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The rush for 5G

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Big 3 Bavarian manufacturers believe that 5G will be key for connected infotainment and mapping for self-driving cars. TU-Automotive’s Andrew Tolve reports on new developments on the connected vehicle front

The more connected cars become, the more data they need at faster speeds and greater reliability. This is the promise of 5G and the founding purpose behind the new 5G Automotive Association, a joint collaboration between global telecoms and carmakers.

The founding members are Germany’s big three of Daimler, Audi and BMW, along with Ericsson, Huawei, Intel, Nokia and Qualcomm. The association says that it’s open to more partners.

Two things are going on here. The first is that 5G is vital for realising connected infotainment and the continuous stream of high-quality data and mapping needed for the self-driving car revolution. Even though 5G technology is already developed, telecoms are saying that existing networks won’t be upgraded until 2020 at the earliest. Automakers want to expedite that.

Second, tech companies like Uber and Google are poised to displace traditional automakers in the self-driving car era and automakers want to stop that by partnering with other tech companies as quickly and prudently as possible.

It’s no coincidence that Daimler, Audi and BMW were the same three to outbid Google and Uber in acquiring mapping company HERE last year.

Speaking of HERE, the company announced recently that its Open Location Platform will be commercially available from next year. The platform harnesses real-time data generated by the on-board sensors of connected vehicles to create a live depiction of the road environment.

Motorists will be able to access this view of the road through four services that provide information on traffic conditions, potential road hazards, traffic signage and on-street parking. No word on pricing yet, but HERE’s biggest customers for the platform are expected to be carmakers themselves.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance enlisted the support of Microsoft to create new services for the connected car. Built on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, the services will offer everything from advanced navigation to predictive maintenance to remote monitoring and over-the-air updates.

Renault has promised a fleet of self-driving cars by 2020, so Microsoft will be designing some specific services for these cars, such as integrating productivity tools like PowerPoint into the dashboard.

Mercedes-Benz is working on an Airbnb for cars. The new car-sharing scheme is for Mercedes and Smart car owners and is already undergoing trials in San Francisco, with a second set of trials scheduled to follow in Germany. The online platform allows owners to enter dates when their car will not be in use – such as when they’re on a business trip or a family holiday – and other members can reserve those cars for personal use.

No physical handover is required. Members can unlock and drive participating cars with their smartphones.

On the fleet front, Masternaut has landed a big partner in the PSA Group, which has agreed to integrate the company’s productivity services across the PSA European line-up of commercial vehicles starting in 2017.

Specific focus will be on optimising the cost per kilometre of vehicles, boosting productivity, improving driver safety and reducing the fleet’s carbon footprint.

In other news on the connected front, TomTom has debuted its new On-Street Parking service, which shows drivers the average search time for a spot in specific areas and highlights where drivers are likely to have the best luck. The service will be initially available as a data feed for 25 cities in Europe, with additional geo-expansion to follow.

On-Street Parking will live alongside TomTom’s existing Off-Street Parking information service already available to TomTom customers and licensing customers.

Finally, French start-up Drust wants to commercially launch its connected car app AKOLYT by the end of 2016, and it has just wrapped up a $3,4-million (about R46,31-million) investment to make it happen.

AKOLYT is a community-based app that helps drivers master their skills behind the wheel, save money on fuel and keep their cars healthier and safer with vehicle diagnostic information.

In addition to the funding, Drust has just snagged a valuable partnership with French auto insurer Macif Group, which says that it wants to introduce innovative mobility solutions to make driving safer and more efficient for its members.


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