AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

May 5, 2010 13:05 rlanctot

TomTom interrupted the epitaph writers last week with a spunky earnings call and a stunning customer presentation ushering in a new portable navigation device architecture and strategy modeled on the mobile phone market. The earnings report was significant both for the company’s ability to parry analyst skepticism and its self bestowal of the title: “fastest growing European telematics company.”

 

Skepticism surrounding TomTom’s ability to continue to grow and do so in a profitable manner was laid to rest by the Q1 2010 report which showed a 26% increase in revenue and a profit. The revenue gain came in spite of declining PND sales overall with TomTom claiming market share gains in Europe and North America.

 

The skepticism was expressed by multiple analysts on the earnings call repeatedly questioning the short- and long-term impact on TomTom of smartphone navigation. TomTom executives were quick to point out that 10M navigation application downloads, as reported by Nokia, did not directly translate into regular, daily use of smartphones for navigation.

 

TomTom’s broader survival strategy became clearer from a quick review of the earnings report which showed its non-consumer lines of business – a newly created categy – capturing 31% of revenue in Q1 ’10, up from 24% in ’09. The non-consumer segments consist of TomTom Work, licensing and the automotive business. (TomTom reports a 40% attach rate for its solution at Renault and claims 10% automotive market share as its solution is extended to additional Fiat and Renault models.)

 

TomTom Work showed 41% subscriber growth year-on-year to 104,000, well short of the 300,000 subscribers targeted for 2011, but enough to justify TomTom’s claim of being the “Fastest Growing Telematics Company in Europe.” The figure is even more important when one considers this is one of the highest gross margin businesses in TomTom’s portfolio, according to the company.

 

To round out the rosy picture TomTom pointed to the 700,000 Live Service enabled devices currently in use by consumers enabling a range of service and content transactions (including sharing of traffic and speed cam data), all of which are also exceptionally profitable to TomTom, again according to the company. With its newly announced webkit architecture strategy and adoption of the smartphone app store model (http://bit.ly/9q1jIV), TomTom hopes to build this user base.

 

An interesting note to this effort to build the TomTom user base is the fact that TomTom says it will no longer provide quarterly reports of device unit sales or average selling prices. The reason for this reticence is the company’s stated intention to alter its business model to build the base of users. Clearly TomTom is alluding to the potential for subsidizing sales of PNDs along the mobile phone model – a strategy long toyed with by the industry but never fully adopted.

 

TomTom did not specifically confirm its intention to subsidize PND sales. But this interpretation is supported by the somewhat ambiguous comments expressed in the earnings call and in the context of its plans to build its subscriber base.

 

Once TomTom has brought its open platform and app store model completely into the marketplace, expect subsidized devices, particularly among the new, simplified TomTom Ease line. The objective is to build a larger user base producing a wider range of shared location information which will become increasingly accurate (traffic) and useful (user evaluations) as the subscriber community grows.

 

TomTom’s aim is to achieve daily relevance from daily usage by a wide subscriber base. To further hedge its bets TomTom is adding new automotive relationships – such as Ford’s announced intention to use TomTom maps and content – and continuing its expansion into emerging markets (Ukraine, Morocco, Mexico, and India) where further PND growth is expected. The pieces are falling into place for Europe’s fastest growing telematics company, which has chased away the skeptics once again.

 

Further Insight:

 

http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service

 

http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities

 

http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities


May 5, 2010 12:05 rlanctot

Telmap has flipped the switch on its direct to consumer smartphone navigation strategy shifting entirely to the white label approach the company has pursued for many years with operators. The company expects the new positioning to give it a competitive edge vis a vis Nokia and Google and vault it into a global leadership position.

 

Prospects were looking bleak for Telmap when industry heavyweights Google and Nokia began offering free navigation applications for smartphones. Google made the application available as a download for iPhones and, more recently, Android-based phones, while Nokia recently began including navigation on its handsets.

 

The Telmap strategy overturns both of these approaches by working through wireless operators, a strategy pursued by both TeleNav and Networks in Motion (now part of TeleCommunications Systems) in the U.S. But Telmap is taking the approach on the road with partners throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America.

 

Telmap is taking a three pronged approach providing:

 

1)      An off-board application with local search and navigation that can function with all operating systems;

2)      A location platform with APIs to facilitate the distribution of any and all location applictions;

3)      A Web-based application that allows for desktop management of location applications and synchronization with the phone.

