Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) Connects Cars, Offers Virtual Assistance for Older Vehicles

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) announced its new offering at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Tuesday, a device it calls Verizon Vehicle. The gadget, which is plugged in a port under your car’s dashboard, is designed to collect information about your vehicle, sending data to and from the cloud through the Verizon Wireless network, and can serve to perform diagnostics on your vehicle when you turn the check engine lights on. In an interview with Marketwatch, Verizon Telematics President Erik Goldman said that the device is an “equivalent to a virtual mechanic.” It detects a vehicle’s problem and transmits the information to the driver, along with info on options and costs for fixing. “It can explain anything and everything to you, explain what you are experiencing, what it might cost to fix it,” Goldman added.

Verizon Vehicle, which includes a bluetooth speaker and an app for smartphones, can be used with cars made in the U.S. from 1996 onwards, covering more than 9,000 models. Previously, older cars could never be connected to this kind of service. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) will charge users a subscription fee of $14.99 per month for the first car, or $179 annual rate. Rates for the second car is at $12.99 per month. Subscription is inclusive of the hardware and the service will be available to customers regardless of the wireless providers they are using for their respective mobile devices. The service is expected to be rolled out by April, with availability at retailers scheduled by late 2015.

Verizone (VZ)Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) has inked partnerships with carmakers such as Hyundai, Mercedes Benz, Toyota, and Volkswagen, and the company says that Verizon Vehicle is now available for more than 200 million vehicles in the U.S. Features include unlimited roadside assistance, automated calls for emergency assistance in cases of suspected accidents, single-button call connection to a human agent for emergency assistance, a hotline to a professional car mechanic, as well as location assistance in cases of stolen vehicles.

Other market players such as AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) have also been working with car manufacturers for an embedded cellular radio in their vehicles. At the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a small company called Zubie also showcased a device similar to Verizon Vehicle, which it sells for a price of $99 per year. According to Goldman, however, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ) is the first to offer predictive diagnostics on a wider scale.

This article has been written by Nonito Guntan.

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