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Top 10 Connected Car Start-Ups to Watch in 2017

Top 10 Connected Car Start-Ups to Watch in 2017

Five years from now, connected cars could revolutionise and redefine driving and telematics forever. In the US, the US federal government is set to pass a mandate requiring all new cars to be fixed with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technology, using WI-FI to detect close-range communication among vehicles to curb accidents.

A quick look at some of tech industry’s biggest investments for the future indicates a new direction for the automotive industry.

Are Connected Cars the New Frontier in Auto Technologies?

connected car of the future, elio motorsPicture this. You are late and just leaving work. You are tired. You leave the workstation, slide in your car and just when you are ready to go, it comes to mind that you should take some work home. So you pull out your smartphone, remotely access your workstation, turn on the in-car infotainment system, and send the workload via WI-FI to the high-resolution, full capacitive touch screen on the dashboard.

You can as well work from there. Because driving is hands-free. In fact, to start the electricity-run engine, you only need to voice-command the in-car artificially intelligent digital assistant in three words only: “Take me home.” “Turn on the radio,” if you need to listen to it, “turn up the volume” and “next channel” to suit your listening fancy.

Imagine. Right before you pull out of the parking lot, you scan the various shortcuts you can use to get home the fastest, right after your car’s wireless sat nav system warns you the way you were about to take is clogged with immobile traffic starting from just a couple of blocks away.

With the mellow and familiar voice of customer care reps, the onboard AI assistant declares the weather is fine for a smooth ride home. “She” requests if you are too tired from work, you should let her “drive.” Apparently, it’s her job to detect and help mitigate fatigue and other personal aspects that may put you at risk on the road.

The offer is irresistible. After all, you need to get the work done before its time to enjoy some precious family time at home. Along the way, the car autonomously connects to big data programs along the street to establish machine to machine (M2M) communication to avoid traffic collisions, read traffic lights and predict accidental instances to keep off them.

The Ideal Smart Connected car of the future — This Should Be It

By the time you get home you’ve crashed some work, transferred the complete bits to your smartphone or tablet computer—by synching your workstation data with your mobile PC, in-car infotainment system, and probably, your secure home network. So you leave the electric car in the home packing spot charging, wirelessly. You’ll need to access the following day’s news, opinion polls and personal finance tips right off the dashboard as you drive to work in the morning. Your piece of machinery is a connected car of the future.

Now stop imagining for a second. Is this a reality in the making or a far-fetched dream, only made close to real in Hollywood scripts and signature cameo shots?

According to chip maker, Qualcomm, this future may already be here. The exponential advancement of computers and computer systems, smartphones and the Internet of Things or Internet of (Connected Car) Things even, make all of the above possible and almost timely. Partly, the connected car of the future has been around for nearly three decades.

Essential Reading: 44 Internet Of Things (IoT) Gamechangers 2016

For the last 30 years, the company, in joint effort with leading and newer OEMs, has brainstormed and slowly but steadily set the industry on a great auto revolution—the complete integration and better connection of your digital life with your in-car experience.

Qualcomm, with its high-performing calibre of Snapdragon chips, is not alone in the drive to in-car connectivity solutions. Other tech veterans and smart car startups are applying for a slice of the pizza. Among them include tech giants Google, Apple, and Microsoft. Smart car solution providers willing to invigorate some enthusiasm to connected car fans include Nauto, Atmel Corporation, and Broadcom.

Microsoft is Losing Out

The worst thing that could happen to Microsoft’s long-running in-vehicle infotainment system may already be happening. Apple Inc. in 2014 announced plans to enter fully and follow through with their in-car systems development ambition when it announced CarPlay—previously IOS in Car—and terming it as the “best iPhone experience on wheels.” When CarPlay outreaches the public from 2016, iPhone users will be able to connect and use their phones to run and control most aspects of their in-vehicle infotainment system.

Consequently, drivers will sync whatever information they need with their car. Be it weather forecasts, contacts, text and MMS messages or pictures. Even better, drivers will be able to pick incoming and make outgoing calls hands free, and have their incoming text messages read out to them by the iPhone voice assistant, Siri.

Additional Reading: Cortana vs Siri vs Google Now vs Amazon Echo – Digital Assistant Face-Off

These are almost the same specs that Google is seeking to optimise and offer to car manufacturers and, ultimately, to car owners. Android Auto is the piece of software that Google is pegging its hopes on to beat the competition. Unfortunately for Microsoft, its big partner, Ford, is opting out. And more could follow.