 

The initial launch of the new positioning will manifest in O2 Germany delivering 30 handsets by the end of May all equipped with the Telmap technology. In fact, Telmap says it is already seeing 500-1000 new activations per day based on the new approach.

 

The white label is ideally suited to the shift, in Europe, to a bundled model for applications and services. Navigation is increasingly being provided at no charge, so the model has shifted to enabling different billing and payment methods for selling enhanced content and applications.

 

The white label strategy gives Telmap a strategic edge because it allows the operators to introduce a cross-platform solution that can be advertised and promoted across their entire handset line-up regardless of handset supplier or operating system. Telmap hopes operator support will help juice its subscriber base, which currently stands at approximately 1M in Europe and 1.5M globally.

 

And operators are keenly interested in exploiting the location opportunity because, thus far, the margins have been quite high, according to Telmap executives. To keep that revenue flowing, Telmap is enabling integration with ultra local content and services such as Coyote safety camera apps in France and road charging services in the U.K.

 

Additionally, the free Telmap application allows for premium upsells and a variety of booking and payment methods along with advertising. And by using the same platform across the entire line, operators retain control and customers can communicate and network with one another.

 

The gamble for Telmap is that the operator-centric approach will trump the Nokia handset-side approach and the Google app-store strategy. The concept of leveraging operator advertising and promotional support is a powerful one. Google tried to take its Nexus One handset directly to the market only to knuckle under to operators in the past week.

 

The strength of the strategy is reflected in the tight relationships between Networks in Motion/Verizon and TeleNav and AT&T/T-Mobile/Sprint in the U.S. These partners are working on additional enhancements to the navigation and location platform which is producing millions of subscribers and hundreds of millions in revenue.

 

From a branding standpoint, location applications will come to define and differentiate the operators and a cross-platform solution makes it much easier to leverage and control. The attraction of the Telmap approach is already apparent as the company touts among its operator supporters: Vodafone, O2 Telefonica, Orange Group, Singtel Group, IUSACell, Pelephone, Cellcom, Mobilcom, and Boost Mobile, among others.

 

Of course, tiny Telmap is taking on industry giants in Nokia and Google and regardless of the strength of its strategy lacks the brand awareness and marketing clout of either of these companies. But the shift away from a consumer direct strategy to white label is probably the last best chance for Telmap to move into the front rank of LBS market leaders. And the company is investing heavily in ultra-local tie ins across the many countries around the world where it competes.

 

Wild cards remain in the battle for dominance of the location aware marketplace. One such wild card is the creation of superior traffic information from probe data. Google’s initial efforts to convert Droid phone user data is beginning to get attention and RIM (following its QNX acquisition) is likely to be the next company to bring a probe-enhanced traffic service to the market. Nokia (Navteq) and Apple will likely be next leaving Telmap to ponder whether it can convert its operator relationships into a superior traffic solution of its own.

 

With the smartphone navigation market ruled as it is by a confluence of advancing technology and consumer preferences, only two things are certain: change and Telmap’s determination not to raise the white flag.

 

Further Insight:

 

http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but 'Free' Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service

 

http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities

 

