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Automotive Industry Update: Innovations in Telematics

The passenger car driver experience is undergoing a transformation, driven by technologies which help to increase vehicle safety, create highly customised in-car entertainment, and deliver a more interactive experience. These technologies benefit both the driver and car manufacturers.

In-car technology is no longer proprietary to car manufacturers. Technology start-up companies are working independently of the OEMs to build new apps and devices which are smartphone compatible. Drivers can choose from smartphone apps and devices that plug into any compatible vehicle’s data port or from systems that are built and integrated into a vehicle.

Many of these new technologies are telematics systems, which are becoming industry game changers. Telematics involves the collection of driving data, often in real time, which is analysed and communicated back to the driver and to third parties in other locations. The real commercial value lies not so much in the sale of these systems, but in the accumulation of large scale data about our driving patterns. OEMs can use this data to build increasingly personalised driving experiences, and the driver benefits from improvements to their driving behaviour.

Below are a selection of new technologies which have recently been launched or are planned for release in 2014.

The Latest Telematics Innovations


Automatic is a system which monitors driver behaviour via a smartphone app and a dongle which plugs into a car’s data port and connects the driver’s phone with the car’s computer. It learns about a motorist’s individual driving style and provides alerts and advice on how to save petrol. It also includes Crash Alert which notifies Emergency Services of a car’s location in the event of a crash and a feature which remembers where a car has been parked. It is currently only available in the US. Click here for further details. 


Dash is another device and app with functions that are similar to Automatic. Launched in the US as a beta version the device connects the driver’s smartphone to their vehicle and provides diagnostics which aim to improve driving behaviour. The co-founder of Dash says the device is analogous to wearable personal fitness  technologies such as Fitbit and Nike Fuel. The device also alerts an emergency contact of the driver's choice in the case of an accident. Click here for further details.

Nissan Nismo Watch

Not surprisingly, car manufacturers are also beginning to compete in the fledgling market for automotive wearable technology. Nissan recently launched the Nissan Nismo Watch, which it says it is the first smart watch to connect the car and driver. It is targeted at the niche market of drivers of Nissan’s high performance range of vehicles. The Nismo Watch connects to the car using a smartphone app as a Bluetooth Smart device and accesses vehicle telematics and performance data while on the track. It also captures biometric data via a heart-rate monitor in the watch, and monitors driving efficiency with average speed and fuel-consumption readings. It can also receive tailored car messages from Nissan, and even has built in social functionality which tracks the user’s social media performance! Click here for further details. 

VW Car-Net™

Car manufacturers are also introducing in-car vehicle connected systems. Volkswagen of America, announced in July 2013 the launch of VW Car-Net™, a new in-car system that offers a number of convenience and diagnostics features, in addition to services that help drivers feel safe and secure. VW Car-Net™ will be available in the US from 2014 on selected models. The system is accessible via an inbuilt console, via a website and a smartphone app. It includes features such as automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle and last parked location assistance, speed and boundary alerts, and vehicle health reports. Click here for further details. 


Splitsecnd is a GPS enabled plug-in crash detection device that automatically calls for help. The splitsecnd device plugs into a vehicle’s cigarette lighter and immediately contacts Emergency Services in the event of a crash. The device’s help button can be used to the same effect in medical emergencies and other instances when a crash has not been detected. Splitsecnd costs $199.95 and requires a $14.95/month subscription which includes the 24/7 splitsecnd monitoring service, automatic crash detection and response, emergency button, and Family Finder, which monitors the location of family members to ensure they arrive home safely. Click here for further details. 

Drive Awake

Finally, the Drive Awake app has been created to help make the roads in Thailand safer (as well as sell coffee). The app was designed by the Thai coffee chain Cafe Amazon and uses eye-tracking technology to tell when a driver is dosing off. The phone must be mounted at eye level, and the app detects when a driver’s eyes have closed and emits a loud bird call and then provides directions to the nearest Café Amazon location. Click here for further details. 

If widely adopted, these technologies are likely to deliver significant social benefits. The long term commercial value is likely to be derived more from the extensive data being collected than the sale of the devices, apps and systems.

New Telematics Research

Widespread adoption of these systems may take some time in the passenger car segment, but the fleet and commercial sector is more likely to take advantage of telematics in the short term. ACA Research keeps track of new automotive technologies and will shortly be publishing new research into the use of telematics by fleet managers and road freight transport companies. To see our full range of research download our omnibus calendar here. Or subscribe to "in the headlights" below, our monthly release of the latest automotive research results. 


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Topics: Automotive Research