LAS VEGAS--A top executive from General Motors said the company is working to remain open to a variety of connected car services, including those from smartphone vendors like Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). The comments are notable in light of reports that Google is working to develop a version of Android that would be built directly into automobiles.
"I don't think that's really a problem," said Philip Abram, CIO of General Motors, here at the FierceWireless "Creating a Compelling Connected Car Experience" event, held in conjunction with the Consumer Electronics Show. "We're working with all those people."
Indeed, Abram said GM used the same connected car demonstration at Apple's recent developer's conference that it did during Google's I/O developer's conference.
Abram explained that GM wants to satisfy its users, which means ensuring that users' phones can connect to their cars--regardless of the make and model of both the phone and the GM car. "People have already made a choice ... about what's in their pocket," he said, adding that GM needs to connect to whatever is in that pocket.
Abram added that GM can innovate in the space beyond a phone's services, such as real-time monitoring of vehicle diagnostics.
Reuters reported late last year that Google is developing a version of its Android software that would be built directly into the consoles of cars. Such a move could obviate the need to have a smartphone connect to the car's infotainment system.
Of course, Google isn't the only smartphone company eyeing the market for automobiles. Apple currently offers its CarPlay technology to allow iPhone users to connect their phones to their cars and use some of the phone's functions via their car's dashboard. Others, including Microsoft and BlackBerry, are also targeting connected cars.
Moreover, GM isn't the only company working to make it easier for users to connect their phones to their cars. For example, Ford Motor Co. recently took the wraps off the latest version of its in-car technology platform, Sync 3--interestingly, the platform is powered by BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) subsidiary QNX's technology and not Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
Aside from the connections between cars and smartphones, panelists at the event also discussed the future of the connected car market and the business models that could emerge. And some speakers addressed the heated competition in the space.
John Horn, EVP and chief strategy officer of Kore Telematics, said that AT&T Mobility is currently winning in the connected car market--indeed, the carrier this week announced that Subaru would install AT&T LTE connections into its cars. "AT&T has made it easy for the customer to use AT&T with their car," Horn said, pointing to the carrier's move to allow AT&T-equipped cars to work inside AT&T's shared data plans.
But Kevin Link, SVP of Verizon Telematics, said that Verizon is in fact leading the connected car market globally. He said that Verizon is not focusing on providing just transport connections--he said transport is a "commodity"--but instead Verizon is focusing on providing value-added services to auto makers. "The value of those services is 50x the value of transport," Link said.
Interestingly, Link also noted that telematics offerings will help push forward the autonomous vehicle space. Car makers including Volvo, Ford and others are currently planning to offer cars that can drive themselves at low speeds, and Link said wireless carriers like Verizon will help provide services for those offerings.
Link also pointed out that the business model for the connected car needs to evolve. He said that users should not have to pay for the wireless data required for security services--for example, if a driver is involved in an accident, their car should alert emergency services regardless of whether that driver has paid for their vehicle's wireless connection.
"The business model is upside down," Link said, noting that users shouldn't pay for data connections related to security but might need to pay for entertainment services like streaming video. "We should bifurcate the data," Link said.
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