http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities


April 30, 2010 11:04 rlanctot
TomTom CEO Harold Goddijn must be reading this blog or we are reading his mind. In a post on March 6th (http://bit.ly/aVONfo), we suggested TomTom needed to open its platform to developers and adopt the app store model on a wider scale. TomTom announced its intention to take these very steps at its customer event this week - embracing the app store approach and offering apps to customers by the end of the year, according to a report on pocket-lint.com (http://bit.ly/b5t6jh). It is worth noting that TomTom was the first and only PND maker to create a connected community of users able to share content and map updates. TomTom's Home application also allowed users to purchase applications online. But the platform was closed to third parties, even though TomTom users could record and share their own navigation voices and favorite routes. The new initiative represents a radical shift and a bold gamble on an entirely new business model and hardware and software platform that brings TomTom into more direct alignment with the mobile industry. It also represents a further departure from chief rival Garmin which will still have a closed platform. The report quotes Goddijn: "What is happening here is a break from the past. We have a great infrastructure, but in 2009 we decided it wasn't good enough moving forward. We decided to break the code and move on to new architecture both on the device and the backend." According to the report, the strategy calls for deployment of a webkit-based operating system and the introduction of new technologies in all new TomTom devices in the coming month to "create a platform for ... both the consumer and automotive market." The plans represent a major overhaul of how TomTom offers its services and delivers its navigation software and a direct response to pressure from the mobile phone market where application stores have become the de facto standard for application and content distribution. The new TomTom platform, based on the open source webkit browser engine is to arrive before the end of 2010, though TomTom did not specify a date. The choice of Webkit is significant given TomTom's plans to broaden its footprint in the automotive market where an open platform will facilitate integration with automotive systems. The Pocket Lint report further notes that a separate TomTom presentation described how the company is already evangelising how apps like Wikipedia, tourist guides like Time Out and others, such as piste maps, might help people get a better idea of where they are going. And the company said it was looking at the possibility of adding augmented reality to the mix possibly as a third party offering via the anticipated app store. On the hardware side, the company is preparing the launch of the first device built around the new architecture: the TomTom Go Live 1000. In a drive to keep costs down, Pocket Lint reports that TomTom has opted for the ARM 11 500Mhz processor and a separate Broadcom GPS chip rather than a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor that promises to do it all. Pocket Lint says TomTom hopes to leverage relationships with Volkswagen, BMW, Fiat, Ford, Renault, Toyota and Daimler. TomTom says it will be able to allow car makers to customise the UI, use webkit to provide a "great" programming environment that makes it easier to talk to the other systems of the car (like the heating or air conditioning), as well as deliver over the air (OTA) updates thanks to built-in connectivity (ie a SIM card), something that will no doubt appeal to car makers, normally slow to implement new technologies in the latest models.

April 23, 2010 21:04 rlanctot

The pressure to reduce vehicle carbon emissions is exacting an influence on the automotive industry beyond the handful of ultra-compact and EV/HEV announcements around the world. The calendar year 2009 installation rate for gas hungry V-6 and V-8 engines, for example, fell to 57.1% from 63.9% in 2008 in the U.S., according to Ward’s Automotive, continuing a five-year decline from a peak of 76.2% in 2004.

 

But the impacts are more wide ranging, as detailed by the president of the Association of International Automobile Manufacturers at a luncheon of the Washington Automotive Press Association this week. AIAM quotes U.S. government estimates that automobiles are responsible for 20% of carbon emissions.

 

Most governments around the world seek to discourage driving and thereby reduce carbon emissions with taxes on gasoline or via road charging – a solution being pursued most recently in The Netherlands. The U.S. is unique in the world in mandating Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards – known as CAFÉ.

 

With the ultimate goal in mind of reducing vehicle emissions to near zero carbon, the CAFÉ standards were recently updated (May 9, 2009) by the Obama administration in the U.S. to a 2016 target of 35.5 miles per gallon. The mandate became law April 1 and partially harmonized ruled from the Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Environmental Protection Administration.

 

One of the more unusual elements of CAFÉ is the different goals for each OEM as well as its basis in vehicle footprint – originally defined and codified in 2007. The vehicle footprint is defined as the vehicle’s wheelbase multiplied by its track width – or the area enclosed by the points at which the wheels meet the ground. The new guidelines will show Porsche needing to improve its overall efficiency by 9.9 miles per gallon by 2016 while the overall average improvement per OEM will be 7.4 miles per gallon, based on existing forecasts of production and sales.

 

Using this footprint attribute, the government has been able to define targets by vehicle type as a way to get around the need for OEMs to offset sales of larger cars with sales of smaller cars. Each vehicle footprint has its own efficiency targets under the current guidelines and all face their own requirements to improve between 2012 and 2016.

 

Complete harmonization of all government green house gas (GHG) reduction policies has not yet been achieved. CAFÉ is defined by the Energy Policy and Conservation Act while CO2 emissions are also governed by the Clear Air Act. The EPCA concerns itself with vehicles as they are produced, for example, while the CAA concerns itself with the emissions of vehicles during their entire operating life.

 

The impact of these efforts are, in fact, pushing car makers to improve efficiency and technologies that respond to that need will benefit from these initiatives. Everything from stop/start to clean diesels and EVs are expected to see wider deployment and consumer acceptance. Strategy Analytics research shows consumers in Europe and the U.S. are more interested in electric vehicles than they are in shifting to smaller vehicles.