A Ford release communicated its decision to ditch the Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive in-car experience in late 2014, with the company reported to be seeking a partner who’d match its cars’ in-vehicle experience with Apple’s CarPlay-like features. Clearly, Microsoft’s lack of innovation for in-car systems for the past eight years is to blame. Unfortunately for the Windows PC maker, most Ford car owners in North America own (and prefer) an iPhone over Windows Phone. And the iPhone will be at the centre of the revamped CarPlay driver experience.

However, this decision was followed by a rather surprising statement in May 2015, when Ford announced its cooperation with Microsoft to develop “a broad set of connectivity-related services.

Change has indeed come to in-car experience and any player in the industry who’s unwilling to make the switch quick, may be up for redundancy in a short time.

There’s Big Money to Make in Connecting Cars

In the next 36 months, the in-car experience industry will demand in-vehicle tech devices worth about $2 trillion, according to research firm IDC. With this amount of money in play, startups and venture capitalists may finally join the race to connect the car.

A connected car forecast report by the GSM Association, an association of mobile operators and related companies, indicates that the connected car market size may grow by up to five times the current size in just five years to come. About 50% of cars to be sold worldwide in 2015 will be connected in some way, and every car sold in 2025 will be connected. By 2018, the connected car market may be worth over 40 billion Euros. This includes money going to the sale of hardware, delivery of telematics services, provision of connectivity (mobile data traffic), and customer service fulfilment. Someone will have to service these niches.

Moreover, the market for the connected car is currently expanding at 10 times faster than the overall car market, according to Business Insider. To cultivate this growth potential is a list of upcoming connected car businesses that are determined to transform the future car and transportation grid of the future.

Start-ups Could Change the Connected Car Game

Nauto is a great example of a smart car start-up that is also defining a niche for itself. The firm is helping drivers to upgrade their vehicle to become both a connected car and a safer, more convenient transport solution. What’s perhaps revolutionary is the simple, yet compelling reason that Nauto can upgrade any car with a host of network and safety resources to match the very high-end autos currently sporting the automotive technologies.

What this means is that any driver, whether you drive the latest Bugatti Veyron or the past year’s Toyota Prius, you can customise your in-car experience, making your car more connected. Such that you’d be able to, among others, avoid heavy traffic and save valuable time, learn of weather conditions in pre-destined locations and, of course, find packing. Nauto is using proprietary visual computer technology, GPS, inertia measurements and computerised algorithm to help achieve its goal. The start-up has already shaken the connected car arena and already has cars in 23 cities, including Bangalore and New York, connected.

Atmel Corporation, a player in the automotive technology field in January showcased AvantCar 2.0 during International CES 2015. The connected car concept, in its second generation, might make CarPlay seem like amateur work. Atmel’s car 2.0 demonstrator includes a 2.5D model car showcasing car access and car networking capabilities such as Crypto Authentication and audio-streaming over Ethernet-AVB. With an advanced human-machine interface, car users are assured of bringing their mobile devices experience with them and into the car.

Smart, lean start-ups are well suited for the fast-changing industry.

They are flexible and accommodating enough to reach out to car owners directly, offering the latter a more personalised service than a conglomerate such as Qualcomm, or Google, or Apple can ever hope to do.

Here are the 10 most promising auto start-ups to watch out for in the coming years (not in order of preference).

10 Connected Car Start-ups to Watch in 2016

1. Elio Motors

elio motorsElio Motors is a Detroit-based automaker is in the market to sell efficient and affordable cars that fulfil every car owners wishes.

The unit they presented at the Connected Car Expo in L.A is a three-seater, legally recognised as a motorcycle. The aerodynamic design ensures that the car pulls less drag and is fuel-efficient at 86 miles per gallon. If you are wondering “how much,” the car will be going for – then with just $6800 you will receive your package directly from retail stores near you when production begins in 2016.

The start-up says it’s already got over 45,000 pre-orders to take care of.

2. Automatic

Automatic_Adapter_Hand_CarAutomatic is based in San Francisco, California. Since inception in 2011, it has already secured over $32 million to develop its Connected Car Adapter concept. The Adapter plugs into your car’s diagnostics port (almost all cars have it) reads and analyses your car condition, before sending the results of the scan to you via Bluetooth to the compatible Automatic mobile app for either Android or IOS. The adapter only costs $100.

