Real-time traffic data company Inrix has acquired OpenCar, a software startup that built an in-car app platform that could challenge Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Automakers concerned with consumer privacy, control over user data, and cybersecurity have historically been leery of sharing car data with third-party technology providers like Apple and Google. That wariness was largely what spurred Daimler, Audi, and BMW to buy mapping technology unit Nokia HERE.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto allow drivers to integrate smartphones with a vehicle’s dashboard. In-car infotainment systems, which can be clunky and hard to use, often can't match the functionality and look a smartphone.
In less than two years, Apple and Google have made significant inroads with automakers sensitive to the growing demand of tech-savvy consumers who want the same look, feel, and functionality of a smartphone in their car. A number of automakers—including Ford, Volvo, and BMW—have announced plans within the last year to integrate Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into new models.
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Still, automakers would prefer more control over the platforms, limiting customization options and requiring access to sensitive and valuable car data.
OpenCar's framework could provide a welcome alternative. The platform lives in the car. Meaning, this isn't about connecting your smartphone to your car. Instead, the company has developed an in-car app ecosystem. Unlike Apple and Google platform, OpenCar's framework is fully controlled by the automaker. A car company can tweak the platform's design as well as its touch and voice interfaces for different brands and models.
Seattle-based Inrix has also developed a driver-assistance platform that taps into its real-time traffic data and enables predictive routing based on where and when drivers go. The platform, called Autointelligent, creates a daily, personalized itinerary of anticipated trips by accessing the user’s calendar and contacts and provides pre-drive and drive time alerts based on route preferences, congestion, hazardous road conditions and vehicle sensor data, such as if the vehicle needs fuel. The platform integrates other Inrix services such as road weather alerts, routing for public transit and walking, and dynamic on- and off-street parking.
The OpenCar and new Inrix platforms can work together or apart, depending on the wants and needs of a customer. For example, an automaker could make OpenCar's platform standard in all cars or add the Inrix driver-assistance system to just luxury models.
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The OpenCar platform isn't on the market yet. Mazda, which has backed OpenCar through a strategic partnership for the past five years, is a customer. Audi, owned by VW Group, also publicly endorsed the platform.
The newly-acquired company is also working with a number of content partners, including Nuance, WCities, Glympse, iHeart, NPR, Gas Buddy, Rivet Radio, Stitcher, and Dash, according to Inrix.
“We’re excited to see additional competition in this important connected car segment,” said Marcus Keith, head of human-machine interface development at Audi, in a statement. “The combination of INRIX and OpenCar should be very compelling for bringing new applications.”