 

With that goal in mind, AIAM described the range of fuel efficiency initiatives reflected in the government guidelines as including:

 

Types of Engine Technology:

-         Low friction lubricants

-         Reduction of engine friction losses

-         Cylinder deactivation

-         Variable valve timing

-         Discreete variable valve lift

-         Stoichiometric gasoline direct-injection technology

-         Combustion restart

-         Turbocharging and downsizing

-         Exhaust-gas recirculation boost

-         Clean diesel engines

Types of Transmission Techology:

-         Improved automatic transmission controls

-         Six-, seven-, eight-speed automatic transmissions

-         Dual clutch or automated shift manual transmission

-         Continuously variable transmission

-         Manual 6-speed transmission

Vehicle Technologies Considered:

-         Low rolling resistance tires

-         Low drag brakes

-         Front or secondary axle disconnect for four wheel drive systems

-         Aerodynamic drag reduction

-         Mass reduction and material substitution

Electrification/Accessory and Hybrid Technologies:

-         Electric power steering

-         Improved accessories

-         Air conditioner systems

-         12-Vole micro-hybrid (MHEV)

-         Higher Voltage stop-start/belt integrated starter generator (BISG)

-         Integrated motor assist (IMA)/Crank integrated starter generator (CISG)

-         2-Mode hybrid (2MHEV)

-         Power-split hybrid (PSHEV)

-         Plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV)

-         Electric vehicles

 

Longer-Term Technology Solutions Include:

 

Plug-In Hybrids:

-         Battery R&D is still critical

-         Cost and durability are factors

-         Plug-in HEVs need about 5-8 times the battery capacity of a current HEV

-         Current goal is up to a 40 mile all-electric range

Battery EVs:

-         Remain an attractive target

-         Need battery capacity of 12-15 times a current HEV to provide adequate range

-         Same battery issues (cost, durability) plus operation in extreme weather (hot and cold temperatures)

-         Nissan has announced having BEVs in California market in 2010. White House regarding removing barriers

Fuel Cells:

-         Use hydrogen to generate electricity to run the vehicle, so they are a type of EV

-         Internal combustion engines can also be designed to use hydrogen

-         There are major hydrogen infrastructure issues – where do we get it; hot to distribute it?

Alternate Fuels:

-         Compressed natural gas

-         Ethanol – CAFÉ credit

 

Further Strategy Analytics insights:

 

http://bit.ly/cP39II - Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support - Kevin Mak

http://bit.ly/bplBqV - EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment Database - Kevin Mak

http://bit.ly/bv3Q0B - Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: OEM Strategies Reviewed - Kevin Mak


April 20, 2010 13:04 rlanctot
Just as companies such as Delphi, Nokia and Apple are enabling in-vehicle HMI control of smartphone applications, Ford Motor Company is turning interface implementation up a notch with its new Sync AppLink, which will allow voice control of Android and BlackBerry smartphone apps. Sync AppLink will be available as a downloadable software program on the 2011 Fiesta, due later this year. The launch will test the limits of in-vehicle HMI technology for enabling safe access to social networking applications. Reading text messages or emails and responding with predetermined messages has already been enabled in Ford vehicles, but demonstrations of OpenBeak, which allows steering wheel controls to scroll through Twitter messages, suggest a more potentially distracting proposition though safer than using the mobile device's own voice controls or touchscreen. First demonstrated at the Consumer Electronics Show in January of this year, AppLink will enable voice control of the Pandora music service, Stitcher Internet radio content manager and Orangatame’s OpenBeak Twitter interface. Ford is simultaneously launching its Mobile Application Developer Network (www.syncmyride.com/developer) for enabling the development of Sync-enabled applications. Ford says it will introduce AppLink on all Sync-equipped vehicles next year, as well as provide interoperability with the iPhone and other smartphones. The company also says updated versions of each app, incorporating the Sync application programming interface (API), will be available through Android Market and BlackBerry App World for customers to download. Ford’s delivery platform, therefore, includes both its own syncmyride.com Website and the handset maker app stores. Ford says that as Sync-enabled versions of existing apps are released into the app stores, users will be prompted to download the latest version upon connection. Ford’s strategy clearly indicates that the company will handle the certification of application for use with Sync even if it is not the creator of all of the applications. While Ford’s 2M vehicle addressable user population is the largest in the automotive industry, the launch of developer support will be the ultimate test of Ford’s ability to attract third parties to its platform. Ford says interested developers can submit innovative ideas, and sign up for the latest information and news about the Sync application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK). The package will allow developers to modify existing applications and create all-new apps that can successfully interface with Sync. Ford says it is completing beta-testing on the SDK. Once beta-testing is complete, a broader release of the development tools is planned for later this year. The company says one of its development partners created a Sync-enabled version of its app just three days after receiving the development tools. Conspicuously missing from the Ford announcement is a provision for safe operation or more limited use of a smartphone in a vehicle. The recent CTIA show in Las Vegas highlighted a range of applications intended to restrict or modify smartphone usage in a moving vehicle. Ford may want to consider fast-tracking one of these applications in deference to concerns expressed in Washington. Ford has embraced the anti-distracted driving messages emanating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ford’s 911 Assist application actually received an early endorsement from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). But whether this new applications will be blessed by government safety authorities remains to be seen. According to a report in USNews, NHTSA director Ray LaHood contacted Ford CEO Alan Mulally directly to have a particular ad removed, which depicted what appeared to be a distracted driver using Ford's Sync (http://bit.ly/aTbVvv). Ford complied with the request, but USNEWS says LaHood is still opposed to the Ford Sync solution. Additional Insight: Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as 'Apps' Competition Mounts

