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October 28, 2013 at 2:15 PM
Kirkland-based traffic data provider Inrix today launched a new version of its service with more precision and flexibility to run on multiple digital maps.
The upgrades could help the 325-person company accelerate enterprise sales as it steers toward a potential public stock offering next year.
June 4, 2013 at 9:01 PM
Kirkland-based Inrix is expanding its stack of automotive services with a new real-time parking finder that’s debuting Wednesday on Audi cars.
July 11, 2011 at 9:45 AM
Please excuse any typos here. My fingers are still tingling from an incredibly fast wireless device I tested last week.
This one costs nearly $60,000, plus $30 a month for a data plan, and it weighs 4,045 pounds.
It’s the 2012 Audi A6 sedan that went on sale last week.
Audi provided a fully loaded model with a supercharger, eight-speed transmission and a wireless system that turns the car into a rolling Wi-Fi hot spot that connects up to eight devices at once.
The wireless system — called “Audi Connect” — is available with a $4,220 option package on the A6, which starts at $41,700.
Earlier this year, Audi became the first carmaker to offer a factory-installed hot spot. Previously, cars connected to information services via satellites, embedded wireless devices or drivers’ phones.
Audi’s A6 and A7 are also the first cars to use Google Earth in their navigation systems. They display the search giant’s aerial imagery and use its local search to provide details on restaurants, hotels and other points of interest; there’s even a touch-screen input system. (Here’s a video I shot of Audi’s Google system in action.)
Automotive electronics are going through a surge of innovation, parallel to what’s happening with smartphones and Web tablets.
The number of cars shipping with factory-installed telematics systems will leap from less than 10 percent last year to more than 62 percent in 2016, according to an ABI Research report in January. Analyst Dominique Bonte said in the release that carmakers are “borrowing the hugely successful application store paradigm from the mobile industry” to release products more quickly and at lower costs.
Audi is extending its wireless technology from higher-end models down through its product line, but it’s still a pricey system. There’s convenience in having a connected car, but there are other options, including new phones that function as Wi-Fi hot spots and portable, puck-sized modems that connect multiple devices to the latest wireless networks.
My guess is that systems like Audi Connect won’t take off in the U.S. until the prices come down further and wireless companies move toward pay-as-you-go metered data plans, similar to those in Europe. Under that approach, customers use the same data plan for multiple devices — phones and cars — instead of paying $30 a month for each one.
The Audis connect to T-Mobile’s 3G wireless network, using a SIM card that fits into a slot on the dashboard. After a six-month trial period, “unlimited” data plans cost $30 a month or $324 for a prepaid yearly plan. T-Mobile doesn’t specify a usage limit, but the contract says the carrier reserves the right to throttle your data throughput in a given month if usage is excessive.
The taut and sprightly A6 showed two to five bars of 3G coverage while driving around Seattle and Bellevue. The Speedtest site measured download speeds of 267 to 798 kilobits per second.
Most important, the A6 passed the Netflix test: In an experiment, a passenger could watch a movie streamed to an iPad over the Wi-Fi connection while driving. It took a while to get started, but then played without a hiccup at a decent resolution.
Google Earth imagery is fun but nonessential. The navigation system gives you the choice of displaying regular maps or Google’s aerial photos on a 7-inch diagonal color screen that slides out and flips up when you turn the car on. The computer uses an Nvidia processor and middleware from Ottawa-based QNX.
Spinning a control knob on the console, you can zoom out to see the entire globe or down to a particular block. Audi and Google are working together to eventually display “Street View” street-level images as well.
The aerial imagery is realistic enough that you may be fooled into thinking it’s a live image, but your car’s not on the screen and things outside the window don’t look exactly the same. It also made one of my passengers feel a little queasy, watching aerial images scroll around as we drove.
Applications on the system include a Wikipedia search and news feeds, which can be customized via an Audi website. It also provides real-time weather, traffic and nearby gas prices (provided by Kirkland’s Inrix). The system is also used to choose music from the radio, an attached device or the car’s hard drive, but it won’t play video content.
