INRIX Buys OpenCar in Seattle Auto Tech Tie-up

INRIX, the Kirkland, WA-based company providing traffic data and other services for connected cars, acquired OpenCar, a Seattle startup making a platform to unite app developers and car manufacturers.

The deal combines two significant players in the Seattle area’s cluster of automotive IT and telematics companies. INRIX plans to maintain, and possibly expand, OpenCar’s Seattle offices, giving it a footprint on the west side of Lake Washington. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

OpenCar’s audacious goal put it in competition with tech giants Apple and Google in the race to control the complex and evolving relationship between apps and app developers, devices, connected cars, drivers, and automakers. INRIX is plunging into that competition fully with this acquisition.

We wrote in 2014 that OpenCar is creating common toolsets and a clearinghouse to link developers and automakers that could unlock the ‘long tail’ of interesting apps for the car. The key challenge is integrating them safely and seamlessly with each car’s unique combination of sensors, screens, controls, and trim.

INRIX, which spun out of Microsoft Research in 2005, began as a traffic information service for commercial fleet drivers. It now counts some 450 customers around the world, including carmakers, transportation departments, media companies, and even hedge funds, which use its reams of real-time and historical data on traffic and road conditions, and a growing portfolio of other transportation information services. The company has lately broadened its vision further, leveraging its market share to challenge the likes of Apple and Google.

“Today, over half of the connected vehicles in the world use INRIX services,” says INRIX CEO Bryan Mistele in a news release. “By 2020, more than a quarter billion connected cars will be on the road. With the OpenCar acquisition, INRIX is in the driver’s seat to provide those connected services and expand into the digital dashboard with unique, easy-to-use applications designed especially for next-gen automotive experiences.”

INRIX intends to invest further in OpenCar to create “the first scalable, global automotive app platform,” the company says. Some 1,300 developers have already registered on the OpenCar system, which the company unveiled in 2014, after founder and CEO Jeff Payne and his team spent three years quietly working under the hood.

OpenCar CEO Jeff Payne.

OpenCar CEO Jeff Payne.

The company did not take venture capital investment. OpenCar was self-funded in its early stages and later received investment through a partnership with Mazda. OpenCar has about 20 employees, who are joining an INRIX staff of more than 400.

The INRIX purchase of OpenCar follows last fall’s acquisition of Santa Monica, CA-based ParkMe, a service that helps drivers find and reserve scarce parking spots.

In addition to the OpenCar deal, INRIX announced a new driver assistance platform called Autotelligent, which promises drivers an automated daily itinerary drawn from the user’s calendar information and INRIX information services on traffic, weather, parking, and non-driving transportation options. It’s designed to help drivers know when to leave, based on real-time conditions, and take routes optimized to avoid congestion and reflect individual preferences, INRIX says.

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