It’s not difficult to understand why Toyota had reservations about bringing them onboard. And these concerns soon surfaced among automakers that second-guessed the wisdom of giving up valuable dashboard branding and—more importantly—driver data to the two tech giants.
This week, Toyota announced a comprehensive connectivity plan called the Mobility Service Platform that covers everything from car sharing to cloud-based analytics, and it’s being developed in-house by a creatively named subsidiary called Connected Car Company. “To guarantee the safety of the customer, the manufacturer must be the platform provider,” said Connected Car Company president Shigeki Tomoyama.
Instead of being tied to one or two dominant tech providers, Toyota is partnering with several different companies. It’s working with long-term partner KDDI, the Japanese telecom that has for years provided connectivity for the automaker’s G-Book telematics system. Its cloud services are provided by Microsoft, with which Toyota recently deepened its relationship, while the platform will run on the Automotive Grade Linux open-source software.
Toyota has already even joined with a rival automaker Ford to develop apps. And it’s clear that the automaker plans to leaves Apple and Google out in the cold and out of the car.
So what can we expect Toyota’s in-house connected car efforts to yield, and how will it differ or be better than CarPlay or Android Auto? While Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is one of the best available based on our tests, it still relies on third-party apps such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Yelp, which are common in many cars.
Last year, Toyota announced it would work with the Ford-developed SmartDeviceLink and the US automaker to develop in-house as well as third-party apps for its cars via a Toyota-supplied API. This not only would allow Toyota to supply apps similar to those used by CarPlay and Android Auto, such as for music and mapping, but also tap a car’s data, systems, and sensors to create features and functions that the Apple and Google smartphone-based platforms can’t.
For example, by tying into a car’s engine diagnostics, Toyota or a third party could develop an app that explains what a “Check Engine” light or other warning means and even set up service if required. And by tying into a car’s traction control system, an app could detect when a car hydroplanes on standing water or skids on a patch of black ice and send the info to other vehicles approaching the area.
Toyota isn’t alone in building up a tech bulwark against a potential incursion by Apple and Google. Renault/Nissan recently announced a similar connected car platform with Microsoft Azure, and this week Ford partnered with BlackBerry to develop software for the automaker’s connected vehicles. And last year, the three German luxury car rivals Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz circled the wagons to purchase the digital mapping company Here for $3.1 billion, in part to bring the mapping capability in-house, but also keep it out of the hands of Apple and others.
So while Toyota was the odd man out when CarPlay and Android Auto were first announced, its wait-and-see attitude and keeping its dashboards Apple- and Google-free could pay off.
Originally published by PCMag.com
Combining voice assistance with artificial intelligence and consumer data is a hot tech trend, thanks to Amazon’s Alexa and her many “skills.” So it’s not surprising that General Motors will apply this same concept to the car to create what it’s calling a “cognitive mobility platform.”
The automaker teamed with IBM and its Watson voice-recognition technology for OnStar Go, which “will learn the driver’s preferences, apply machine learning, and sift through data to recognize patterns in their decisions and habits.” Then it will try to sell stuff to drivers who opt in.
“Marketers will offer services and suggestions that personally impact” car owners, GM said in a press release. Initial partners are limited to ExxonMobil, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Mastercard, and Parkopedia, but it’s easy to imagine other companies lining up to reach a captive audience in the car.
“On average, people in the US spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimize their time,” said Phil Abram, executive director of Connected Products and Strategy for GM. “By leveraging OnStar’s connectivity and combining it with the power of Watson…we’re looking to provide safer, simpler and better solutions to make our customers’ mobility experience more valuable and productive.”
GM added that it plans to “deliver personalized content through the dashboard and other digital channels to more than 2 million OnStar vehicles with 4G LTE connectivity by the end of 2017.”
And while some may find this creepy and an annoying intrusion into a car’s cabin, there are good reasons to let a chatbot ride shotgun.
Whether surfing social media, listening to streaming music, or watching video content, I’m already constantly bombarded by ads on my computer, smartphone, and TV. And it’s annoying that after booking a flight online I suddenly get ads from airlines in my Facebook feed—as if I’m ready to book another trip.