http://bit.ly/cJ6dDF - #Ford’s Bite of the #Apple Shows One Path to Automotive #AppStore Success - Lanctot - blog - Strategy Analytics http://bit.ly/b9oVAt - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display - Schreiner - Strategy Analytics

April 6, 2010 15:04 rlanctot
Daimler has fulfilled the vision of replacing the traditional automotive head unit with the Apple iPhone. While some bloggers questioned the cost of the in-vehicle mounting device, which is yet to be announced in the U.S., the capabilities embedded in the device more than justify the price as well as validating Apple's design priorities. Apple's combination of touchscreen interface and consistent cross-generation hardware and software compatibility has created an automotive-friendly integration environment unmatched by RIM, among others. The touchscreen allows the iPhone to double as physical interface, with enlarged buttons for the automotive user, and the consistent architecture eases the usual automotive product lifecycle anxiety allowing Daimler to design the multifunction cradle. The iPhone integration for the smart developed by Daimler's Palo Alto Research Lab will arrive on the market in the U.S. and Europe during the second quarter. The application will be distributed via Apple's iTunes App Store, just as the Mercedes-Benz mbrace application is distributed. The corresponding smart Drive Kit cradle is an accessory which will be sold via the dealer networks - Penske in the U.S. and Mercedes-Benz in the Europe. The cost of the app in the US will be $9.99, which includes all infotainment features - including music and Internet radio access - except full navigation guidance and real-time traffic / fuel prices. The driver will still be able to see his or her position on a map on the device, which comes with Navteq maps. Also included is Bing off-board local search. The navigation upsell will be an in-app purchase for $49.99 which includes voice guided navigation plus traffic in the U.S. and Europe and fuel prices in the U.S. only. The smart Drive Kit does not yet have an announced price in the US, but in Europe will be 249 EUR + installation which may vary depending on whether it is being done on a new vehicle or as an aftermarket installation. The Kit is a combination of a cradle with hardmount next to the smart OE radio, integration harness to the radio, and an integration module providing: hands-free calling via external microphone and OE speakers, "smart" integration allowing the app to pre-empt the current audio source for navi prompts, as well as the ability to sense vehicle power to auto-save vehicle location for the Carfinder, and line-out audio integration for iPhone audio and charging. The positioning of the smart Drive Kit is quite different from mbrace and Mercedes has yet to announce a strategy to integrate this Daimler-developed solution either in the U.S. or Europe. But

