If you often find yourself wondering if you remembered to lock your car, whether you turned off your headlights, where you parked in a maze-like underground parking lot, or whether you could reduce your fuel bill by driving differently, then the connected car is here for you. To find out how the technology works, we spoke to Yvan Gravier, head of Lille-based start-up Xee, in which Total has just acquired a stake.
Yvan Gravier / It means collecting data on your car in real time via a small unit plugged into the vehicle's interior, then using this data to develop a full range of services for motorists. Currently, these services are of particular interest to certain fleet management companies, insurers and auto services/repairs and mobility players, who are looking to pass the benefits on to their customers. In other words, we have a BtoBtoC business model and cater to companies whose needs are expected to grow exponentially, as people increasingly rent cars instead of buying them.
What are the applications for all of this data?
Y. G. / Companies that use our products will be able to provide their employees or customers with services ranging from enhanced vehicle security to journey tracking and status updates. The technology will be able to tell them whether the car's doors are locked, if the vehicle is out of range, where it is parked and what condition the brakes and engine are in. Other services can analyze motorists' "eco-driving" performance to help them optimize their fuel consumption. And, in the event of a break-in, an accident or damage, a connected car can alert the appropriate people, such as the owner or insurer.
Do connected cars offer real growth potential or are they just a fleeting trend?
Y. G. / In Europe alone, there are currently 220 million unconnected vehicles, in which a connected unit could potentially be installed. But the overall size of the market is even bigger still. An estimated 400 million connected vehicles will be on the road in 2020. At Xee, our target is to connect 500,000 of them by that time.
How do you feel about Total buying a stake in your business?
Y. G. / We're extremely proud to have been chosen by a major company like Total. It's more than just a financial partnership for us. Our dual aim is to develop industrial cooperation and commercial synergies. We currently operate in six European countries – France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Germany – but the time has come to accelerate our growth. We intend to expand into Africa, and Total's unrivaled network of services stations can help us do just that.