Vehicles Part of Connected Systems

1/3/2013

Connected-car technology is finding its way into more vehicle systems, allowing for new business models and services. These technologies are causing major companies to sit up and take notice as they see the value connectivity can add to their operations. Today the connected car means much more than just one or two functions in a vehicle, but instead represents a new way to think about the car.

Connectivity is at work in the business model for Zipcar, www.zipcar.com, a company that just announced it will be acquired by Avis Budget Group, www.avisbudgetgroup.com, for approximately $500 million.

Zipcar is a car-sharing service that allows members to locate a car and use it just when they need it. To access a Zipcar, users place an RFID (radio-frequency identification)-enabled Zipcard against a reader in the windshield. Reservation information is transmitted to the car over the cellular network, so after reading the RFID card the car knows whether or not the cardholder has a reservation at that time. GPS systems in Zipcars allow users to quickly find nearby vehicles using a smartphone app.


The M2M-enabled aspects of the system are what make it so convenient for users, who can quickly determine what cars are nearby. Zipcar says car sharing is now a nearly $400 million business in the U.S., and Zipcar has more than 760,000 members worldwide. Avis says the acquisition of Zipcar will increase the company’s growth potential. The company says it also views car sharing as highly complementary to traditional car rental.

The transaction is expected to be completed in spring 2013, and following the acquisition Zipcar will operate as a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group.

Connected technology is also influencing the way consumers use navigation while behind the wheel. Automakers are integrating more navigation functionality, striving to keep pace with buyers’ demands for new services. Recently, two manufacturers announced the use of mapping systems in their vehicles.

Hyundai, www.hyundai.com, says it will integrate the Google Maps APIs (application programming interfaces) into the U.S.-based Hyundai Blue Link telematics platform. Blue Link allows drivers to use connected features for safety and convenience, and the Google Maps APIs will support new features such as Send to Car, Point of Interest Search, and Local Search by Voice.

The idea is to allow drivers easier access to information about nearby places, while at the same time keeping them safe behind the wheel through voice-activated features. Blue Link also offers services such as emergency assistance, remote start, and remote lock and unlock.

Hyundai isn’t the only automaker working with Google. Kia Motors America, www.kia.com, says it will provide content and search-based solutions enabled by Google APIs for the second generation of its UVO eServices telematics system. The new features will first be available on the 2014 Sorento CUV.

With the Kia solution, drivers will be able to use services that integrate with Google Maps and Google Places. With the Send2Car feature, drivers can send a point of interest or specific destination to the car from Google Maps using a smartphone app. Hands-free controls allow drivers to use the Sorento’s onboard navigation system through voice commands.

Connected systems are making vehicles more than just a means of getting from here to there. Technology allows the car to become part of an integrated system, whether it’s for finding transportation when it’s needed, or for navigating to a destination.

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