Weekly Brief: Takata airbag recall highlights opportunity for connected car

In this week’s Brief: Takata, BMW, Honda, Toyota, Ford, NHTSA, Continental, Elektrobit, Qualcomm, Daimler, Renault, Apple, TomTom, Coherent Navigation, Google Maps, Waze, HERE Maps, Honda, the Ohio State University, SIMCenter, Apple Watch and Mercedes-Benz.


Thirty-four million cars. That’s the latest count on the Takata airbag recall, making it “the most complex consumer-safety recall in U.S. history,” according to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx.


Takata finally admitted last week that its airbags were faulty and prone to firing off ruptured metal objects from the inflator housing when deployed. Eleven automakers and more than 30 models and makes are impacted, from BMW to Honda to Toyota to Ford.


The complexity of the recall highlights the value of connected car solutions that could inform drivers immediately if their cars were impacted and where to go, with turn-by-turn directions and times for availability at local dealerships, to get the problem rectified.


See here for a list from NHTSA of impacted cars.


In other news, top 5 automotive supplier Continental forked over 600 million for Elektrobit’s automotive division. Elektrobit specialises in advanced communications software for connected cars. Continental already has some presence in this area, although it does the majority of its business in automotive hardware, from brakes to tires to powertrains. Clearly the Hanover-Germany-headquartered company has designs on ramping up on the connected car front and has stated that it has particular interest in automated driving.


Qualcomm announced a strategic collaboration with Daimler focused on pioneering innovation in the connected car. Wireless charging is a particular area of mutual interest; Qualcomm WiPower technology will allow Daimler customers to charge their smartphones and tablets wirelessly inside their cars, and the Qualcomm Halo Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) technology may allow daimler EV owners to charge their cars without ever physically tapping them into a charger.


Renault unveiled the Kwid, a low-cost SUV destined for the Indian market. The car comes with a seven-inch touchscreen with turn-by-turn navigation and bluetooth, making it one of the first times a low-cost car destined for developing markets will feature an advanced embedded infotainment system (generally customers have to resort to aftermarket systems if they want anything fancy in the dash, even in higher end cars). Renault designed the car in India and is using all local manufacturing to keep costs down. It will sell from $4000 to $5000.


Apple was busy on the mapping and navigation front. It renewed and expanded its mapping deal with TomTom and acquired Coherent Navigation, a global positioning specialist. Apple wasn’t inclined to say a word more about either deal, although presumably they’ll be used to enhance the Apple Maps app and make it more competitive with the likes of Google Maps, Waze, and HERE Maps. It also may play into Apple’s foray into self-driving software, which the tech giant is presumed to be working on.


Honda and the Ohio State University celebrated the grand opening of the Simulation Innovation and Modeling Center (better known as the SIMCenter), a research hub focused on developing innovative computational engineering tools to virtually test new automotive materials and designs. At the grand opening, Honda’s president of R&D said that Honda expects by 2020 for there to be half as many accidents with Honda vehicles as there are today. By 2040, the carmaker plans to eliminate Honda accidents altogether — this through the pursuit of vehicle-to-vehicle communications and connected car technologies like those being tested at the SIMCenter.


Finally, another week, another Apple Watch entrance from a marquee automaker. Last week it was Mercedes-Benz rolling out the MB Companion App, which allows a user to enter a destination on the Apple Watch, get walking directions to the car, and already have the destination loaded onto the in-dash system when they fire it up. If there’s another walking component once they arrive at a parking spot, that appears on the Apple Watch for “a complete door-to-door experience.”


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

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