March 29, 2010 17:03 rlanctot
I have been using TomTom’s XXL 540S World Traveler for the past two months in multiple locations in the U.S. as well as in the U.K., Germany and France and I can safely say this is a dangerous device. It is dangerous because it effectively leverages historic speed profile data to deliver accurate routing and travel time without live traffic data. The XXL 540S is dangerous because the effectiveness of its routing, without accessing live traffic data of any kind, turns the growing traffic data industry on its head. The historic speed profile data calculates routes based on historic speed measurements for every time of day and for every road segment, from large highways to small local roads, and includes TomTom’s IQ Routes technology. In comparison to on-board systems with enhanced traffic data, the routing and time of travel on the TomTom was comparable. I am sure I am not the only user of navigation devices and technologies who has been frustrated with the traffic information experience. I have had both positive and negative outcomes and, in spite of the negatives, I am still a believer in the power and necessity of traffic information. I recently steered clear of purchasing an opening price point PND for the very reason that it lacked traffic information. But sometimes, one is willing to accept sacrifices to achieve a greater good. In this case, that greater good is a single device for automotive navigation in North America and Europe. The sacrifice of traffic data is a small price to pay especially considering what the cost of adding traffic information for both geographies would likely represent in added subscription fees covering multiple suppliers. (Hint: The first traffic supplier with a universal solution will gain a huge advantage.) For anyone seeking a single device for vehicle navigation in North America and Europe with built-in traffic camera data and 7M POIs, the XXL 540S is ideal. (The device was even able to locate a runner’s specialty store buried in a mall in Sindelfingen, Germany, as well as functioning in a pedestrian mode trying to locate the next nearest towns in the French countryside outside Geneva.) On the downside, a shortcoming of the device is its rigid programming. It is not possible to use it as one would Google maps to pick a starting point and destination unrelated to a current location, for example. A more flexible solution will be necessary as user expectations change. If PNDs like the XXL 540S cannot offer functional equivalence to other navigation solutions, consumers will be disappointed. Switching between maps is also less than intuitive. But I can understand TomTom’s disinclination to add yet another layer to its busy user interface. When entering a destination for a new geography, the user eventually has the option to change the map. The device stores prior routes separately for each different map, which is a nice touch. In addition, the integration of user evaluations so widely available in competing connected solutions certainly pose a threat to disconnected PNDs like the TomTom device. But as a single function device, the XXL 540S delivers in spite of the missing traffic info and connectivity.. For the XXL 540S World Traveler the combination of on-board data and the access to software updates perfectly substitutes for a more robust offering of regionalized live traffic information. More importantly, the device points the way toward future product development at TomTom and other PND makers. The pocketable device (yes, even with a five-inch display) is convenient enough for world travel and amazingly, the user will make no sacrifices in POI content or even map updates – additional POIs can be added via the Home application. The device connects to the TomTom Home software application for map updates and other enhancements. Flash has clearly displaced the HDD as the preferred storage medium for PNDs and the XXL 540S has 4GB of storage. At $299.99 retail (a little pricy) the device also includes TomTom’s “Help Me!” button and lane guidance. The TomTom even showed a roundabout where the on-board system against which it was being compared only showed a standard intersection. Of course, with the map update capability, the TomTom should always have superior map data. Even as PND makers experiment with larger screens, as in the case of the XXL 540S, the devices themselves will get smaller and prices will continue to fall. Connectivity and more creative deployment of location-aware applications will be critical to the future success of the segment. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 Solid Q4 for PNDs, but ‘Free’ Navigation is Shaking Up Monetization (AMCS) – Canali http://bit.ly/a8WqRJ - A Role for PNDs…If They Get Connected - Blight http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 (AMCS) - Blight

March 26, 2010 19:03 rlanctot
BMW’s wholistic EfficientDynamics campaign is the latest and clearest manifestation of an industry movement that is propelling telematics technology adoption. In a recent presentation to the International Motor Press Association (IMPA), BMW executives clearly defined an integral role within the EfficientDynamics agenda for navigation, embedded vehicle connectivity and even smartphone integration. The company has already made impressive gains in fuel efficiency and CO2 reductions while preserving or enhancing performance via mechanical means, such as optimizing transmissions and adopting brake energy regeneration and auto start-stop functions. Now, BMW foresees even greater gains coming from the integration of on-board sensor inputs. BMW seeks to extend efficiency gains from the fusion of data inputs from navigation systems, adaptive cruise control and parking distance control systems, cameras and light/rain sensors, DME and DSC systems and V2X communication. The output of this data fusion will lead to the prediction of upcoming driving situations and optimized vehicle conditioning (ie. charging or discharging of the battery). These system enhancements will help optimize operating strategy and determine optimal driving distance for available consumption. The integration of navigation and safety system inputs means that in the future both the navigation set-up and the portfolio of safety systems will increasingly be standard equipment. They will be integral to the efficient operation of the vehicle. And connectivity will be necessary so that the very latest information on road conditions (including traffic) is available. While a growing proportion of cars will have embedded connectivity, smartphones will still play a vital role in the drive for more fuel efficienct cars. The company has already learned from its Mini E field trial that smartphone applications have a key role to play. Drivers will use smartphone applications to remotely check the state of vehicle charge as well as to signal the car to begin heating or cooling batteries while still connected to the grid. OnStar has foreseen this as well, showing just such an application at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. It is true that range anxiety is a very real customer concern with electric vehicles. In fact, it is yet another reason for such vehicles to be equipped with standard navigation systems. But BMW executives told the IMPA delegates that customers in the Mini E trial found that “charging (was) not a big issue even without (an) extensive network of public charging stations.” According to the results of the trial, the range of the Mini E was sufficient for most trips. This finding corroborates GM’s finding that 78% of people drive 40 miles or fewer per day. In the end, therefore, the role of the on-board map and navigation will likely have more to do with maximizing vehicle range as opposed to easing driver anxiety. And road elevation data will no doubt play a greater role as well in route planning. The drive for fuel efficiency and electrification will combine to bring cars to market that are not only more efficient and emitting less carbon dioxide, but that are also safer with the additional sensor content and map data. Further insights are available: http://bit.ly/bv3Q0B - Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: OEM Strategies Reviewed – Kevin Mak http://bit.ly/alm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 – Joanne Blight

