Weekly Brief: Welcome to Sweden, autonomous driving’s holy land

Weekly Brief: Welcome to Sweden, autonomous driving’s holy land

In this week’s Brief: Sweden, Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park, the City of Gothenburg, Volkswagen, Honda, SiriusXM, Masternaut, Future Fifty, Manga Drive, TomTom, UN-Habitat and the United Nations.

Sweden is a proven leader in sustainability, boasting one of the lowest dependencies on fossil fuels in the world and an array of green tech solutions – from hydropower to wind turbines. Self-driving cars may be the next feather in its cap as last week the Nordic nation announced the world’s first large-scale autonomous driving pilot project.

The project will entail 100 self-driving cars that will use public roads in everyday driving conditions around the Swedish city of Gothenburg. Dubbed “Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility”, the pilot is a joint initiative of Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg, and carries the official endorsement of the Swedish Government.

The pilot will try to answer questions in a number of focus areas, such as how autonomous vehicles bring societal and economic benefits by improving traffic efficiency and road safety; infrastructure requirements for autonomous driving; and typical traffic situations suitable for autonomous vehicles.

“Autonomous vehicles are an integrated part of Volvo Cars’ as well as the Swedish government’s vision of zero traffic fatalities,” says Håkan Samuelsson, president and CEO of Volvo Car Group. “This public pilot represents an important step towards this goal. It will give us an insight into the technological challenges at the same time as we get valuable feedback from real customers driving on public roads.”

In other news, Volkswagen made its Car-Net telematics system available in Europe. Similar to OnStar, Car-Net provides roadside assistance and crash notification, alongside connectivity features like in-vehicle navigation, remote vehicle status and remote lock/unlock. The system has been available in the United States since August. In Europe, VW says it will offer it in the 2014 Golf GTD and deliver the service and subsequent updates over-the-air.

Honda rolled out the next generation of its telematics platform, HondaLink. The platform is now 100% Cloud- and app-based, and connects customers to online content both inside and outside the car. Honda also rolled out a new infotainment unit, Display Audio, which displays apps on a smartphone-like screen and integrates Apple’s Siri Eyes Free mode into the dash.

SiriusXM successfully placed its newest satellite, Sirius FM-6, into orbit over North America and declared it ready for service. The new satellite is intended to help ensure that SiriusXM’s array of audio entertainment and data services are received by vehicles in a continuous fashion, no matter where they go in the U.S. Ubiquity of service is a major selling point for telematics platforms at this point.

Fleet management company Masternaut was selected to join the “Future Fifty,” a fast-track government program in the United Kingdom for public and private projects that aid growth, create jobs and deliver significant economic impact. Masternaut was the only telematics company among the 50 organizations selected.

On the auto gaming front, a pair of Japanese companies unveiled Manga Drive, a free iPhone game that relies on a moving car, augmented-reality overlays and real-time traffic data to score points. The game is supposedly aimed at passengers, although this video suggests that an iPhone should be mounted on the dashboard for ideal gaming purposes, calling into question whether a driver’s eyes might be tempted to linger while navigating city streets. What’s more, the driver can influence the game’s outcomes by how smoothly he drives.

Finally, UN-Habitat, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, announced that it will use TomTom’s global Traffic Index data to make strategic decisions when tackling urban congestion. The 6th edition of TomTom’s Traffic Index recently revealed that commuters around the world spend on average eight working days a year stuck in traffic, suggesting that traditional responses like building new roads or widening existing ones are no longer an effective way of managing urban congestion.

“Urban areas are growing fast; they are now home to half of the world’s population and are predicted to reach 6 billion by 2050,” says Dr. Joan Clos, United Nations under-secretary-general and UN-Habitat executive director. “How we plan and manage our cities in terms of basic services, mobility or connectivity is going to be essential to ensure better cities. TomTom’s data will give us vital insight, providing a more accurate analysis of urban traffic congestion. This will help policy makers and local governments develop sustainable, workable and lasting urban solutions.”

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 Content and Apps for Automotive USA 2013 on Dec. 11-12 in San Francisco, Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.

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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