In a recent announcement, Rivian told the EV world that it bought a key route planning software company: A Better Routeplanner (ABRP). Before I dig into the announcement, I want to explain why EV route planning matters. Then, I’ll get into some important details existing ABRP users will want to know.
Why Route Planning Software Is A Key Asset For EV Manufacturers
In a gas-powered car, it’s pretty easy to go on trips. Start your trip with a full tank, and then when it starts to get low, look for gas stations. Every little town along the highway tends to have at least one gas station, so there’s little risk of getting stranded.
On the other hand, EV route planning presents new challenges, such as limited driving range, less widespread charging infrastructure, varying charging speeds and compatibility, and the need to optimize energy consumption. Factors like elevation changes, weather conditions, and driving style can impact an EV’s energy consumption, and drivers must take these into account when planning a route.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not a mathematician. So, I rely on software to plan my trips and factor all of this into figuring out whether I’ll get there or get stuck charging at an RV park or riding in a tow truck. Intelligent route planning uses real-time data on charging station locations, compatibility, and availability to create optimal routes based on the driver’s preferences and the vehicle’s specifications. Advanced algorithms estimate energy consumption along the route, factoring in elements like elevation, weather, and driving habits to help drivers plan more effectively.
Good software goes above and beyond the basics. Real-time updates on traffic conditions, road closures, and charging station availability allow drivers to adjust their route on-the-go if needed. Some EV route planning software can even connect directly with the vehicle’s onboard systems, providing seamless navigation and charging station recommendations based on the vehicle’s current state of charge.
There are a number of competing software packages out there that can do this. If you drive a Tesla, great software is built right into the car. If you’re like me and drive another brand’s EV, your experience can be anywhere from using bad software to not having this software available at all.
My first theoretically roadtrip-capable EV was a 2018 Nissan LEAF (with the 40 kWh battery pack that overheats). I learned the hard way that EPA range means absolutely nothing on road trips, and that not planning for things like steep hill climbs and freeway speeds can be an unexpected range killer. The base model I had (S-trim) didn’t have anything but a basic bluetooth head unit, and no touchscreen, but even if I had a better one, trip planning software is super basic.
So, I had to find another solution for planning road trips. After trying several different apps and websites, the one I found the be the most accurate (at least in 2018) was A Better Routeplanner.
While automakers have dropped the ball, ABRP made up for their ineptitude. Not only did it support nearly all EVs, but it integrated both charging company data and data from your own vehicle if you link it up via the web or an OBD-II connector (via a Bluetooth dongle). Thus, it has become a vital tool for many EV owners.
Rivian Isn’t Going To Take That Away From Anybody
When the rumors started flying, I talked to somebody I know at ABRP. They told me that they weren’t selling to anybody unless they committed to keeping the software available for all EV drivers, which was a big relief for me, because the MyChevrolet trip planner is pretty awful despite supposedly reading vehicle power usage data.
When Rivian announced the purchase, that was one of the big things it reiterated in the announcement. “…we are committed to continuing its development for all EV drivers.” the company said.
If anything, it seems likely that increased resources will help make A Better Routeplanner better and more user-friendly, and could lead to it becoming a built-in app for more manufacturers in the future.
They Integrated It Into Rivian’s In-Dash Software Pretty Fast
As we’re reported before, ABRP and its parent company Iternio (also purchased by Rivian) is already in the business of supporting in-dash integration of its software. One good example is its deal with Skoda to do exactly that.
Many were shocked at the speed at which Rivian added ABRP’s features into its software, but given its existing expertise in that area, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise.
That was fast ⚡️
Can’t wait to try it out – the software support of this truck has set the benchmark in the industry. pic.twitter.com/BzZBVsvxEO
— Kyle Conner (@itskyleconner) June 22, 2023
Like regular ABRP, Rivian drivers now have the ability to not only plan trips in the dash, but plan them on other devices ahead of time and save them to their Rivian account for later navigation. So, planning complex trips where charging infrastructure is limited doesn’t require sitting and doing in in their vehicles.
How This Affects The Future Of The Rivian Adventure Network
In addition to building vehicles, Rivian has another trick up its sleeve: the Adventure Network. The company recently announced that it will be switching to the NACS (Tesla) plug for vehicle charging, and this will eventually include the Adventure Network stations.
But, one of the great strengths of Tesla is not only its charging network, but all of the data it collects. While Rivian won’t get that kind of data from ABRP, it still gives it valuable information.
“Beyond route planning, the data insights on where there is insufficient reliable charging will help us strategically plan where we prioritize building our Rivian Adventure Network.” said RJ Scaringe, Rivian Chief Executive Officer.
So, this is going to be a big improvement not only for Rivian and its route planning capabilities, but also for all EV drivers who use the Adventure Network and ABRP (either directly or through a company partnership).
Other Automakers Would Be Wise To Partner With ABRP, Even If Rivian Owns It
While I know many people prefer other route planning apps, I personally really like both the ease of use and the advanced capabilities ABRP already offers.
Sure, other companies could hire staff and build their own route planning software, but that takes a lot of time and money just to continue to be behind the leaders. Or, they could take advantage of not only what ABRP has built, but what Rivian is going to do to make it even better.
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