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Connected Cars Bring Together Automotive Suppliers and Tech Companies

April 4, 2014

In the past, automotive suppliers could provide everything that automakers needed for their vehicles. It was possible for one company to be the sole source of the infotainment technology needed for a car. Those days are gone—and have been gone since car infotainment technologies changed. With the arrival of connected cars, automotive suppliers find themselves needing help from tech companies.

The vehicles that are being made today are connected vehicles. They are connected to the Internet, allowing users to receive real-time information and services from the outside environment while inside the vehicle. Connected cars are those that enable drivers to navigate using GPS, listen to Internet radio, search Google and access social media accounts while on the road. Connected car systems are advanced technology, and traditional automotive suppliers cannot provide these.

As WardsAuto reported, traditional suppliers are compelled to collaborate with tech companies in order to deliver what the industry needs. The suppliers are aware that they cannot just provide the hardware systems, which they specialize in. They need to tap into the expertise of others to deliver the digital and software systems the market demands. In a time when no one company has the ability to provide everything for a connected car, different companies need to come together to deliver the goods.

One good example is Delphi Automotive. The automotive parts supplier opened a laboratory in September 2013. Its location? Silicon Valley. According to lab director John Absmeier, the facility was placed there not only to make the company closer to automakers in the area but also to allow the company to access new technologies and talent.

Delphi knows that it can only develop the right automotive products in this day and age with the help of tech firms. The company worked with Panasonic and Silicon Valley firm CloudCar to develop an infotainment system powered by a smartphone. Delphi unveiled this technology in the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Interestingly, automakers themselves are partnering with IT companies to develop the latest in in-car technology. This is despite the fact that the manufacturers have their own in-house teams working on car connectivity features.

One automaker that is tapping outside talent and expertise to help provide better in-car technology is Honda. According to Charles Koch, American Honda’s manager of new business development, the company partnered with both IBM and Mitsubishi Electric as well as smaller IT companies to create HondaLink. HondaLink is that which allows Honda vehicles to seamlessly connect to the user’s smartphone, allowing him or her to access online content, such as music, social media and maps. This application-based platform lets car owners get all the information they need inside the vehicle.

One of the small IT firms Honda collaborated with for HondaLink is Abalta Technologies. The Torrance, California-based company, which employs 25 people, is behind the Weblink software that lets smartphones serve as the vehicle’s main computing device.

According to Abalta CEO Michael O’Shea, one reason automakers are seeking the services of small IT companies is speed. Traditional automotive suppliers can take years to develop a product. As for small IT firms? Product development can be completed in 7 months or less.

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