Pandora embraces an in-car advertising platform with some big names on-board as 2014’s first acquisitions come to light. Andrew Tolve reports.
In this week’s Brief: Pandora, BP, Ford Motor Company, State Farm, Taco Bell, Aha by Harman, Qualcomm, Astrata, Vista Equity Partners, Visteon Corporation, Johnson Controls, Tesla Motors, Audi, Continental, Nokia HERE and New York's Department of Financial Services.
There was a time when Pandora Internet radio was purely a music experiment — no ads, just songs linked together by genre and musical taxonomy. Then came the ads, 30 seconds in length, chopping up the music genome project into four or five song sets. Last week, Pandora announced the next step: allowing advertisers to reach car-bound audiences through 15- and 30-second audio spots.
BP, Ford Motor Company, State Farm and Taco Bell have already signed up. How the system integrates location-based capabilities, as we saw from Aha by Harman late last year, has yet to be seen. It is also unclear whether customers will respond with frustration or acceptance.
“Nearly half of all radio listening takes place in the car,” says Simon Fleming-Wood, Pandora chief marketing officer. “We knew early on that to redefine radio, we would need to seamlessly deliver Pandora through in-dash entertainment systems. With an 8.60% share of total U.S. radio listening and unmatched growth and adoption of Pandora in the car, we are now seizing the opportunity to connect advertisers with a more targeted audience than traditional radio can provide.”
In other news, the telematics industry saw its first two major acquisitions of the year.
First, Qualcomm sold the remainder of its transportation and logistics business, Omnitracs Europe, to Astrata, a Singapore-based company focused on advanced location-based IT, for an undisclosed amount. (In November 2013, Qualcomm sold the North and Latin American divisions of Omnitracs to private equity firmVista Equity Partners.)
Second, automotive supplier Visteon Corporation acquired the automotive electronics business of Johnson Controls for $265 million. Under the terms of the agreement, Visteon gets Johnson Controls' instrument cluster, infotainment, display and body electronics products, and the acquisition makes Visteon one of the top three automotive electronics suppliers in the world. Visteon said its aim was to strengthen its product portfolio, customer penetration, and manufacturing and engineering footprint around the globe.
Tesla Motors, meanwhile, released a second over-the-air software update in an effort to further minimize the chances of the Model S bursting into flames. The first update, last November, raised ground clearance of the vehicle to diminish the chances of objects colliding with the undercarriage. The second update reduces the charging current of the onboard system by 25% if it detects unexpected fluctuations in the input power to the vehicle. If nothing else, the car fire attention has allowed Tesla to demonstrate industry-first over-the-air updates that experts expect to become the new norm in the connected vehicle era.
Audi made news in San Francisco when it demonstrated the latest fruits of its Audi Urban Intelligent Assist (AUIA) research project, which aims to harness Big Data to streamline the driving task. The latest technologies on display were “Audi Centric Urban Navigation” and “Audi Urban Assistance.” The former tells the motorist the optimal time to leave for an appointment, the optimal route to take and the best parking options available upon arrival, while the latter monitors driver awareness and ensures safe merging and lane changing on a highway. No word yet on when Audi will integrate these solutions into street-ready cars.
Meanwhile in Detroit, Continental and Nokia HERE said they planned to redouble their efforts to keep advancing the connected car. The first order of business: to develop highly precise map technology for Continental’s Electronic Horizon platform, enabling a vehicle to continuously determine its position on the road to within 10 to 20 centimeters (three to eight inches). The maps will include a range of road information, including lane markings, speed limit changes and no passing signs. Using this information, vehicles will be able to automatically react to shifting circumstances.
Finally, the state of New York came out as a proponent of insurance telematics, which, in some states, faced stiff resistance from regulatory bodies wary of embedded telematics devices tracking customer data. New York now says “fugetaboutit” – reducing distracted driving is more important than customer data concerns. The state and Governor Andrew Cuomo are particularly “bullish on usage-based insurance,” according to Robert Easton of the insurance division in New York's Department of Financial Services. "We've been reaching out to companies inviting filings," he told Insurance & Technology.
The Weekly Brief is a round-up of the week’s top telematics news, combining TU analysis with information from industry press releases.
Andrew Tolve is a regular TU contributor.
For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.
For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013, The Automotive HMI Report 2013, Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.
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