The acquisition is Inrix’s latest move to position itself as a catchall operator of technology in cars that connect to the Internet to send and receive data.
Inrix, the Kirkland traffic-data and automobile-technology company, has acquired OpenCar, a Seattle startup that enables other companies to build apps for connected cars.
Inrix also unveiled an automated assistant designed to learn a driver’s common trips and provide alerts of traffic delays, fuel levels and other driving information.
Eleven-year-old Inrix is positioning itself to be the catchall operator of systems for connected cars, or cars equipped with technology that connects with the Internet to send and receive data.
The company has traditionally provided cloud services and traffic data for cars, and last year it acquired Santa Monica, Calif., startup ParkMe to offer real-time parking data within cars.
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Wednesday’s acquisition would allow Inrix to deliver other companies’ apps directly to cars.
“Our strategy is to provide complete solutions not only in the cloud but in the software itself,” Inrix CEO Bryan Mistele said.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
OpenCar creates software tools for developers to build and implement apps for connected cars. For example, NPR One, part of the public-radio operation, could use OpenCar tools to build a car app accessible by Mazda customers. OpenCar has partnered with Mazda for five years.
By combining with Inrix, OpenCar hopes to greatly increase the number of automakers it works with. Inrix has existing partnerships with Audi, BMW, Ford, Toyota, Tesla and others. The acquisition will add Mazda to Inrix’s list.
OpenCar, headquartered in Pioneer Square, has 20 employees. Besides offering software tools, it also builds a user interface for connected cars that aims to be less clunky than many of the existing systems.
Mistele said the plan is to extend OpenCar’s platform over the next year to the automakers Inrix works with. “Drivers are frustrated that the user interface inside cars is outdated compared to mobile phones,” he said. “OpenCar is providing … a way that allows app developers to provide cool applications in the car.”
More than 1,300 developers have built apps on OpenCar’s system.
The Puget Sound region has become a hub for connected-car technology, with companies such as Inrix, telematics-business Airbiquity, software maker UIEvolution and speech-technology company VoiceBox.
The companies often work together, Mistele said. He does not view them as competitors because each works in slightly different areas of the increasingly crowded field.
The new car and driving-data feature Inrix introduced Wednesday is called Autotelligent. The technology uses machine learning to pick up on a driver’s common routes over time and offer suggestions about upcoming routes.
For example, the car’s system can send a text message to your phone if traffic is bad or if you need to leave early because gas is running low.
All of OpenCar’s team will join Inrix and remain in its Seattle office. Inrix plans to expand the office, its first in Seattle, by 15 people this year. It has more than 400 employees and plans to hire 50 this year.