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Connected Car Weekly: Automakers Ramp up Subscriptions, Payments and Repair Appointments 

It was a big week for in-car connected services subscriptions, with General Motors going all-in by forming a digital business team and announcing that growing subscription revenues will be a big part of the company’s plan to double its revenues. 

Elsewhere, BMW and Bosch unveiled plans for a new system they’re testing that will enable cars to automatically book service with the owner’s preferred shop. Not to be outdone, BlackBerry and Visteon announced further collaborations on digital cockpit solutions, and the head of product at Cerence spoke about the market for voice-powered, in-car payment systems.

GM Plans to Boost OnStar, Vehicle Services Subscriptions 

General Motors CEO Mary Barra said during the company’s annual Investor Day presentation that GM plans to grow its subscriptions as part of a plan to double revenues. 

According to a transcript of her remarks from CNBC, Barra said the company’s “very successful OnStar subscription business” has given GM the knowledge it needed to do more in that vein. 

“We’re going to build on that,” she said. “And what’s enabling this and the ability to offer so many software services is our VIP, or vehicle intelligent platform, which allows us to do over-the-air updates almost to any system in the vehicle.”

GM Adds Chief Digital Officer, Digital Business Team 

On the day before GM’s Investor Day presentation, the company announced that it had added a chief digital officer to lead a newly formed digital business team. 

Edward Kummer, a former Nordstrom and Walt Disney executive, was named to the post. GM said he is experienced in growing digital businesses and enhancing customer experiences. In his new role, in addition to leading the new team, he will be responsible for building and delivering a holistic digital business and accelerating software investments that will redefine consumer expectations. 

In a statement, GM President Mark Reuss said, “We are creating new digital experiences for our customers, both inside and outside of the vehicle, to enhance their lives and keep them connected to an increasingly digital world.” 

With the iCar in Limbo, Apple Moves to Put CarPlay Into Driver’s Seat 

Until it launches its own car, Apple looks to be focused on taking more control of existing cars via a souped-up version of its CarPlay app that would be more deeply integrated in new and different functions that have traditionally stood on their own. 

Whether it’s controlling the stereo, power seats, climate control or other features, the new iPhone-driven vehicular interface system is reported to be an early stage, top-secret project — which, according to Bloomberg, even has its own code name: “IronHeart.” 

Voice-Powered, In-Car Payment Systems Streamline Transactions on the Go 

Voice assistants in cars are becoming more like co-drivers, said Christophe Couvreur, vice president, product at Cerence. They’re not only responding to commands, but are also understanding common language and offering solutions.  

Couvreur has been in the midst of these changes for years, as Cerence’s core business is speech technologies and other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for the automotive industry. It supplies these to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier-1 suppliers of equipment that goes into the car.  

“Wider data connectivity will allow the car to behave in a much smarter way,” Couvreur told PYMNTS. 

From Insurance and Risk to Repair Appointments, the Connected Car Industry Is Growing Up 

Imagine tooling down the Autobahn in Germany when your on-board diagnostic system notices that your oil is running low or your tail light is out, and without skipping a beat, it automatically books a service appointment with your preferred shop to get it fixed. 

That might seem fictional, but it is at the core of a new pilot program being conducted by BMW and Bosch, which are testing an automated system within connected cars that will seamlessly do just that. 

In another recently announced pilot program, autonomous truck technology company Locomation and professional services firm Aon are partnering to learn about the safety and insurance effects of convoys of autonomous commercial trucks led by one truck with a human driver. 

Legacy Mobile Players Pursue New Digital Chassis and Cockpit Collaborations 

Two familiar names from the mobile tech space — BlackBerry and Qualcomm — have announced further collaborations in the automotive industry.  

BlackBerry and automotive electronics giant Visteon announced on Tuesday (Oct. 5) that they have expanded their collaborative work to accelerate the deployment of digital cockpit solutions for automakers and suppliers around the world. 

“Vehicle cabins will eventually evolve to serve drivers and passengers alike as all-in-one communication, information, productivity and entertainment hubs, and do so in a safe and secure manner,” Grant Courville, VP of products and strategy at BlackBerry QNX, told PYMNTS in an email interview. 

Qualcomm and investment partnership SSW Partners announced on Monday (Oct. 4) that they have reached a definitive agreement to acquire Veoneer, an automotive technology company that offers software, hardware and systems for occupant protection, advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS), and collaborative and automated driving to OEMs globally. 

The continued digitalization of the car is meant to add convenience for consumers and subscription revenue for automakers. Consumers value the convenience cars give them, JPMorgan CEO of Merchant Services Max Neukirchen told PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster in a recent interview

Vehicles are fast becoming a way to download and consume content, and they also are becoming a way to pay for gas. “All of this gets consumed by the car in the car and can be paid for through a connected car,” said Neukirchen. 

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