There are multiple ways to control the system — too many, perhaps. You’d probably settle on a preferred control method after driving the A6 for a while, but several days of testing made me think the interface isn’t yet as smooth and refined as the rest of the car.
The primary control is a large knob on the center console that you twist and press. It’s encircled by 11 buttons — four for navigating on-screen menus and four for launching primary functions: navigation, radio, hands-free calling and stored digital media. There’s also a back button, one for car settings and one that calls up on-screen menus. I was grateful for the “back” button.
Nearby there’s another knob and buttons for controlling the music volume and track selection.
The touch pad on the console is about the size of a credit card. When I first heard about it, I thought it would be like a touch-screen PC or phone that reads handwriting, but it only reads one letter at a time and works best if you write carefully with capital letters. It reminded me of the game where you write with a finger on someone’s back and they guess the words.
You can also select letters using the knob and an on-screen menu. Either way, it’s too tedious to use while driving.
The touch pad can also be used to enter radio stations or navigate maps with a fingertip, but I kept changing stations when trying to use the map, and ended up mostly using the knob.
That’s not all. The system also works with voice commands and buttons on the steering wheel.
Fortunately, there are detailed instructions: The A6 manual is 295-pages long, plus a 106-page supplement for its Multi Media Interface.
That’s another way connected cars are just like computers and smartphones: By the time you’ve figured out all their tricks, a more powerful model will be on sale. Audi is testing a new version that connects to faster 4G LTE networks, for instance.
In the meantime, A6 buyers who pony up for the wireless option will probably use it mostly to keep passengers occupied with gadgets, so they can enjoy the drive.
January 23, 2011 at 9:01 PM
Kirkland startup Inrix is announcing that Audi will use its traffic data services in a new in-dash navigation system the auto maker is debuting in the 2011 A6 in Europe in May.
It’s the third major carmaker — following Ford and Toyota — to use Inrix’s traffic data, which extends beyond highways to arterials and side streets using crowdsourced information from vehicles using the system.
So far 4 million vehicles use the system, mostly in North America, and Inrix has more than 125 customers, including states, online mapping services and mobile application providers.
Audi’s system (screenshot at left) will use Inrix data to provide real-time traffic information, alerts and directions influenced by traffic conditions. Plans for a U.S. release of the Audi system weren’t disclosed.
Inrix sales have grown an average of 90 percent a year over the past three years, and employment will grow from 75 to more than 100 by the end of the year, Chief Executive Bryan Mistele said.
The company is profitable and on track for an initial public offering in 18 to 24 months, said Mistele, who used to lead Microsoft’s automotive software group.
“Our goal is to build this into a billion-dollar business and be the dominant provider of traffic data and services worldwide,” he said.
The Inrix system draws on statistical analysis techniques developed in Microsoft’s advanced research group, which licensed the technology to the startup.
January 4, 2011 at 10:01 AM
The first major CES 2011 announcement for a Seattle-area company is from Inrix, the Kirkland provider of traffic and vehicle information services.
Today, Inrix announced that it’s going to provide real-time traffic information to “Entune,” Toyota’s response to the successful Ford Sync in-dash multimedia system. Entune, which is appearing in some Toyotas later this year, connects to online services via driver’s mobile phones.
Inrix characterized the deal as the first of a series of collaborations with Toyota. The company is also working with Ford on its Sync product and mobile applications.
Inrix is “staffing up heavily” with about 15 open positions to support the Toyota work and a contract with an additional automaker that will be announced later this month, spokesman Jim Bak said via e-mail. That’s on top of 20 employees added over the last year, which has brought the company to 70.
Here’s a screenshot of Toyota’s Entune menu. It has another local company’s product prominently displayed – Bing Maps and Bing Mobile technology are part of Toyota’s announcement today. I wonder if that will get mentioned Wednesday night during the opening keynote by Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
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