Car Data As the Next Platform for Innovation

A platform around vehicle data has finally emerged: one that entrepreneurs, automakers and DIY-ers are increasingly tapping into in order to develop innovative applications around transportation. The car data can come from computers embedded in the vehicle, in-vehicle navigation systems and drivers’ cell phones. Communication networks and smart algorithms, meanwhile, can be combined with all sorts of third-party data like weather, traffic, and personal info to obtain information and foster brand-new innovation.

As I detail in my article for GigaOM Pro (subscription required), new applications and services built off this data are coming from car companies like GM (with its OnStar service), third-party startups like Virtual Vehicle Company and Internet players like Google (s GOOG) and Microsoft (s MSFT).

While it’s still too early to tell exactly what this ecosystem will look like, one vision is that the car and the in-vehicle dashboard will act as the interface to the driver. That’s what the car companies — and vendors — are pushing for. An example would be OnStar, which is a branded, controlled environment brought to you by the auto maker.

The other vision of the connected car ecosystem uses the cell phone as the major interface. The cell phone GPS would be used for data, and the car would contain a charging port for the phone. The cell phone screen would house the application and the phone would sync with info from the car’s computer. Naturally, the phone companies like this particular set-up.

Ultimately, the future of connected cars will likely be a mixture of both; small startups and large Internet players like those mentioned above will have to traverse both worlds. Both Google and Microsoft, for instance, have various car and cell phone partnership deals.

The applications that surface could do a lot for helping vehicle fuel economy. Knowing more detailed information about driving habits, road conditions, traffic and optimal routes is already playing a role in reducing fuel consumption. Startup Green Roads, for instance, has been building a business off reducing fuel usage — and increasing safety  — for fleet vehicles.

To hear more about my vision of car data as the next platform for innovation, read my article on GigaOM Pro (subscription required).

Image courtesy of Yutaka Tsutano.