal assistant application through the push-to-talk button on the steering wheel. The capability comes courtesy of a new partnership between Ford and Automatic, whose platform will allow Ford to add other features in the coming months, including an “If This Then That” service that automates actions using the Internet, such as sending a message to family or operating home appliances from the car. The Siri enhancement is available in the Apple App Store under Automatic and is supported on iOS 8 only for the time being.

In fleet, Masternaut launched a new driver navigation and communication device, Masternaut Pro, that sits on the dashboard and provides advanced route planning, real time 3D map visualization and turn-by-turn voice instructions. Pro can access the Masternaut Connect applications for two-way messaging, allowing fleet managers and drivers to exchange delivery addresses and other dispatch information. It also provides drivers with real-time feedback and scores on their driving.

Finally, in the September 15 Weekly Brief we reported that GM was significantly narrowing the focus of development via its own infotainment systems — MyLink, CUE and IntelliLink — and going with an Apple CarPlay and Android Auto strategy instead. Some media outlets took it one step further, reporting that GM was planning to scrap its plans for an AppShop and simply adopt Android and Apple app stores in its place. GM came forward to clarify, noting that the rollout of its AppShop has been delayed beyond the 2015 model year but not tabled altogether.

“While we are committed to working with Apple and Google to implement their respective phone projection systems, this won't be customers' only option for information and entertainment services within the vehicle,” Stefan Cross, GM spokesman told Carscoops in an interview.

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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