Weekly Brief: The next wave of TSP consolidation

Weekly Brief: The next wave of TSP consolidation

In this week’s Brief: Verizon Wireless, Hughes Telematics, SiriusXM, Agero, Toyota, Panasonic, QNX, Progressive, Audi, Metaio, Mercedes-Benz, Google, Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics.

Verizon Wireless’ $612-million acquisition of Hughes Telematics last year, which launched Verizon Telematics and set off a wave of speculation about which telematics provider would be next on the block, can finally be put to rest. That’s because SiriusXM stepped forward last week to give the telematics media another eye-popping acquisition to discuss: SiriusXM’s $530-million purchase of Agero’s connected vehicle business.

Overnight, the acquisition vaults SiriusXM into the position of the leading telematics service provider for OEMs, with BMW, Nissan, Toyota, Acura, Honda and Hyundai among their new list of acquired clients. SiriusXM has been looking to broaden its influence in the vehicle beyond satellite radio for several years now. With the cash acquisition of Agero’s connected vehicle business, it has managed to do that. Whether it can optimize the integration and expansion of Agero’s telematics business remains to be seen.

“As the world's leading provider of in-vehicle subscription services, SiriusXM is uniquely positioned to offer world-class, end-to-end telematics services," said Jim Meyer, CEO of SiriusXM. "The transaction accelerates SiriusXM's development in architecture supporting connected vehicle services, as well as the ability to provide services over both satellite and cellular networks.”

In other news, Toyota rolled out a new version of its Entune multimedia and telematics system. The new version will encompass a broad range of in-vehicle connected services – audio, phone, navigation, music, etc. – not just the apps and data services that the Entune brand previously represented.

A beefed-up Entune App Suite now includes Yelp and Facebook Places, alongside Pandora, OpenTable, Bing and others. Rollout is scheduled for the coming six months in select Toyota models.

Panasonic meanwhile selected the QNX CAR infotainment platform as the foundation to develop infotainment systems for automakers in North America, Europe and Japan. Panasonic says that it plans to integrate its technology with the multimedia and device connectivity features built into the QNX CAR platform. The two companies also announced their intent to collaborate on R&D of advanced technologies that will enhance the capabilities of next-generation in-car applications.

On the insurance telematics front, Progressive revealed that usage-based insurance offering Snapshot now represents 1.2 million policies under the Progressive auto insurance umbrella, with premiums totaling $1.8 billion (as of Q2 2013). Interestingly, Progressive says that about a third of customers contacted about UBI is eager to try Snapshot on the spot. Another third is intrigued but cautious and want to learn more, while 40% offer a straight refusal. Snapshot remains the market leader in UBI in the U.S.

Augmented reality took another step into the realm of the vehicle last week as Audi released the eKurzinfo augmented-reality mobile app, which helps drivers identify and learn about their vehicle from their smartphones.

The app can recognize more than 300 individual elements of the Audi A3 – from the insignia on the windshield wipers to actual engine components under the hood – in order to provide relevant how-to information or virtual overlays of maintenance instructions animated in real-time 3-D. Augmented-reality specialist Metaio designed the app in conjunction with Audi. The app is available for free download on iOS devices.

Sticking with cutting-edge technologies, Mercedes-Benz revealed in an article in Wired Magazine that it’s working on a proof of concept for a Google Glass integration. The basic system enables the car to pull information off of a Google Glass, such as an address, and enter it directly into the in-dash navigation. Once at the destination, the car can transfer relevant information/data back to the Glass.

The proof of concept is still in its primitive stages, largely due to the lack of communication and coordination between rivals Google and Apple, but Mercedes says it’s only a matter of time before drivers will be seamlessly connected from the mini computers on their eyeballs to the dashes of their cars.

Finally, a pair of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University in the U.S. and London School of Economics in the U.K. released research suggesting that talking on mobile phones does not increase the likelihood of a crash. The study, which was published in American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, analyzed crash data from the early 2000s and juxtaposed it with call logs from multiple cell towers.

The researchers say that an increase in mobile phone usage shows no concomitant increase in crash rates, casting some doubt on several major previous studies that found that mobile phone usage did increase the rate of crashes.

The study may not influence the U.S. Department of Transportation’s push to limit and potentially disable all mobile phone devices in vehicles, but it does raise the question of how much we know about what constitutes distraction and whether we can confidently draw lines between technology and concentration in the in-vehicle environment.

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 TU.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Insurance Telematics USA 2013 on Sept. 4-5 in Chicago, Telematics Brazil & LATAM 2013 on Sept. 11-12 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Telematics Japan/China 2013 on Oct. 8-10 in Tokyo, Telematics Munich 2013 on Nov. 11-12 in Munich, Germany, Telematics for Fleet Management USA 2013 on Nov. 20-21 in Atlanta, Georgia, and Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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