Also, you can receive alerts on your Apple Watch. The firm is also in partnership with other app developers to make more compatible apps that will help ease and up your in-car experience such as fitness tracker mavens Jawbone and temperature control tools from Nest Thermostat.

3. High Mobility

High Mobility is an auto start-up based in Berlin, Germany, and the developer of proprietary software that should be a model for other connected car tools developers.

In a demo at CES 2015, the firm’s software was used by Germany’s automaker, BMW, to showcase a smartwatch controlling the i3 by gesture control.

The in-car software connects your car to your wearables, and can read your pulse rate and driving style in real time. Users can identify themselves to the system and allow every car they enter; that has the software installed, to recognise you and your driving preferences. It then connects to other apps and helps set your ideal conditions.The software is ideal for corporates with multiple personnel that need to use cars as well as individual car owners.

4. Navdy

navdyHeads-up notifications are the future of in-car notification. Another San Francisco start-up knows this and is well positioned to offer its product to willing car owners.

Navdy’s notifications projector beams information on a part of your car’s windshield right in front of the steering wheel. You can, therefore, check the alerts without losing focus on the road. If your car lacks wireless connectivity, Navdy is willing to install it for you inexpensively. After that you can access high-res information on your windshield, including maps, text and mail messages and social media feeds right off it.

The company’s secured $20 million in seed funding and current pre-orders already top the $6 million mark. The projector is set to start shipping in 2016 and reach buyers from around 650 retailers in the US.

5. CarForce

carforceCarForce Founder Jessica Lora, a self-professed car enthusiast and former corporate strategy and business development executive for EBay Motors, believes she can help connect the 162 million disconnected cars around the globe.

CarForce is a B2B offering, where car sellers and repair shops can purchase the package from Houston-based CarForce and install the hardware to their clients’ vehicles. The device—CarForce Opportunity Genie–transfuses live feeds to a dashboard at the dealership, showing what cars need service, what diagnostics they need to be done and where the cars are at any particular time, even before the car owner calls in.

This way car, dealers can predict, detect and diagnose car problems better and as a consequence retain more customers in the long run.

6. TriLumina

triluminaThe backbone of the connected, self-driving car is its ability to “predict, see, think and react”. Towards achieving this end, TriLumina, a semiconductors laser technology start-up, is developing ultra-fast, effective and affordable semiconductors to help drivers.

The platform technology links up to other driver monitoring applications and sensors, human to machine interfaces, industrial robotics (IR) and other home uses that utilise LIDAR technologies.

7. SHEnetics

sheneticsSHEnetics refers to itself as the Voice of the Internet of Things. SHE stand for Simulated Human Experience and is a great Artificial Intelligence-based platform for OEMs. Auto solution providers can also use the software to provide their customers with customised experiences.

The San Diego, California, start-up seeks to integrate effectively easy to use IoT experiences to wearables, robotics, and the automotive industries.

8. Quanergy

Quanergy-Mercedes_webObject detecting, classification and tracking, real-time 3D mapping and 3D state of flight systems are Quanergy’s forte. It is the leading provider in this niche. The Silicon Valley technology start-up is striving to offer reliable, affordable and conveniently sized Advanced Driver Assisted Systems (ADAs) to aid in the wide adoption of their technology.

Quanergy says that its LIDAR solutions are eye-safe, and reliably cover drivers’ needs no matter the weather conditions they are driving in.

9. Zubie

zubieLike Automatic, Zubie’s diagnostics tool connects to your car via the native diagnostics port. The $100 tool then wirelessly connects to its mobile app counterpart in your smartphone, transmitting data regarding your car(s) maintenance details, location tracking and offers safe driving tips.

With an API platform welcoming other developers to tap into the connected car market, the Silicon Valley start-up is setting drivers up for great in-car experience, which probably explains why the firm has received about $20 million in seed capital funding.

10. Vinli

vinli-logo-single-colourFor your entire mobile internet connectivity needs you’ll want a reliable service provider to help keep your connected car connected. Vinli is in the market to serve this niche and has been since 2014.

Vinli, like some others her, will connect to your car through the on-board diagnostics port. It is also an open platform through which over 1000 developers are set to build their services. The firm is to offer internet connection through T-Mobile’s 4G LTE in the U.S.

Are connected cars the future of auto?

The Department for Transport is in charge of setting precedent-setting rules and regulations for road users. There are currently no specific regulations for connected cars, and especially for self-driving cars. Google must be the most frustrated as it has tried to have its fleet of autonomous cars approved for public use for at least a year now, and all it’s had to do is wait up.