March 25, 2010 16:03 rlanctot
The state of Maryland’s approval of a cellphone ban yesterday – by a slim 24-23 margin – perfectly encapsulated all that is both right and wrong with the current mobile phone ban hysteria. Will people be safer driving cars without mobile phones? Probably. Is it reasonable to ask people to use hands-free technology in the car? Definitely. Is the law enforceable? Maybe. Can all drivers be expected to completely give up mobile phone use in the car? No. The bigger issue, though, is that the objections to mobile phones in cars masks a movement opposed to an even wider array of emerging and existing automotive technologies and in-cabin interfaces. If the industry does not step forward to defend these technologies, consumers will lose and safety will suffer. This is a topic of legitimate concern given the federal interest in in-vehicle interfaces in both the U.S. and the European Union, among other geographies. Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently ban text messaging while driving and six states plus the District require hands-free devices. (Stricter laws are already in place in many European countries.) Advocates for the bill dragged out multiple statistical justifications for the legislation calling to mind the apocryphal phrase attributed to Samuel Clemens, among others: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. The Washington Post reported that the push to require hands-free devices is seen as a step toward an outright ban on cellphone use by drivers, a prohibition endorsed by the National Safety Council, which blames 1.4M crashes annually on drivers talking on their phones, according to the paper. The Post continues: “Two-thirds of drivers interviewed by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety said they thought hands-free cellphone use was less risky. But "scientific research shows that's simply not the case," said Fairley W. Mahlum of the foundation.” The article further cites a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that “found no declinen in collision rates” once states went hands-free. This leads to the argument surrounding the cognitive equivalence of talking on a mobile phone held to the ear or speaking over a hands-free system. Many experts argue that the two are equivalent, although a similar number disagree. Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute has weighed in on the cognitive equivalence side finding no added safety in hands-free operation. The Post quotes Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association: “There's no indication that hands-free is risk-free. You're still on the phone, you're still focused on the conversation, and you're still a distracted driver." The bill approved Wednesday by the Maryland Senate bans handheld use of cellphones except to begin or end a conversation. First-time offenders can be fined $40. Emergency calls would be exempt. Opponents took some of the teeth out of the legislation with a secondary enforcement requirement that prohibits a police officer from stopping a driver solely for using a mobile phone. The officer must have another reason for finding the driver at fault before enforcing the ban. The push to completely ban mobile phones in cars is real and is embodied in Oprah Winfrey’s NoPhoneZone campaign. Is the motivation legitimate? Sure it is. Lives are at stake. But I’d strongly argue against throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The supporters of an outright ban on mobile phones in cars have a larger agenda. They are not just opposed to Ford’s social media integration in cars. They also argue that the OnStar service, with its embedded phone, is too distracting. OnStar!? A recent statement from AAA of New York reflects this anti-technology philosophy: “Technology improvements and applications present a real double-edged sword for motorists. On one hand, improved driver interfaces for essential vehicle controls hold the potential to make driving safer. Voice-activated climate control systems, for example, can help keep motorists’ eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel. “Applied irresponsibly, however, these technologies might actually make driver distraction worse by giving drivers access to even more non-driving activities (voice-driven e-mail and text messaging, for example) that draw their attention away from safe driving.  Safety concerns must be paramount when technology advances might encourage motorists to spend more time engaged in risky, non-essential tasks like talking on the phone or sending e-mails via voice recognition software. Technology applications that introduce new distractions for drivers work at cross purposes with the many positive things automotive engineers have done for safety. “We’ve seen auto manufacturers miss the mark before with improvements that weren’t really improvements. For example, more than twenty years ago a manufacturer made some models with a touch screen control panel that required drivers to look at the screen to change the radio station or adjust the heat. More recently, another manufacturer’s “all in one” vehicle control system was widely criticized for the visual and mental distraction involved in controlling temperature, radio, navigation, and phone using one knob, several buttons, and a display screen. We must make sure that one step forward in the name of convenience doesn’t take safety two steps backward.” It’s true that we ought to make sure we continue to move forward. But moving forward means embracing technology and harnessing its power to improve safety and convenience in the car. Based on the AAA statement the touchscreen, the iDrive and a host of other innovations might be banned. But why? People can change radio stations today with voice commands as opposed to reaching out for a knob while calibrating the movement of a needle across a dimly lit display. To return to the matter of safe operation of a phone in a vehicle, multiple solutions have been introduced that leverage technology to control mobile phone use in the car including DriveSafe.ly, SafeReader, tXtBlocker, and Auto TxtBak. But most of these applications lack the policy management elements of a ZoomSafer – which allows for the disabling of phone functions while in a moving vehicle. In fact, Zoomsafer's Voicemate has application in both consumer and commercial applications for monitoring, managing or controling driver use of connected devices. The solution recognizes the need for access to connected devices and provides the means for facilitating safe uses. Zoomsafer is offering a technology solution to a technology problem, but it is just one example. New solutions using new interfaces will help the industry steer its way through the challenge of enabling communication in a vehicle. Voice, touch, haptic, gesture, facial recognition, sensor inputs and fusion-based technologies that process all of these inputs are how enhanced safety will be achieved.

