Weekly Brief: Uber acquires part of Microsoft Bing for better transportation networking

In this week’s Brief: Uber, Mini, Opel, Ford, Microsoft Bing, Nokia HERE, Amazon, London, Hyundai, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Porsche, Garmin, Daimler Trucks North America, Zonar, Mitsubishi, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.


I’ll see your three and raise you 100.


That was Uber’s response last week to the news that three carmakers — Mini, Opel and Ford — had launched major car-sharing initiatives in the U.S. and Europe. Uber of course doesn’t want you or me or anyone else to hitch a ride in an everyday car owner’s car. It wants you to hitch a ride in a Uber.


Its answer is to make its app as user friendly and its service as affordable as possible. To that end, last week it acquired a team of 100 Microsoft Bing engineers who built 3D, aerial and street-side images into Bing Maps. Uber also acquired some of Bing’s image collection technology.


Uber hasn’t elaborated exactly what it plans to do with these new acquisitions, although it’s probably safe to assume that the company plans to build 3D, aerial and street-side images into the mapping component of its app, both to make it easier for drivers to find passengers with turn-by-turn directions and for passengers to see where drivers are at and to make UberPooling as easy as possible.


Uber’s name has been thrown around for the past several months as a viable candidate for acquiring Nokia HERE. Its partial Bing acquisition makes that seem less likely, although we’ll wait until the news breaks to make any official declarations on that front.


Elsewhere, Amazon signaled its intention to get into connected car services via its Apple-Siri-like voice concierge Alexa. Amazon made it possible for hardware developers to integrate Alexa Voice Service (AVS) into any Internet-connected device with just a few lines of code. No carmakers or tier-1 suppliers are officially on board yet, but Amazon envisions Alexa buttons on steering wheels responding to whatever drivers ask of her — everything from “Read my book” to “Remind me to pick up flowers after work” to “Give me the directions to the closest flower shop.”


The city of London continued its crusade to make its buses the most connected, safest public transportation vehicles on the planet. Its latest initiative: Intelligent Speed Adaptation technology that keeps bus drivers from speeding. The initiative kicks off with a 47-bus trial on two popular routes in London that include a number of speed-limit changes, thus testing the technology to the max. The city of London has already introduced hybrid double-decker buses and technology that allows pedestrians to see how many seats are available on the top deck before boarding the bus.


Add Hyundai to the list of Apple Watch adoptees. The Blue Link app for Apple Watch does pretty much all the same stuff as all the other Apple Watch apps that carmakers have launched this year: flash lights, lock doors, remote start. BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo and Porsche are a few of the carmakers on board the Apple Watch train. The latest Blue Link app update, which includes the companion app for Apple Watch, is available as a free download on the App Store.


Garmin debuted an all-in-one aftermarket device for the British fleet industry. The d?zlCam provides custom routing based on the size and weight of a heavy goods truck and includes a built-in camera that continuously records video footage of the road ahead. Should an accident occur, the device locks that footage away, thereby enabling drivers and fleet managers to document exactly what happened in an incident. The d?zlCam retails for £389.99.


Sticking with fleet, Daimler Trucks North America become a minority investor in Zonar, a telematics firm that specialises in electronic fleet inspection, tracking and operations solutions for public and private fleets. Daimler says its investment in Zonar will help it put connected services on the road with greater speed and variety, a key asset in an era when telematics and connectivity are revolutionising commercial vehicle operation. Terms of the deal were not released.


Finally, add Mitsubishi to the list of carmakers planning to integrate Android Auto and Apple CarPlay into its 2016 vehicles. Mitsubishi debuted its new smartphone pairing platform, “Smartphone Link Display Audio”, back in March at Mobile World Congress, but was mum at the time as to when and in what cars the system would launch. The answer: the 2016 Pajero SUV in Europe. The company plans to expand to other models and regions in the future.


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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