Weekly Brief: VW settlement raises liability bar for auto industry

The Volkswagen diesel software saga has finally reached its disgraceful conclusion: VW has agreed to buy back every single diesel VW sold in the US between 2008 and 2015. That’s some 500,000 vehicles. For owners who don’t want to part ways with their vehicles, VW says it will retrofit their cars with legitimate software and better exhaust parts so that they emit legal quantities of diesel fumes into the atmosphere.

Consider it a cautionary tale to every carmaker out there experimenting with fancy software for connected cars. The stuff you put under the hood or in the dash matters, in terms of safety, privacy, and transparency. The US Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency will also require VW to create a fund for environmental remediation that comes in the form of “green automotive technology.”

In other news, Volvo says it will electrify one million vehicles by 2025. It plans to meet this “deliberately ambitious target” by offering its first all-electric vehicle by 2019 along with plug-in hybrid versions of every single model in its line-up. The company also plans to make its operation completely climate neutral by 2025. The company has named the initiative “Omtanke”, Swedish for “caring”. Are you taking notes VW?

Hyundai wants to take its connected car tech to the next level and it’s partnering up with one of the biggest tech guns out there to do it: Cisco. The two haven’t revealed much about their joint infotainment initiative yet, other than to say that the end goal is “high-performing computers on wheels.”

On the car-sharing front, Zipcar, which arguably got the whole car-sharing party started, is looking to carve out a new niche for itself: fleet-sharing. The company launched “Local Motion” by Zipcar, which allows fleet owners to install a small card reader on the inside of their vehicles’ windshields. Drivers can then tap their RFID badges on those readers and get on-demand access. Fleet managers also get GPS tracking, vehicle status and detailed usage history so they stay apprised of a fleet’s whereabouts and well-being.

Zipcar’s not the only one vying for enterprise car-sharing. There’s also global fleet management company LeasePlan with its new on-demand service called SwopCar. Here the concept is for different businesses to share one fleet of cars on an as-needed basis. Eligible employees can book a car via an online reservation platform or smartphone app. The service launches in April in the UK, Netherlands, France and Switzerland, with five other countries in Europe to follow. Infiniti has agreed to feature its new Q30 Premium Active Compact in SwopCar for the first year. 

It was a big week for Octo Telematics, which launched its usage-based insurance platform in Mexico. The service is available immediately to every insurance and fleet management company throughout the country. Octo has already hooked LeasePlan Mexico to a deal.

Octo also unveiled InPulse, a new fleet management platform for off-highway vehicles that operate in industries like construction, agriculture and mining. The challenge: these vehicles often roam outside of local networks. The solution: an expanded network of sensors and smart control units that send a bounty of data to Octo’s Data Centre, which turns around and makes that data useful for drivers, fleet owners, carmakers and insurance companies.

Finally, driverless pods are descending on Singapore. Dutch Autonomous tech company 2getthere plans to bring the pods to school campuses and business parks where people need to be shuttled about in a semi-controlled environment. The company has partnered up with Singapore’s SMRT transport company to launch the endeavour as “2getthere Asia”. First pods expected within the year.

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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