The connected cars of the present may not appear or function the same way as the flying cars of the future as depicted in the 80’s films. But more now than ever before, car owners can integrate their IOS, Android, Windows, etc. devices with the car they own or drive. Users can integrate their digital life with their connected car to power safe, secure and convenient driving experience.

Smart car systems and networks will continue to grow and redefine driving and telematics, according to Ian McCarthy of BrightSKY Labs. In just a few years, car owners can accomplish the following in the car:

  • Use their cars as 5G WI-FI hotspot to browse the internet on the go—via mobile devices
  • Access more digital services via the car as more start-ups and automakers come in to build more compatible apps
  • Connect wearable tech such as smartwatches to the car to establish, connect, integrate and track biometric data
  • Sync and stream multimedia and other cloud-based data to in-dash or rear seat displays
  • Use multiple chips simultaneously to “tell” the weather, find packing, avoid congestion and locate, say, a new coffee shop
  • You’ll be able to use your car as you do your smartphone in the present time.
  • Use real fast Tri-mode Bluetooth for rapid data transfers among devices in the car

The Trouble With Connected Cars

The connected car of the future debate has carried on for decades. As things stand now, the debate whether we are even ready for smart cars, may be far from over.

1. How secure is personal data transmitted by connected cars

As more cars become connected, millions of megabytes revolving around car owners intimate lives get flown off to the cloud for storage. But if the past two years are anything to go by, cloud computing is not that safe. Callous techies can still hack or implement phishing programs to harvest and collect personal data on particular targets. The information can very easily be used to sabotage, track, and even conspiring to physically confront tracked car owners.

2. How safe are connected cars?

The average connected car could be housing more electronic devices, cords and codes than the average home. What are the chances that these electric layers of sorts don’t turn rogue and harm the occupants at any time, whatsoever. Electronics have an uncanny habit of failing when you need them not to.

Automatic electronic braking and emergency systems can lock smack in the middle of a get-me-out-of-here-now situation. A good example is the massive electronic failure of the accelerator, clutch and braking systems of cars sold in the past 15 months, leading car manufacturers such as Toyota and Volkswagen to call back cars for repair.

3. Who needs all the tech bytes?

Some of us can’t even begin to think of leaving behind good ol’ hydrocarbon guzzlers. Not everyone feels they need an upgrade to add energy-sucking components to their “real” cars. Some people will even tell you that a connected car is not a real car, whatever that means.

4. Connected cars are (probably) a deadly distraction

Despite the connected car offering a host of cruise control enhancers, AAA still finds in-car technologies to be distasteful driver distractions, which are more likely to lead to less vigilant driving and may cause more accidents and losses to risky drivers. The U.S road safety watchdog claims that using in-dash tools such as Siri could be as distractive as typing and reading messages combined. No statistical data supports this claim, though.

5. There are no set rules yet for smart, connected cars

Furthermore, the Department of Motor Vehicles has staggered behind advances in automotive technologies. Apparently, the Department of Transportation needs more convincing that these cars of the future are road-worthy.

Relevant: IoT – Security, Privacy and Safety Concerns

Bottom line

Connected cars will be able to log on to wireless systems for navigation and infotainment, something that still sounds alien at this time. What’s more, connected cars will communicate with street signs, signals, and multiple sensors, and each other using almost 1000 chips simultaneously.

Advancement in accompanying technology such as wearable technology in smartwatches, killer, and compatible mobile apps, and fast and accurate wireless technology solutions will impact the auto industry in many ways than before. More investors are coming in too.

My, my….What a time to be alive!
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  1. Doug Collins

    Ohio had 1,057 confirmed traffic fatalities in 2015. Sixty percent of fatal crashes involved someone not wearing a seat belt and one-third involved a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs.

    When the autonomous, networked car arrives the fatality rate will fall below 100, rapidly.

    Let’s assume each fatality costs $100,000 in direct expenses (doctors, lawyers, funeral homes, courts, jail) and $1 million in terminal costs (expected lifetime earnings of the deceased, foregone).

    Let’s assume that for each fatality, an average of ten people are injured in the same or other crashes: 10,570 people for 2015.

    Let’s assume each injury costs $250,000 in direct expenses (doctors, lawyers, physical/occupational rehab, courts, jail).

    The expected savings from the decrease in carnage on account of the introduction of the autonomous, networked car might justify subsidizing the costs of giving each of us one in order to accelerate its adoption.

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