January 26, 2015

At CES 2015, FierceWireless hosted a panel discussion with industry experts who discussed the various connected car business models, challenges, and future opportunities. The panel was moderated by FierceWireless editor Phil Goldstein and featured:

  • Philip Abram, General Motors
  • Kevin Link, Verizon Telematics
  • Magnus Lundgren, Ericsson
  • John Horn, KORE Telematics
  • Dominikus Hierl, Telit Automotive Solutions

The discussion was intended to focus on the business models that resonate with the consumer, but went in a different direction.

Philip Abram, CTO at GM, was a vocal participant. He emphasized the responsibility that the automobile industry has to deliver the best end-user experience. “We, the car manufacturers and the entire automobile ecosystems of auto OEMs and suppliers, are responsible for delivering the magic. Whether we like or not, we are now magicians who need to deliver,” Abram said.

The rest of the session covered the advancement of the connected vehicle in the past year as well as trends and future developments.

John Horn from KORE Telematics defined the connected car as the combination of experience, connectivity and telematics—the convergence of telecommunications and information processing. Another panelist defined the connected car as a wide range of entertainment, traffic and navigation information as well as car maintenance and safety features. Dominikus Hierl from Telit stressed the notion that the telematics component is an enabler for all the things to come in the future for the connected vehicle.


Horn said that his company is seeing more global platform thinking, and migration toward “hybrid” Telematics solutions. Global legislative initiatives like eCall in Europe, and Contran-245 in Brazil impact Telematics solutions in North America.

Most OEMs operate globally or have partnerships that bridge regions. This means that if a vehicle OEM is developing a Telematics solution for one market, chances are that the OEM will be bringing a similar solution to another market on a common platform. The primary difference between market specific solutions becomes the cellular technology and respective carrier network access. This means that the modular approach to connectivity becomes even more attractive to auto OEMs.

Many OEM are launching or are about to launch hybrid Telematics solutions that comprise both embedded, and tethered (i.e., smartphone-based) approaches to connectivity. OEMs are supporting these two approaches, which clearly indicates that core safety features are best served with embedded and tethered solutions (i.e., content and apps), which should be piped to the vehicle with an OEM-developed HMI solution.

Is there real demand for wireless connectivity? Philip Abram said that GM’s cars come with embedded LTE Modules and that 99 percent of customers ask for the connected capabilities at the time of purchase.

Magnus from Ericsson stated that migration to 4G is happening quickly in North America. This push is being driven by a future-proofing standpoint because of the added data throughput that LTE offers. Auto OEMs want to launch with the best technology possible because they know upgrading later is almost impossible. He also said that VoLTE is a major enabler to the migration to 4G and carriers are working on this aggressively. An AT&T representative in the audience validated this initiative.

In answer to the question, “What is down the connected car road?”, two key developments were mentioned by members: V2X and ADAS.

V2X comprises communications between vehicles and vehicle infrastructure services. ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) take on various road safety applications.
Adapted speed and braking technologies are also emerging at the moment, as well as controlled steering and the much talked about autonomous driving, which was only mentioned once during the discussion.

Key takeaways:

  • Vehicle connectivity is no longer a brand differentiator. Connected cars are the new standard. OEMs like GM and Ford consider connectivity a necessity.
  • The use of smartphone applications sets a high bar for car manufacturers. Smartphones are an indispensable part of our business and personal lives and consumers expect the same experience in the car.
  • The connected car revolution is forcing the auto OEMs to partner with the right professionals. It’s a whole new world out there that requires taking advantage of the right knowledge sources and expertise. GM’s CTO, Philip Abram, said: “ Partner with the right people who can give you the best customer experience.”

What are you working on?

Contact BluFlux