You might think that a wireless phone company would be well-equipped to create exciting new ways for customers to use their smartphones in cars, but that’s not the direction Verizon and its wholly owned subsidiary Hughes Telematics are taking.
“The smartphone has a place, but the driver will have a better, richer experience with systems embedded in the vehicle,” says Thom Russell, associate director, Telematics Marketing and Business Development for Verizon.
“The best driver experience is ‘hands on the wheel and eyes on the road,’” Russell says. “There are things that can be done with a smartphone but also a number of things that shouldn’t be done – that are better done by integrating with the head unit to provide a seamless connected experience with safe operation of the vehicle.”
Russell notes that texting while driving is a huge social issue for both the automotive and the wireless industry says it’s an issue that Verizon is addressing. “We are not going to create new solutions on smartphones to replace what should be done by the automaker with an embedded system – especially anything having to do with interacting with a mobile device. Hughes’ expertise puts us in a position to develop well-thought-out embedded apps.”
Hughes is the developer of Mercedes-Benz mbrace telematics system. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, Verizon and Hughes touted mbrace 2, introduced at CES last year. The revised system features a new control module; 3G network connectivity; Internet apps such as Facebook, Google, and Yelp!; remote access capabilities including Route2Benz and Remote Horn & Lights; Family Driver Monitoring (Driving Journal, Travel Zones and Speed Alert), and over-the-air updating. It also leverages Delphi’s cloud-based Vehicle Diagnostics connectivity service, which lets consumers monitor their vehicles from a smartphone or browser.
To those telematics chops Verizon adds its own experience with GM’s OnStar and interaction with BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, and Toyota in the 4G Venture Forum for Connected Cars it formed last summer, plus its global reach to more than 200 countries. “Hughes offers a generic telematics service that can be customized. Verizon adds device management, billing and other services that automakers can manage, or we can manage for them,” Russell says.