Driving Dystopia: Stellantis Is Becoming a Software Company Like Everyone Else
On Tuesday, Stellantis announced a plan to cultivate €20 billion ($23 billion USD) per year by 2030 via “software-enabled product offerings and subscriptions.” However, the automaker will first need to increase the number of connected vehicles it has sold from 12 million (today) to 34 million by the specified date.
This is something we’ve seen most major manufacturers explore, with some brands firmly committing themselves to monetizing vehicular connectivity through over-the-air (OTA) updates, data mining, and subscription services. Though much of this looks decidedly unappetizing, often representing a clever way for companies to repeatedly charge customers for equipment that’s already been installed.
Driving Dystopias: GM Reportedly Rejoining the Insurance Racket With OnStar
General Motors is making moves to offer insurance plans under its data-focused OnStar connected services, which is convenient since the feature comes equipped on all new models the company sells inside North America. Participating customers will be required to allow the automaker to track their driving behavior in real-time. As a perk for handing over their right to privacy, GM will offer discounts to motorists that never exceed the speed limit or accidentally roll through a stop sign.
It’s part of a usage-based insurance trend that’s becoming increasingly common within the industry. It started years ago with customers agreeing to have insurers install tracking devices in their vehicles in exchange for lower rates — assuming they displayed what the agency deemed safe driving practices throughout the duration. But, now that cars are becoming connected to the internet, this can be done automatically with on-board technologies. Consumer advocacy groups are growing worried that insurers will eventually make vehicle tracking mandatory and use it as an excuse to issue predatory fees.
Frankly, so are we.
Lasts, and Firsts: Audi TT Quantum Grey Edition Is All About Promoting Online Sales
With Audi’s TT slated to be replaced, eventually, by an all-electric model that doesn’t skimp on the performance thrills, the vehicle needs a send-off special edition. Starting June 5th, such a model will be available. However, the vehicle appears to be more of a way for Audi to test an online-only shopping model than a celebration of the outgoing TT.
Limited to 99 examples, the Audi TT Quantum Gray Edition will be sold exclusively in German using the company’s “initial pilot project for online direct sales.”
Perk? Pointless? Laziness Enabler? Ford Offers Amazon In-car Deliveries, On-demand Car Washes
With e-commerce being the new hotness for automakers, Ford is busy working to grow FordPass as a service. Though slow to start following its 2016 launch, the company had done a decent job of expanding its utility — it seems every time we speak to someone at Ford, there’s a new feature about to be implemented. One of the biggest upgrades brought Amazon’s Alexa into Ford vehicles as a voice-enabled digital assistant — a feature used by other automakers.
Ford now plans to further expand FordPass (and its partnership with Amazon) by allowing in-car deliveries via Key by Amazon. It also says it will enable customers to order traveling car washes from Spiffy, Rub A Dub and Sparkl — likely to highlight how FordPass and Lincoln Way can be integrated with other apps, hopefully resulting in new business opportunities.
Safety Advocates Getting Testy Over Automotive Apps, Consumer Data
Automakers began hunting for new revenue streams about two milliseconds after realizing they could put the internet into vehicles. While the earliest endeavors involved ride-sharing applications and new infotainment features, companies are now beginning to see new opportunities via automotive e-commerce, data acquisition, and in-car marketing.
However, the delivery system used for these new sources of revenue pose a legitimate safety concern. Distracted driving is on the rise and shopping while behind the wheel isn’t likely to remedy the situation.
Japan's SoftBank Dumps Cash Into America's Autonomous Vehicles, Sets GM Deadline for 2019
Several months after procuring a large ownership stake in Uber, SoftBank has placed $2.5 billion into General Motors’ self-driving program. The automaker intends to begin deploying autonomous vehicles next year and CEO Mary Barra says her company will invest $1.1 billion of its own funds into the effort to ensure the timeline is adhered to.
Thanks to the hefty investment from SoftBank’s Vision Fund, the Japanese holding company now owns roughly 20 percent of General Motors’ tech subsidiary, known as Cruise Automation. While tech firms and automakers have been driving hard to surpass each other in terms of autonomous development for years, GM currently appears to have the most riding on the hardware.
GM Revamps OnStar: Take a Long Look In the Mirror
When General Motors first deployed OnStar, it was a little more than an emergency services hotline. Drivers in need could tap a blue button on their rearview mirror and immediately get in contact with an operator. The system could also do this automatically in the event of a crash. OnStar later introduced anti-theft measures, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote access as part of a subscription plan.
However, with General Motors seeing dollar signs wherever connectivity is involved, the automaker wants to retool the system. OnStar will continue offering existing services, but GM is changing the subscription model and placing a new emphasis on data acquisition. The good news is that the tiered payment model will offer more features starting in May. Unfortunately, some those amenities used to be free and those fed up with companies selling your data or paranoid about Orwellian Big Brother scenarios might be less enthusiastic about the long-term corporate vision.
GM Wants Customers to Pay for Gas Without Leaving the Vehicle
General Motors is updating its on-board digital marketplace to allow customers to purchase fuel without ever having to leave the vehicle. You’ll still have to leave the confines of the vehicle to actually pump the gas, unless you live in New Jersey, but the exchange of money is handled entirely by the world’s first “in-dash fuel payment system.”
What a time to be alive.
The new service is available via the Shell widget, which is already featured on GM’s Marketplace app (providing directions to the nearest Shell station). The corporate collaboration allows respective patrons to select a nearby Shell station, use the map to navigate there, park, select a pump, fill up, and drive away. Payment is automatically charged through Shell’s Fuel Rewards program.