Industry Pulse: Airbiquity’s Leo McCloskey on Connected Cars, Safe Driving

Telematics company, Airbiquity, is on a mission to merge cars and their drivers with the mobile technology world. In an exclusive interview with Leo McCloskey, who serves as vice president of marketing for the mobile resource management firm, Be Car Chic learned how Airbiquity provides networked-services for the automotive industry and plans to use technology to combat distracted driving.Airbiquity and the Auto Industry

Airbiquity has been providing networked-services for General Motors’ OnStar and Ford Motor Company’s Sync for the better part of a decade. The company develops and provides the basic technology that enables these in-car systems to function, and it does so successfully. Last year, the company achieved 99.99 percent “up” time with the Sync technology’s connectivity.Those numbers helped to place Airbiquity’s reputation for reliable networked-services front-and-center within the industry. “It’s a very conservative culture,” said McCloskey, referring to the auto manufacturing sector. “You have to earn your cred in that space.”Airbiquity has a unique position in the automotive market. The company sells directly to the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), so no matter how ground-breaking their technology services, the company cannot sell directly to the consumer.What the company produces must be exactly what car makers want to put in their vehicles. “Our customers are the automaker,” said McCloskey, “We can’t make any of this available without their consent.”Taking the distracted driving debate to the “Cloud”Automakers aren’t the only stakeholders the mobile resource management firm has been talking to recently. During our conversation, McCloskey indicated that he would sit down with NHTSA Administrator David Strickland and his team sometime this fall to see how the company can team up with the Department of Transportation to combat distracted driving.Airbiquity doesn’t want the conversation it to end at the technology level says McCloskey. He hopes that the company’s offerings can be woven into the fabric of any impending federal distracted driving policy. In an ideal world, that would mean that vehicles would be a lot smarter – automatically retrieving policy data from cloud-based services and pushing it right into vehicles.

The way to solve the distracted driving problem on a broad scale is through the OEMs as they create vehicles. We must make it simple – we must make the vehicle easily adaptable to the consumer, as opposed to the consumer tyring to figure out how to operate their infotainment system.

-Leo McCloskey, VP of Marketing, Airbiquity

Three factors determine the dynamic points within a vehicle  – the driver, the location, and the state. The car would essentially be connected to the cloud, and it would know what the laws and regulations are depending on where it is geographically located. The auto manufacturers also apparently support this plan because the OEMs want to see the DoT as part of the “connected car” movement.When it comes to safe driving, Airbiquity is thinking outside the box. McCloskey explained that any new rules that NHTSA would set on a federal level could be enforced inside the vehicle because they would have already been agreed upon and fully adopted. “When you want to use [texting, emailing, etc.] services, there’s a governance model – a rules-based model that forces behavior of the application to adapt to the local legislation or jurisdiction,” said McCloskey. “For distracted driving, that means the [car’s] ecosystem can layer on top of the laws in their area or in the state where they’re driving.”

“We like the other models against distracted driving,” said McCloskey, “but rather than tell the device you’re the driver or passenger, the car will already know.”

Also key to nationwide implementation, is having mobile network operators on board. “If there’s a way that a mobile device can become part of the vehicle experience without DoT banning it, then [mobile network operators] are happy with that,” said McCloskey. “Think about a fleet operator,” the Airbiquity vice president went on to say, “In conjunction with a mobile network operator, the vehicle can know that you’re the person driving. [The in-vehicle system is] pre-configured, so that it makes the [mobile] device inoperable.”

We don’t want to ruin the experience, we just want to make it more suitable for the vehicle. If your car is in “park” you’re going to see the moving image, album art, etc. on the dashboard, but as soon as you’re in “drive” (3-5 mph) that screen changes so that the album art and advertisements are gone.

According to the firm’s lead marketing exec, we could be looking at mass adoption of this type of product in vehicles as soon as the 2015-2017 model years, with the earliest adoption from some manufacturers as soon as MY 2013.Related articles

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Melanie Batenchuk founded Be Car Chic in 2009 as a way to help consumers make smart decisions when buying and selling their cars. Her prior work at the dealership, trade association and manufacturer levels has provided her a deep understanding of the complex facets within the auto industry, making her a leading woman in her field.