If OnStar Go can be smart about it and present good and services that are relevant to me and my location, I’m willing to give it a shot. GM gave several examples of the service employing contextually relevant information to solve a problem, like reminding a new dad to pick up diapers before going home or giving “a traveling foodie dining recommendations from celebrity chefs when driving in a new city.”
While I’m way past the diaper years (for my kids, not me), I wish I could be reminded to pick up coffee or milk on my way home, so that I don’t discover the next morning that I’m out and drive for my first cup of joe while half asleep. And how many times have you wasted time and fuel driving around looking for a place to eat?
But here’s where they had me. GM said “Watson Retrieve and Rank will even let a driver know that their order is ready for pickup at a nearby retail store and one of the store’s employees will load their purchases into the car.” You mean I don’t even have to set foot in a store? Sign me up.
Originally published by PCMag.com
Ford Sync was the first automotive infotainment system primarily designed to integrate with portable devices. When it was introduced in pre-iPhone 2007, it was largely just for Bluetooth phones and portable music players like the iPod. Sync was also the first infotainment system that was largely software-based and could be updated. This unprecedented move meant that owners could add new features after they’d purchased a vehicle.
Sync was a hit and helped the automaker sell cars even during the economic downturn. The next generation Sync with MyFord Touch was explicitly designed to look and operate like a smartphone when it was introduced in 2010 but was not so successful. MyFord Touch was difficult to use, had issues with Bluetooth connectivity, and could be prone to crashing, which led to scores of unsatisfied owners and a substantial drop in Ford’s J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study rankings and harsh criticism of the system by Consumer Reports.
Fast forward seven years after the original Sync system debuted, and the automotive infotainment landscape has changed. The emphasis is still largely on connectivity and smartphone/tablet-like touchscreen interfaces, although now Ford has a lot more competition. And not just from car companies, but from Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto that take over a vehicle’s screen to project their own UI and features – and that Ford has signed on to support with Sync 3.
So Ford has a lot riding on the latest generation Sync 3 system, which I got a chance to try firsthand last week in a 2016 Escape, which will be the first vehicle from the automaker with the new infotainment interface along with the 2016 Fiesta. (Ford expects its entire North American line up to have Sync 3 by the end of 2016.) My initial impression when I picked up the vehicle at San Francisco International airport to begin a hands-on test was that the system’s sharp graphics and large icons made onscreen information easy to discern at a glance and operate on the fly.
For example, the climate control screen features large driver- and passenger-side temperature controls, with climate mode and fan speed switches in the middle. Sync 3 upgraded to a capacitive touchscreen to replace the resistive touchscreen of the MyFord Touch system and is much more responsive. The system also reacts quicker to inputs, in part due to a switch from Windows to QNX for backend software.
While physical controls are easier to manage since less eyes-off-the-road time is required to, say, adjust a temperature control (and these are located lower in the center stack in the Escape), Sync 3 also raises the bar on ease of operation for infotainment touchscreens. And its voice control can effectively accomplish many functions, including changing the climate temperature.
Screens for phone calls and music apps, also followed this pattern of clear graphics and large controls. While listening to Pandora and Spotify, the screen displayed large play/pause and skip forward/back buttons along with album art, track info and other features.
During my brief test, the best opportunity to show off the screen’s clear graphics and quick response and refresh came on a tricky freeway interchange. While lane guidance is nothing new for most navigation systems, the rendering and response by the Sync 3 system left no doubt which lane I needed to take while traveling at highway speeds.
But the navigation feature that stood out most is the destination entry that works much like on a computer or mobile device. When I searched for a point of interest, I didn’t have to type in a full name, address or even select a POI category. I simply started typing and the system auto-filled what I was looking for after just a few letters. And since the information is culled from an on-board mapping database, it’s quick to respond, although this also means that the info can become quickly outdated since it’s not cloud-based.
