TomTom is well known for its navigation systems both for OE and aftermarket applications. What is not so well known is how it is developing its range of products and services to meet the demands of today’s connected car. Vanessa Scholfield, editor QUBE Connected Car service spoke to Jan-Marten de Vries , VP Product Management of Automotive at TomTom to gain an insight into its product development and innovation in relation to car connectivity.

j-a: Can you briefly outline TomTom’s automotive activities as they stand today?

J-M de V: The automotive business unit develops and sells navigation systems, services and content, such as maps, to car manufacturers and their suppliers worldwide. Our solutions vary from in-dash systems such as the Carminat-TomTom LIVE for Renault, to aftermarket solutions such as the Sony Xplod navigation/multimedia system to providing content and services.

j-a: You mention Renault as a customer, which other vehicle manufacturers do you currently supply?

J-M de V: Other than Renault we supply Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Toyota, Mazda and Subaru. We also supply content and services to manufacturers such as GM, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, BMW and VW.

j-a: As the vehicle manufacturers move towards connectivity in the vehicle how is TomTom adapting its offering to reflect this trend in the market?

J-M de V: You are right. There is a definite move towards connected systems in vehicles and all the manufacturers are looking to provide this in some way. We saw the first signs of this in 2011 when the vehicle manufacturers’ requirements evolved and the system scope got broader. It went from pure navigation to the full infotainment requirement. What the car companies need is a scaleable system that is quick to market and provides an excellent user experience. We needed to adapt our products and services accordingly. Our mission is “Connected Navigation”.

j-a: How will you achieve this?

J-M de V: We are offering the vehicle manufacturers and Tier 1’s map content, navigation software and HMI that can be customised. We also offer a range of services and updates.

j-a: How are the car companies addressing the economics of offering integrated systems?

J-M de V: Integrated systems are higher cost for the car companies and the big question is how can they generate value? Services need to be packaged in such a way as to encourage customers to pay for the services of their choice such as vehicle diagnostics and remote access. Critical services, such as eCall will be provided free of charge and is not our area of expertise. This is a service best left to the specialists like ATX and Wireless Car. There is also a need for systems to become future proof. So far as content is concerned, as providers we need to ensure that we meet user requirements across the whole range of user groups. This includes Business to Business, Business to Consumer and Fleet owners.

j-a: What connected services does TomTom currently offer?

J-M de V: TomTom’s Telematics Services add critical telecommunication tools to any existing control unit. The services we offer can be grouped into two categories; Safety and Security Services and Convenience Services. Safety and Security services include emergency call, automatic breakdown assistance and stolen vehicle tracking. Convenience services cover remote vehicle diagnostics and remote control. TomTom’s philosophy is to integrate these services into a consistent, seamless cloud connected solution that enables access anywhere through smart HMI. In addition our service provisioning system enables all CRM of multiple service providers to be handled efficiently and securely.

j-a: Do you offer modular services?

J-M de V: We can offer all services as a turnkey package or as various components sold separately. For example for PSA we supply map content, navigation software and services for a number of countries. Over time the list of countries will be expanded.

j-a: What influence have smartphones had on the way in which connectivity is offered to the driver?

J-M de V: Vehicle manufacturers see smartphones and iPads offering the best user experience on the market and they want to replicate this in the vehicle. However, they also want to be able to control the use of the in-vehicle content. We work with our customers to customise content according to their individual needs. For example using information from the connected devices in the car we can provide a traffic monitoring service should the vehicle manufacturer wish it.

j-a: You offer a wide variety of services to the vehicle manufacturers, but what is your core business offering?

J-M de V: We offer navigation centric services in real time for guiding the journey. We also offer vehicle centric services which include maintenance, repair, and eCall. We do not offer entertainment based services such as Facebook etc – that is not our area of expertise.

j-a: What are your plans to expand TomTom’s geographic reach?

J-M de V: We aim to cover the main developed markets in Europe and North America. However, our customers are global manufacturers with global brands and we will have to look to provide services wherever they operate. For this reason we are looking at China, Brazil, Russia and India. We have recently launched in China, Brazil is in our scope and Russia on our road map. “

j-a: What do you see as the next stage in developing TomTom’s offering to the car companies?

J-M de V: We are developing the next generation user interface. It will be map centric and provide traffic information based on the driver’s route plan. The nearer the driver gets to his ultimate destination the more detailed information will be provided. We are also looking at a new way to visualise the map. It will look more modern in comparison with previous offerings and the menu will be customised and behave more like that of a smartphone.

j-a: In summary what do you see as the biggest challenge moving forward?

J-M de V: The biggest challenge is to convince the vehicle manufacturers that an open modular system with standards and interfaces that make it flexible is in their interest rather than fully integrated and less flexible systems that take time to update. These tend to be embedded systems. We believe that PND’s are the way forward.