As the “Internet of Things”/connected car discussion continues to evolve it becomes clear that the car is just one of many things that might be connected. But not all things are created equal.
Of course it’s expected that luxury car-makers will have connected-car functionality in their vehicles, but they all approach it from a different viewpoint. Porsche tends to be quiet from a PR perspective on this topic, but in a one-on-one discussion they actually had a lot to share.
They’ve been here for a while
Let’s rewind to 2005 when Porsche initially launched its vehicle-tracking system in order to track stolen Porsches. A telematics concept, really, in its first form, transitioning over time to a more sophisticated offer from Cobra, which is now owned by Vodafone. The move to Cobra was precipitated by the need for a smaller form-factor solution in the cars. As a result, a strong partnership was formed that provided the control unit, SIM card, Vodafone airtime and all, equal to an end-to-end solution. Their goals were to cover the world and connect all cars, which they are close to achieving today. Customers are able to go into stealth mode to keep their information private from Porsche except in the event of a crash, theft or breakdown. In these scenarios the location information will be utilized.
In 2012, Porsche worked with SAP to develop an in-car sales tool. Not only would it provide driving directions and trip statistics to a salesperson’s next meeting, but by using a Blackberry device and the touch screen in the car they could pull up the SAP sales information regarding the upcoming meeting. Pretty cool concept, but I’m not sure many organizations give out Porsches as a company car. If so, I want to work there.
Showing it can think outside of the box, Porsche is also investing outside of its core competency. In September it invested $55 million for a 10% stake in a firm named INRIX, a leading provider of real-time traffic information worldwide that develops technologies for the collection and interpretation of traffic data. Their traffic intelligence platform continuously analyzes real-time data from a variety of sources including a crowd-sourced network of more than 175 million real-time vehicles, and devices providing real-time traffic information for over 4 million miles of roads in 40 countries.
Porsche’s Car Connect app allows users to interact with their vehicles via their smartphones. The video below walks through the demo (in German), but it’s visual enough that any viewer can understand. The app is available to download for free, although the functionality relates to the type of vehicle you have. There is functionality that is only specific to the e-Hybrid Panamera included.
The E-Mobility solution set is very interesting as it not only tracks the usage of your current charge, remaining distance and location of charging stations; it also allows you to program when your vehicle is charged and how that charge is utilized. For example, you can plug the car in and go to sleep, setting it to automatically charge for a certain amount of time during the most cost-effective hours. If you need to remotely heat or cool your car, you can decide if the charge is done off-grid or not to avoid reducing your charge level.
For the wider car portfolio there are tools able to monitor current and prior trip statistics, traditional vehicle diagnostics, locate your car, blink the lights, honk the horn and fold in the side view mirrors. It also allows for speed and geo-fencing to indicate that your vehicle has left or entered an area you have identified as off limits. More models continue to be added to the tool.
The last item I will mention is a bit of fun, because how can you bring up Porsche without thinking of fun and racing? If you’re lucky enough to be able to purchase a 911 GT3, you’re probably thinking of driving it on a track. According to Porsche, 60% of those who purchase this model get on a track within the first year of ownership and buy some type of race tracking system.
Part of the Porsche purchase includes the Sport Chrono Package. In conjunction with all the sport features in the car, the package comes with an app that works similar to telemetry in racing cars. It can track the driver and car’s performance and act as a camera to provide an option to review your performance – all via your smartphone. To do this in today’s racing world would cost over $200,000 and require a room full of engineers.
The Porsche Track Precision app allows drivers to compete against their last performance on screen in a side-by-side simulation, map-specific attribute of the drive – for example, inconsistent braking, drifting, acceleration, liter per lap petrol usage – against other drives, allowing drivers to save and export the data to share. There are 700 tracks currently listed and as a result, the app provides automatic lap triggering by knowing the start and finish line. Drivers can add new tracks but cannot use many of the features on public roads. The app knows where you are. One of the functions I found most cool in the demo was that if you wanted to dig deeper into something on the track graph of statistics regarding your drive, you could go to the video and track right to that point in the video. No fast-forward or rewind required.
Porsche is one of the brands that evokes a lifestyle, and with connected cars it is continuing to work in ways that support the engineering innovation associated with driving a Porsche.