Sync 3′s software can be updated, although not via a USB drive as with previous systems, but over the air when connected to a Wi-Fi network, such as when a vehicle is parked at home. A spokesman said Ford plans to update Sync 3 “regularly,” but the system doesn’t have onboard connectivity to receive over-the-air updates without a Wi-Fi connection. That may change as Ford adds onboard connectivity through its former Sync partner Microsoft and the Azure cloud computing platform.
All told, I spent about eight hours testing Sync 3 on the road and while parked, and tried every possible aspect of the system. I did come across several glitches, although nothing major. For example, the system didn’t show a contact’s photo when I called, even though it’s in my address book. And it wouldn’t accurately execute more complex voice instructions, such as a thumbs-up for a Pandora track.
And like Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, it’s still a bit thin on the number of available apps – only Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Radio Disney, Accuweather and Glympse for now – although a Ford spokesperson said more will be rolled out soon, including the more than 85 apps available globally for the Ford Sync AppLink platform. Ford is also hoping that its recent partnership with Toyota to develop apps using the SecureDeviceLink platform will accelerate available options.
Based on this short test, Sync 3 could represent the cutting edge of in-car infotainment and a return of Ford as a forerunner in in-dash technology. And that Ford could have another hit on its hands.
Originally published by Forbes.com
Like newspapers and broadcast television before it, the advent of constant connectivity and cloud-based content on portable devices could eventually take AM and FM radio down a similar path towards the way of the dodo. Unlike the CD player, terrestrial radio isn’t going to start to disappear from cars anytime soon, but the formats’ long reign in the dashboard is starting to be challenged by Internet-based streaming services such as Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio.
This shift is becoming more prevalent as new cars come with some form of connectivity. For example, starting this year every new GM vehicle will include a Wi-Fi hot spot, permitting up to seven devices to connect to the Internet. And by the end of the year the Hyundai Sonata will be the first car compatible with Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Audio, allowing drivers to plug in their portable devices and mimic each tech company’s respective interface on the vehicle’s in-dash screen.
And with more connected cars to come, drivers will soon get use to this new form of cloud-based radio content. “It’s like the introduction of central door lock mechanisms,” Larry Rosin, a radio consultant and president of Edison Research, told The Detroit News. “Once you don’t have to reach across the car to lock the doors, you never want to go back. It’s the same with the choice Internet radio offers.”
Static for traditional radio is also coming in the form of an estimate by Statista there are approximately 160 million digital radio listeners — and that this is expected to increase to 183 million by 2018. Advertisers are taking note of the way drivers and passengers are using this technology, and online advertising is predicted to increase just 13.8 percent per year, leaving revenue from TV, print, radio, and Yellow Pages at a flat $107 billion, according to BIA/Kelsey.
AM and FM listenership grew in the car for decades with each new generation. Listening to radio hasn’t changed and has in fact grown: 45 percent of baby boomers listen to radio in the car compared to 60 percent of millennials. But 90 percent of Gen Y carry smartphones, as opposed to 65 percent of boomers, according to Jacob’s Media.
Paul Jacobs, vice president of Jacob’s Media, said that to stay relevant AM and FM stations will have to take an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em approach and keep current with digital applications, which is what radio giant Clear Channel did with iHeartRadio. That and do what local papers have done to not only survive but thrive.
“The way to compete is to continue to invest in local talent and great local content,” Jacobs added. – Amber Marra
Source: Internet car radio poses bigger threat for local AM-FM – The Detroit News
By inking deals with Audi, General Motors, Tesla and Volvo, AT&T has accelerated efforts to become the dominant mobile carrier in the car. But the consumer adoption of AT&T’s in-vehicle 4G LTE connectivity will depend largely on pricing – and whether drivers want to pay for another data plan just for their cars.
So after announcing that it was bringing its Mobile Share Value plan to GM’s vehicles earlier this year so that drivers can divide data the way they, say, share filling the tank with fuel, AT&T today unveiled a similar strategy with Audi. Previously AT&T announced two limited-data pricing plans for the 2015 Audi A3. But now the wireless carrier is making its Mobile Share Value plan available for the A3 and well as the S3 variant and Q3 crossover starting in October.
