GPS navigation systems for light vehicles.
TomTom International BV is a Dutch company and maker of the TomTom aftermarket navigation system found in many cars. The company was started in 1991 in the Netherlands, as a developer of software products for mobile devices. Its first in-car system, the TomTom Navigator was released in 2002 with several updates brought to the market since. Today, the company is seeking its place as a supplier of OEM-installed equipment, a move that already has seen its product used in new Fisker and select Mazda models. Those models are likely just the first of what the company hopes will be wider adoption of its well-known GPS navigation system in new cars.
GPS Navigation Systems
In January 2012, TomTom announced that it had reached a license agreement with Fisker Automotive, to provide the Karma sedan with map and location content covering the United States, Canada and Europe. This three-year agreement has TomTom providing the core map, points of interest and voice maps in the Fisker’s Command Center. The center features a 10.2-inch touch screen interface that controls navigation, climate control, infotainment, cell phone and other electronic devices.
Besides its agreement with Fisker, TomTom has secured exclusive rights to provide navigation support for the all-new Mazda CX-5, what may prove to be the first of several Mazda products covered. Indeed, TomTom is currently negotiating with Mazda to extend its service to other products. The appeal here for car manufacturers is that TomTom can spread its development costs across more vehicles, thereby lowering its costs accordingly. In effect, TomTom assumes the development cost manufacturers have in creating proprietary navigation software for their vehicles. With TomTom, manufacturers supply the hardware and TomTom the software.
Widespread OEM Placement
OEM placement is nothing new for TomTom as its system has found its way into European-built vehicles including Renault, Toyota, Fiat and Alfa Romeo. In North America, TomTom has been used by Toyota selectively as far back as 2009 when a detachable personal navigation unit was included in the 4Runner Trail Edition and Urban Runner packages (see picture).
Car manufacturers are also receiving pressure from the federal government to help reduce incidents of distracted driving, something that can lead to deadly crashes. Guidelines announced by the NHTSA in March 2012 would make current navigation systems unusable if those guidelines were to become law. For example, the NHTSA wants manufacturers to replace the continuously moving maps now used with static maps that are updated every few seconds. Without offering evidence, the NHTSA posits that people are more distracted looking at a continuously moving map than one that is updated every few seconds. These guidelines could provide an opportunity for TomTom to develop a mapping system that complies with NHTSA guidelines, removing a costly burden from the shoulders of automakers.
HD Traffic Service
OEM-installed navigation systems are growing in popularity and have risen from 0.7 percent of light vehicles sold in 2002 to 29.4 percent in 2011 according to WardsAuto data. TomTom, of course, is a significant player in the aftermarket GPS navigation system market, having recently updated its North American product line for Spring 2012. The company claims that its TomTom HD Traffic service is the most accurate of all systems as it is continuously updated to reflect traffic tie-ups within the last two minutes. Its service covers all major and secondary roads in the United States, delivering real-time traffic updates around the clock.
Photos courtesy of Mazda and TomTom.