Weekly Brief: Volvo goes all in on the connected car

Weekly Brief: Volvo goes all in on the connected car

In this week’s Brief: Volvo, J.D. Power & Associates, Continental, Verizon Networkfleet, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Discovery Limited, Cambridge Mobile Telematics, Toyota Taiwan, NNG and nfuzion.

To all carmakers introducing telematics in a piecemeal fashion, Volvo said “game on” last week as it became the first major carmaker to launch its connected car platform as standard across its entire lineup of U.S. cars. The move puts telematics and infotainment at the front of the Volvo brand, which Volvo says is necessary to uphold its tradition of safety and design in the connected car era.

All 2015.5 Volvos sold in the U.S. will now come with the Sensus Connect platform, which harnesses 3G connectivity to offer a suite of cloud-based apps, from Pandora for music to Yelp for POIs to Glympse for sharing one’s location with others via social media. Volvo’s On Call button will provide 24/7 roadside assistance, SOS emergency service access and stolen vehicle tracking, while its free On Call smartphone app will offer remote access features like vehicle location, remote engine start, remote flashing of lights and requesting roadside assistance.

In other news, new J.D. Power research suggests that if telematics and infotainment are indeed to become standard across all new cars, then carmakers still have a long way to go in ensuring the quality of those systems. The research found that audio, communication, entertainment and navigation (ACEN) systems are the primary source of problems with new cars, trucks, SUVs and vans. Built-in voice recognition and Bluetooth connectivity are the two most frequently cited problems with new vehicles, followed by wind noise and navigation system problems.

Continental announced a new business unit exclusively devoted to the connected car (in their lingo, “networked vehicles”) and to developing unique and reliable solutions that tackle global transportation problems like gridlock, traffic-induced pollution and accidents caused by human error. The new unit, called “Continental Intelligent Transportation Systems, LLC”, will be headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, and headed by Seval Oz, an expert in vehicle networking and automation who previously worked on Google’s self-driving car project.

In fleet, Verizon Networkfleet unveiled a new eBook that delineates the various ways in which fleets can better manage their costs and ensure the safety of their drivers via telematics. The five principal savings come from reduced fuel usage, reduced labor, eliminated maintenance burdens (paperwork, engine problems, etc.), fewer tire replacements and insurance discounts. How to Use Telematics to Control Fleet Costs is free and available for download now.

LexisNexis Risk Solutions published a study showing that, despite significantly less insurer marketing for UBI in the fleet space, small business awareness of UBI is relatively strong at 25 percent. Additionally, the study found that fleet managers increasingly see the safety benefits associated with telematics as a major proof point when deciding whether or not to adopt a usage-based insurance (UBI) program. The 25 percent awareness of commercial fleet managers compares to 38 percent awareness by consumers, according to the study.

Sticking with insurance telematics, global insurer Discovery Limited announced a strategic partnership deal with Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), whose patented technology allows users to seamlessly interact with massive amounts of sensor data processed from smartphones, cars and other mobile devices. Discovery Insure will use the technology in combination with behavioral economics to promote safer driving and discounted premiums.

In infotainment, Toyota Taiwan released a video detailing a new tablet-based model for its connected dashboards, whereby a driver’s Asus Nexus 7 4G tablet turns into a vehicle’s command central for entertainment, real-time traffic shots, emergency assistance and navigation. The video has racked up more than 30,000 views on YouTube in the past week.

Finally, navigation specialist NNG signaled a shift toward producing human machine interface technologies with the acquisition of nfuzion, an American HMI prototyping company. nfuzion specializes in advanced technology solutions for the automotive industry and has worked in a range of capacities, from industrial and UI design to mechanical and electrical engineering, with numerous international car brands.

“We identified a strategy that would enable NNG to expand its presence in cars,” says Péter Balogh, CEO of NNG. “It was obvious early in our cooperation that we shared a passion for the automotive industry and HMI design, and we recognized the same problems facing automakers today. Combining NNG’s expertise in navigation software and nfuzion’s expertise in HMI design, we can solve those problems.”

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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