Navigant Research Blog

EV Telematics Bring the Cloud to the Car

John Gartner — January 30, 2013

One reason why plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) haven’t sold as quickly as originally projected is that, to date, they have failed to distance themselves from traditional cars with telematics features.  As we discussed in Pike Research’s Electric Vehicle Telematics report, you can see how many estimated miles you have left on a battery charge and get driving tips to increase your energy efficiency – but that’s about it.  The possibilities for connecting an owner with their PEVs’ unique capabilities are virtually limitless.

The automotive industry designs in 3 to 5 year cycles and has always lagged innovations in software development and information technology, which adhere to 12-month or less development cycles.  The automotive industry’s relatively slow pace of innovation is understandable given the emphasis on safety and the sensitivity to driver distraction issues.

The recent announcements of new vehicle software platforms and the advances in vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, however, pave the way for PEVs to take a clear lead in telematics applications.  This month both Ford and GM opened up their development platforms to third parties.  Agero Connected Services recently announced a developer kit to enable telematics apps to talk to the cloud and to continually update vehicle software platforms.

Smarter Than a Smartphone

In his talk at the recent Consumer Telematics conference in Las Vegas, Agero’s Frank Hirschenberger challenged the auto industry to make vehicle applications “safer and better than what is on a smartphone.”  While he was primarily referring to so-called “infotainment” apps, the same can be said for apps that help drivers get the maximum value from their PEVs.

Hirschenberger correctly pointed out that communicating with the cloud enables the data to be aggregated and processed outside the vehicle, so that the amount of code stored under the hood can be kept to a minimum.  As connected vehicles, PEVs are a great arena for software jockeys to let loose their imagination in manipulating big (and small) data.

People (especially guys) love to brag about their gadgets, and adding apps that would (for example) calculate the amount of greenhouse gases eliminated by driving electric, or calculate the total energy cost, would result in lots of bragging to the neighbors.  Privacy must be protected, as Brian Inouye, National Manager of Advanced Technologies, Toyota , noted during the same conference.  Marketers and auto makers are looking forward to siphoning information off the vehicle, Inouye said, but consumers are understandably wary.

It is time for PEVs to carpe data.  Optimizing vehicle performance, understanding vehicle health, maximizing fuel savings, and reducing emissions are just a few of the kinds of information that could be made accessible and useful for drivers, while making PEVs the most advanced telematics vehicles on the planet.

One response to “EV Telematics Bring the Cloud to the Car”

  1. Tony says:

    The problem is some drivers want lots data and some drivers don’t really care. So you need two settings, one to show idiots menus and one to show real data than a tech savvy driver can interpret and even download the log files into excel etc.

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