“We’re announcing today that the cost for connecting these Audi models to a Mobile Share Value plan is the same as a tablet – an additional $10 for the access charge per month,” Chris Penrose, AT&T Mobility’s senior VP, Emerging Devices, wrote in a blog post today. Audi and A&T also announced a new $20 per month plan for 1GB of data in addition to the previous 5GB/6-month plan for $99 and a 30 GB/30-month plan for $499.
Getting 4G into the car will enable more and faster services, including access to apps. Before today’s Audi announcement, the C3 Report spoke with Penrose about a new suite of car-centric, cloud-connected, voice-controlled apps that will be part of AT&T’s Drive platform. And how this can benefit carmakers, app developers and ultimately consumers.
C3 Report: Looking at some of the apps AT&T announced – and considering that some are already part of the current automotive app ecosystem – how will these apps integrate with existing OEM apps? Or are you going after OEMs that don’t already have these apps?
Penrose: A lot of the app providers have gone directly to the OEMs to get their apps built into vehicles. Everyone has kind of a custom [approach], and you’ve got different automobile manufacturers in different states as far as which apps they’re offering. What we’re trying to do with the Drive Platform is take the heavy lifting off the app developers and off the car companies.
What we’ve built with Drive is an application delivery platform that can serve a variety of applications that have been designed specifically for the vehicle. The user interfaces, have all been completely speech-enabled. And if there are billing capabilities with these applications, we have billing integrated.
App providers get the benefit of building it out once on our platform and having it distributed among multiple OEMs. And this not mirroring applications; these are a totally custom designs. Looking at it from a safety standpoint and trying to minimize distractions, they’re all speech-enabled. IHeartRadio is out there for the first time ever speech enabled on our product.
C3 Report: Would the voice enabling be done through the automakers existing voice recognition interface?
Penrose: It can be done that way. We’ve also speech enabled everything inside Drive Platform vehicles with a partnership we have with Voicebox and our own Watson speech engine. So all that work’s been done to make these apps speech enabled. But if we need to work with other solutions with the automobile partners, if they want to go with a different voice solution, then we can do that.
C3 Report: So manufacturers would essentially be buying an entire suite of apps?
Penrose: That’s right. Each OEM would be able to pick and choose what they want to serve up. There can be applications that are very specific for them. With the Drive Platform, the applications are all stored in the cloud. So when you buy Drive, there’s a thin client that goes in the head unit but it’s actually going out to the cloud to interact with these applications. And these applications can be constantly kept up to date and it takes such a minor load on the processing power inside the vehicle so you can scale it domestically and globally. It’s a very different approach that we’re taking, which will really makes it easy for automobile manufacturers to integrate with Drive.
In conjunction with Drive, there’s an application store where a customer can go in and buy applications and download it that way. But the cloud will be continually keeping all the updates fresh and we will be doing a ton of work with the automobile partner’s firmware updates. Firmware over-the-air updates is a huge opportunity. We will take all our knowledge with smartphones and tablets and are now partnering with automakers on how we can help update vehicles and make vehicles better versus day one of ownership.
C3 Report: Why did you pick these apps?
Penrose: We’ve been working on this for the last year, and have done a lot of research and had a lot of discussions with our automobile partners about different applications that are meaningful inside the vehicle. And we don’t think you need a hundred applications inside the vehicle. You need the ones that are most relevant to the driving experience. Music is huge so that’s why IHeartRadio is one of the first ones. You wouldn’t think weather is that big of a deal, but it tests very well. Stitcher has the ability to deliver content as you want it and News Feed has one-minute sound bites about the key news stories of the day. And Glympse from a delivery perspective of “Where am I” and parking location is very important. We’ve got a whole bunch more that we’re not ready to announce yet, but we’re really prioritizing based upon the research and what our partners are saying are the most important functionalities that people want inside the vehicle. And we’re working with the partners to bring those to bear.