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3 ‘aha moments’ from TU Berlin

May 24, 2016


Mark Thomas

I am just back from a terrific event, the TU Automotive (formerly Telematics Update) annual show in Berlin. This was a great opportunity to speak with our customers, prospects and friends. During the show, I experienced three “aha moments” regarding connected cars evolution. Here they are:

What’s holding up OTA?

Tesla is famous for its over-the-air (OTA) software fixes. It’s estimated that OTA updates could replace as many as one-third of auto OEM recalls. Yet few auto OEMs have adopted this practice.

During the show, two reasons emerged for the delayed deployment of OTA:

  • It’s difficult. Most vehicles do not have the system architecture to connect the vehicle’s stand-alone sub-systems to ensure a fail-safe OTA update. Cars are not personal computers or smartphones. Re-architecting the vehicle network of 60-80+ on-board engine control units (ECUs) to an OTA-compatible system is not easy, and it’s going to take some time for car makers to retrofit established vehicle subsystems with components that share a common architecture.
  • More surprising to me, the dealer network is preventing OTA updates. Some auto OEMs have contractual agreements with their dealer network preventing them from OTA updates. For dealers, every auto OEM recall (literally) drives business and provides an upsell opportunity for additional repairs and aftermarket services.

In the long run, self-updating cars are best for everyone – customers and dealers – so let’s hope the auto OEMs are able to overcome these first two hurdles soon.

Dongle wars!

Built-in internet connections can’t come soon enough. Already there are several solutions vying for the built-in ODB2 port, a standard interface in all cars since 1997. This ODB2 port is like your car having one Ethernet jack and several devices that each need that one plug.

There are currently two solutions angling for port dominance:

  • Usage Based Insurance (UBI). These dongles record driver activity, such as miles driven and driving style. With this data, insurance companies can tailor premiums based on actual driver behavior. (Learn more in our white paper: Best practices to scale your UBI program. )
  • Highway taxes. Today the US highway system is funded in part by a gasoline tax. As more vehicles become all-electric, legislators are looking at alternative taxation models as gasoline funds decline. A dongle for the ODB2 port records road usage and provides an alternative means to enforce highway taxes.

Ensuring that all automobiles are pre-installed with built-in internet connectivity is a much more elegant way to solve this problem.

End-to-end transportation mobility solution

Uber gave a thought-provoking intro keynote at TU Berlin. The speaker, Christoph Weigler, GM at Uber, showed a map which was overlaid with Uber trips. It turns out that a significant portion of riders use Uber to get to public transportation. Trips begin with an Uber ride, travel some with public transportation, then possibly end with another Uber ride.

There is clearly a need for a “multi-modal” savvy system. Rather than using multiple payment and hailing systems to get to our final destination, there needs to be a system that aggregates the total trip: payments, scheduling and hailing, and destination setting. This would provide a total end-to-end transportation solution with the convenience of a single fare for the complete trip.

Connected vehicles are rapidly on their way to becoming a reality. What’s still an open question is what solutions will take advantage of this connected car revolution!

Are you headed to TU Automotive Detroit in two weeks? If so, send me an email and let’s meet up at the show. Subscribe to the Cisco Jasper blog on the top right of the page.

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