Weekly Brief: T-Mobile looks to undercut the fleet telematics market

Can anyone match all the free telematics stuff that T-Mobile is giving away? Andrew Tolve reports.

There is no other telecommunications company on the planet quite like T-Mobile. Routinely outsized and outspent by its competition, it resorts to a mix of aggressive pricing and no-holds-barred advertising to grow its market share. One day it undercuts its competitors, the next it taunts and belittles them on Twitter. Now it's bringing these same schoolyard tactics to the telematics industry.

Last week it announced that customers of its SyncUP DRIVE plug-in telematics device can now track and manage up to 24 vehicles with a device installed – all in one view from the SyncUP DRIVE app and all at no extra cost. That's crazy cheap and means that businesses can buy a single device and track an entire fleet of vehicles on one map. They can customise vehicles with unique icons and colours to differentiate them. They can also set up multiple predefined geofences and get alerts in the app or via text message when one or all of their vehicles cross those boundaries.

All of this also applies to general consumers who want to track the whereabouts and wellbeing of every vehicle in their family. SyncUP DRIVE comes with 4G Wi-Fi and free roadside assistance. “I know moms and dads are going to love being able to keep an eye on all their family cars and businesses are going to have their minds blown by how easy it is to track and manage an entire fleet with SyncUP DRIVE,” said John Legere, president and CEO of T-Mobile, with his typical bluster. OnStar, TomTom and Verizon Telematics beware.

In other news, the Uber-Waymo saga is headed to trial. US District Court Judge William Alsup declined Uber's request last week to settle the case in arbitration. The jury trial will play out in what is sure to be very public fashion this October as Waymo makes its case that Uber's autonomous vehicle programme should be shut down owing to corporate theft. Alsup also enlisted the help of the US Attorney’s office to investigate whether Anthony Levandowski should be charged for his alleged theft of 14,000 Waymo files. Gulp. Uber's year just keeps on getting better.

Chevrolet became the first carmaker to offer unlimited data for its in-car Wi-Fi hotspot. AT&T will provide the coverage at a rate of $20 (£15.5) per month. The deal is available across Chevrolet’s entire line-up so long as customers have on-board an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-Fi device.

Toyota partnered with Nvidia in its crusade to get self-driving cars on the road in the next few years. Nvidia will supply Toyota with a super processor codenamed Xavier, which can pull off a ho-hum 30 trillion operations every second to help the car understand the 360-degree environment surrounding it. The car can thus better anticipate potential hazards while driving. In addition, the system software receives updates over the air, so the car can become smarter over time.

Siemensinvested $385,000 (£298,000) in the Smart Columbus initiative in the city of Columbus, Ohio. The investment will come in the form of an intelligent software and hardware package that includes connected vehicle traffic control software (SEPAC) that provides operators with detailed traffic signal phase timing, roadside units that allow traffic intersections to communicate with vehicles and roadside unit management software that gives operators real-time visibility into traffic flow and connected vehicle operations. Siemens will also provide the city with training and support.

Sticking with smart cities, Toronto hired HERE to provide real-time and historical traffic data to reduce road congestion and improve transportation services. HERE's mapping coverage will allow Toronto's Big Data Innovation Team to track speeds on every single road including arterial roads in the city centre. Based on these observations, the team can better manage traffic in real-time.

Volkswagen is rolling out its most advanced package of driver assistance systems in the new 2018 Arteon Gran Turismo. Emergency Assist 2.0 is a fusion of four driver assistance systems that allows the vehicle to detect if drivers are incapacitated.  If so, it emits acoustic and visual signals and jolts the brake to bring them back to attention. If they still don't respond, the system completely takes over behind the wheel, throwing on the flashers, steering the vehicle to the breakdown lane and slowing it to a standstill. 

Finally, Porsche opened its first office in the US for its new mobility start-up, Porsche Digital. Not surprisingly, the office is located smack dab in the heart of Silicon Valley, where it plans to work in partnership with innovators and leaders in new technologies, as well as cooperate with venture capital companies. Porsche also wants to invest directly in new companies that offer ideas and solutions for the digital future. Porsche Digital already has its German sites in Ludwigsburg and Berlin and plans to expand into Asia as well.

The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU-Automotive analysis with information from industry sources.

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