Weekly Brief: VW partners with LG to build full IoT savvy cabin

You forgot the beer. Or you think you might have, as you’re cruising home to a host a party for the Rio Olympics. So you press a button on your dashboard and up pops a live picture of your smart fridge with two twelve packs of craft ale on the bottom shelf. Crisis averted!

A moment later, there’s a buzz on your doorbell. Your first two guests have arrived, one decked out in a Jamaican flag, the other sporting the Star-Spangled Banner. You see them on your dashboard as they push the doorbell again in frustration. “I’m running a few minutes behind but come on in and get comfortable on the couch,” you tell them over the speaker, as you press another button on your dashboard and ‘Voila!’ your front door opens before them. “Beers in the fridge,” you add.

That’s the potential that Volkswagen and LG hope to realise through a new partnership to build the connected car platform of the future. Under development as VW’s “Cross-Over-Platform”, the solution will harness the latest in cloud technology to offer seamless digital access to smart devices in the home, from fridges to lights to security systems and domestic appliances. The platform will also include next-generation infotainment and a notification centre that delivers messages about road conditions, weather and nearby points of interest to the driver in real time.

VW hinted at the possibility of such a platform in its BUDD-e concept electric vehicle at the Consumer Electronics Show back in January, where VW Chairman Herbert Diess called the inside of the car “the cockpit of the future”. VW and LG say the solution will take shape in the coming two years.

In other news, another week, another slew of headlines on the car-sharing front. Chief among them, Daimler forked out €1.1Bn (£938M) for Athlon Car Lease International.Athlon specialises in fleet leasing solutions and, with its expertise, Daimler believes that it can catch the leading edge of the corporate car-sharing wave. Moving forward, Daimler Fleet Management and Athlon will operate under the Athlon brand.

BMW’s car-sharing initiative DriveNow turned five years old and in celebration expanded to Brussels, its tenth European city. Belgium’s capital will soon receive an influx of BMWs and Minis, about 20% of which will be zero-emission electric vehicles. DriveNow is a joint effort between BMW and Sixt SE. There are 600,000 active customers in Europe; average drives last 20 to 40 minutes.

Opel’s car-sharing platform CarUnity, meanwhile, turned one and in celebration announced plans to expand in Berlin and the North-Rhine region of Germany. Unlike DriveNow, CarUnity is a purely mobile platform that connects car owners to drivers in need of cars. People can rent their own cars or rent from others, irrespective of whether the car is an Opel or a different brand. Current use sits at 4,000 vehicles in Germany.

Taxi maker Ecofirm unveiled the taxi of the future: the zero-emissions MetroCab, which comes with a connectivity package rivalling a Mercedes-Benz. Thanks to a technology partnership with RealVNC and Frazer-Nash Research firm, MetroCab allows commuters to securely sync their mobile device to the MetroCab’s 18-inch passenger compartment screen via Wi-Fi. Passengers can send and receive emails, check social media posts and stream videos.

Fordtried to pump the brakes on a lawsuit against software maker Versata, whose software helps carmakers avoid recall issues by proactively identifying incompatible parts. Ford used the software for nearly two decades, then developed a similar solution in-house. Versata screamed piracy. Ford sued them for saying so but now wants to throw its own case out since a senior Ford executive, David Baxter, admitted under oath that Ford had basically swiped the goods. Oh boy. Versata estimates the worth of the ‘theft’ at $1Bn.

Finally, the self-driving car revolution began with the military back in the early 2000s. Now, it’s returned. The US Army deployed self-driving truck platoons in Michigan last week. The trials are underway on Interstate 69 amidst regular commuter traffic. We’ve seen lots of this sort of platooning from commercial fleet makers like Daimler and start-up Otto in recent months but the goal for the army is to create vehicles that can carry goods and materials into hostile territory without putting soldiers at risk. The Army’s Tank Automotive Research, Development, and Engineering Center (TARDEC) plans to extend the trials in the coming month to include army tanks and jeeps fitted with Car-2-X communication.

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

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