March 24, 2010 17:03 mfitzgerald
SYNC sells. Ford’s SYNC connectivity and infotainment system, built on the Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive software platform, has reached the 2 million unit sales mark 10 months after Ford delivered its 1-millionth SYNC-equipped vehicle in 2009, the first SYNC systems were delivered in fall 2007. SYNC’s evolution is paralleling the consumer’s evolution in a connected world. Ford’s latest version of SYNC that debuted at CES 2010 presented a solution dubbed MyFord Touch, which truly shows the convergence of consumer electronics and the automobile. As consumers interact with the web and media devices with more regularity each year, Ford seeks to help the consumers replicate this behavior in the car. Examples include:
  • Consumers have apps stores for their smartphone; Ford opened a market for car apps.
  • Consumers have come to value internet radio, twitter, and social networking sites; Ford has worked with Pandora, Twitter, and Stitcher to make automotive applications.
  • Consumers have become accustomed to being able to record and rewind live TV, Ford had come up with a solution where Sirius XM can be recorded and played back.
  • Consumers are used to 5 way controls popular on iPods and numerous other consumer devices; Ford has employed similar technologies in its HMI.
  • Consumers often look up driving directions while in front of a computer, SYNC users can now send MapQuest directions to their cars and the SYNC system will navigate the driver to their destination.
  • Consumers like shopping at iTunes, users can now tag songs for purchase through HD Radio and the SYNC system.
SYNC adds value to vehicles. Ford data analysis indicates that SYNC-equipped models of the 2008 Focus are worth more than those without SYNC. After one year in service, the SYNC-equipped models sell for a $240 premium on average. This premium over a non-SYNC-equipped vehicle indicates consumer demand for SYNC is real. Ford has delivered the message to consumers that SYNC is a desirable product that makes the in-vehicle experience better and is worth a premium price. The upgrades to SYNC for the 2010 model year including the addition of MyFord Touch, Pandora, Twitter and Stitcher apps, iTunes tagging, mobile Wi-Fi hotspot capability, MapQuest directions and other features and applications indicate that Ford intends to protect its lead in the connected infotainment market despite competition from most every other vehicle OEM developing or offering competing solutions. http://media.ford.com/article_display.cfm?article_id=32262