You will see less and less of a separate TomTom navigation device hanging on the windshield. Yet the Dutch multinational is playing behind the scenes at the top of the field. Moreover, the advent of electric and self-driving cars will only increase the importance of navigation systems. Antoine Saucier, managing director of TomToms Automotive department, explains the opportunities for the company.
The Automotive department is one of three three pillars on which TomTom rests. The branch supplies products and services both to the car manufacturers themselves and to suppliers who make infotainment systems. The consumer division supplies the well-known TomTom devices, while the Enterprise department sells navigation solutions to technology giants such as Microsoft, Uber and Apple. TomTom is therefore also present in the car via Apple Maps.
The Automotive department started a collaboration with Renault in Europe ten years ago, followed by Toyota in Japan. The entire Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance has since become a buyer, just like PSA, the parent company of Citroën, DS, Opel and Peugeot. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Mazda and Subaru also belong to the customer base.
Jeep is one of TomTom's customers. Here the map display in a Jeep Compass. (Photo: Jeep)
"Special route profile for electric cars"
"Navigation solutions with up-to-date traffic information, reports about speed cameras and nowadays also about charging points are becoming increasingly important. All the more because electric cars need specific routes that support battery management and at the same time eliminate the 'action radius fear' by the charging stations seamlessly in integrate the route, "says Saucier.
A route specifically for electric vehicles not only takes into account the distance, but also inclines and the influence of the outside temperature, which in an electric car influences the range.
"With all these parameters we get started to create a comprehensive route profile, which in turn is combined with a driver profile. One driver drives much more consciously than the other, makes more or less use of the air conditioning and applies the rules of eco driving or not, we process that information in the route to be traveled, whether or not in combination with the driver assistance systems of the car in question, "says the TomTom man.
A route for electric cars not only takes distance into account, but also slopes. (Photo: Renault)
"Becoming the Netflix of autonomous driving"
The development towards autonomous driving also offers opportunities for a company like TomTom. This requires HD maps and smarter localization software. "In the future, it is therefore no longer enough to know on which road and in which direction you are driving, but your exact position on that road and even within your lane will also play a role. In short: the precision will be much greater and the amount data that comes with it of course also ", Saucier explains.
Seen in this way, it is also much more important to pass on changes to the traffic network, such as after roadworks or diversions, directly to the motorist. "The pre-installed HD cards are not so much the challenge, but the instant updates that should make the autonomous ride as safe as possible. These will soon be literally streamed to your vehicle with detailed updates. Just like Netflix on TV."
Navigation systems in the car are not always perfect. (Photo: TomTom)
'Companies outside the automotive industry often do not master this field'
In addition to opportunities, there are also many challenges, certainly now that TomTom is increasingly entering the waters of technology giants such as Google. As far as Saucier is concerned, that is only good, so that the company remains alert. Yet at TomTom they think that thanks to their long experience in the automotive industry they have a head start on the rest.
"It is enormously complex matter. Add to that the interaction with all those new sensors that we are strong in, and you get a field that a company that does not work within the car industry cannot simply control it. And then I will remain silent about the sky-high safety requirements that come with autonomous driving. "
More and more people are leaning on their smartphone in the car, which they link to the vehicle's infotainment system via Apple Carplay or Android Auto, in order to navigate. "Some users are so attached to it that they incur discomfort such as cable hassle and the loss of the GPS signal in tunnels, which in turn motivates us to come up with better solutions - such as voice control and cited route profiles for electric cars, "said Saucier.
At the latest, if driving is partly or fully automated, Saucier believes that the ease of use of a smartphone will no longer outweigh the safe operation of an integrated system. Consider, for example, calendar appointments that automatically end up in navigation and make electric driving almost carefree. "Such an integrated approach is where we are going anyway."
More and more people use their smartphone in the car via Apple Carplay and Android Auto. (Photo: Toyota)
This story was in AutoWeek 41