Social cars

Posted by in Gadgets

Cars are getting connected, that’s a fact. The first step in that process was with the TomToms connecting though bluetooth to the network to access live information. Now smartphones are replacing PNDs (slowly) and are trying to leverage on their userbase to create user-generated contents of maps and road infos (status, cops…).

Coyote, a French company, is one of the pioneer in that area. They started with a dedicated device that simply used to bind a GPS chip with a database of fix and mobile radars but they evolved very quickly to dedicated connected devices where users have the ability to report the presence of new radars. Each device has a sim card and this is one of the only consumer cases for M2M I know of. They managed to build a community of “coyotes” which is now acts as a fairly strong bareer for any new entrant on the French market. On top of the devices they even added great Android and iPhone apps. At any given time when I’m driving on the motorways I can see a few hundreds coyotes around me. I tried some alternative services such as Waze but we are very far from such a density of users. Nevertheless, as usually for French companies which build great products, they spent so much time on their tiny local market that they will certainly fail at the internationalization stage…

Waze (Israel start-up who recently raised 10M) has gone international from day 1 and is very strong in the US and especially in the West coast where user reports are even used by TV-channels for their road traffic status. 2 weks ago, Blackberry also announced “Blackberry traffic” to let Blackberry users optimize their route. Android phones have had turn-by-turn navigation in the US for a year now and traffic infos are available as an overlay to Google Maps.

It’s fairly interesting to see how the Smartphones are slowly kicking out the PNDs and are adding a lot of social features on top of the simple map/direction. As a proof to that trend, the market of PNDs in Europe in Q1 2010 decreased by 17% YoY from 3.2 to 2.7 M units. That trend and the fact that offline maps are less and less relevant do actually ask a lot of questions regarding the value chain of the sector and seem to put guys like google in a fairly interesting position. Can’t wait for a car powered by Google : Android PND, apps, Google Navigation, always connected, social… They seem to be the closest to that vision today !