AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Detailed system and semiconductor demand analysis for in-vehicle infotainment, telematics and vehicle-device connectivity features.

July 26, 2010 11:07 rlanctot
Porsche is changing horses in the stolen vehicle recovery department, opting for Autotxt’s stolen vehicle recovery solution for the 911, Boxter and Cayman, according to industry sources. The change may be coming as a result of Autotxt’s new architecture which enables a single electronic control unit (ECU) to provide a wide range of vehicle diagnostic and remote control capabilities in addition to vehicle tracking. An official announcement is expected later this week. This single ECU solution from Autotxt has the potential to transform the relationship between the driver, the smartphone and the car, providing an enhanced opportunity to sell stolen vehicle recovery systems in the context of a low-cost smartphone-based telematics application. The technology has implications for customer and dealer relationships as well as for broader branding and marketing purposes. It also creates a new path for app distribution to drivers. Finally, the announcement shows Porsche taking one step closer to the inevitable introduction of telematics. Porsche has had a telematics system in place, ready to launch, for many years. The choice of Autotxt move the company that much closer to that decision while providing an in-place solution to satisfy the European eCall mandate. The Autotxt solution for Porsche - which will supplant the existing offering from Cobra Automotive - provides for both reactive and proactive stolen vehicle notification and recovery. In the reactive mode, the vehicle owner must notify the service provider, Autotxt, when the vehicle has been stolen. In the pro-active, or early-warning, application, the service provider is notified of any unauthorized vehicle movement at which point the driver is contacted. The Porsche application – which is a dealer install - may also offer the same functionality provided by Autotxt for Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. Those implementations use the driver’s Bluetooth-enabled phone as the driver identification tag. Alternatively a keyfob can be provided. The system allows for up to seven Bluetooth driver IDs. Porsche is still evaluating this provision. The Autotxt offering is unique in the flexibility of its ECU. Like other modules coming into automobiles for related tracking, tolling and telematics applications, the Autotxt device is deeply embedded in the vehicle with access to the controller area network (CAN) codes. Autotxt expects to make available by Q2 2011 a smartphone application for remote vehicle control and diagnostics. Autotxt executives expect to be able to provide remote control functionality including remote activation of heating and air conditioning, windows, door locks and remote starting along with data logging and vehicle diagnostics. The multifunction ECU, therefore, can become an event data recorder as well as an eCall or bCall platform while also gathering and distributing data on overall vehicle operation available to either the driver or the dealer or both. The device could also handle trip reporting, battery status for electric vehicles and a wide range of location-aware applications. In this way, the car maker retains control of the in-vehicle connectivity experience in contrast to the widely reported terminal mode approach of conveying the smartphone HMI into the car. Autotxt expects to have versions of its system available for Android and other platforms by the middle of next year. The Porsche deal is global in scope as are the implications of the ongoing Autotxt development activities.

May 27, 2010 13:05 rlanctot
Among the many untold stories in the telematics industry, the tale of Volvo OnCall and Orbcomm stands out, especially in the context of this week’s SISTER workshop on satellite communications and intelligent transport technologies, which took place in Brussels. What might, for Volvo, have become a visionary hybrid implementation of satellite and cellular technology for a telematics system for the U.S. market was undone by Orbcomm’s bankruptcy filing in 2000.   In retrospect, it is both understandable and deeply disappointing that no other automotive telematics planner chose to follow the Volvo path. Maybe decision makers saw the Volvo experience as a cautionary tale instead of as the inspiration that it actually represented.   Maybe if the European Union had taken a closer look at what Volvo was dreaming up they might have included satellite technology in their eCall plans. Alas, the EU did not include satellite technology in eCall which may be why the SISTER initiative was founded as the first association with the mandate to evaluate the possibility of integrating satellite technology to enhance the complete range of ITS technologies including eCall, road user charging, map updating, dangerous goods monitoring and enhanced Galileo services. SISTER concludes its research activities and will publish its recommendations next month.   Back in the mid-1990’s, Volvo was considering the inclusion of Orbcomm’s low-earth orbit satellites as a backup communication channel to cellular TDMA and Amps technologies. The company was willing to include satellite in spite of the obtrusiveness of the required antenna technology of the time.   Today, Volvo offers cellular-only telematics throughout Europe with short-term plans for a U.S. launch of a similar system. Orbcomm, meanwhile, has recovered and is a supplier of telematics technology to Volvo Trucks under the Dynafleet brand. Orbcomm is in fact a leader in the modest but growing hybrid – satellite-cellular - connectivity business.   The absence of satellite technology from existing automotive telematics solutions, especially for emergency applications, is extraordinary given the purpose of such systems. The EU regularly makes inflated claims of the life-saving ability of eCall systems to summon assistance from emergency responders. Chief critics of eCall are quick to point out that passing motorists frequently make the first reports of accidents rendering eCall messages redundant.   Where eCall could have an impact, though, is in the event of accidents occurring in rural areas, where cellular coverage is wanting. In fact, some say that the most severe accidents and injuries often occur in these circumstances. This is obviously where satellite technology could make a difference.   The good news is that the EU is finally looking at the integration of satellite technology at least as an idea, if not as part of the existing eCall specification. Even better news lies in the fact that this consideration is taking place after the demise of Worldspace and following the allocation of spectrum for DVB-SH satellite technology. The SISTER program is also taking place at the very onset of the European Galileo system which has direct application for all location-related ITS applications. In fact, satellite navigation is the most widespread of current satellite applications and is expected to lead the way in satellite integration into a wider range of services. The arrival of Galileo promises to deliver better than 10cm location accuracy potentially suitable for road pricing and lane keeping applications and possibly for map updating. SISTER workshop representatives foresee $43B in cumulative financial benefits - combined revenue and savings - from the integration of enhanced satellite navigation technology. Potential sources of these gains include: fuel consumption reduction, travel time reduction, air pollution reduction, CO2 emission reduction, cost savings due to congestion reduction and cost savings from decreased injuries. Current satellite technologies available in Europe, and elsewhere around the world, offer both superior location information delivery but also the ability to deliver audio and video content. Outside of Volvo, the only other company to foresee the arrival of this value proposition was Hughes Telematics.   Hughes proposed a hybrid satellite-cellular telematics system nearly five years ago that not-coincidentally included a DVB-SH component originally to be provided by Ico Global Communications. These plans were interrupted, at least in part, by Ico’s filing for bankruptcy. (Sound familiar?)   Nevertheless, the Hughes vision called for a consumer-targeted telematics system integrating emergency response, roadside assistance and concierge services along with entertainment content delivery. In fact, Ico was making its own plans to introduce aftermarket and portable devices for audio and video content. Ico has two DVB-SH competitors in the U.S., TerreStar and SkyTerra, both of whom will eventually be in position to offer the same telematics and infotainment solutions envisioned by Ico. Like Ico, TerreStar has a satellite deployed and in its final phase of testing. The large TerreStar satellite - which allows for smaller footprint device antennas - is capable of spot-beam coverage of the U.S. for two-way voice and data. The TerreStar satellite is suitable to eCall and commercial applications or for rural areas that lose terrestrial cellular networks during natural disasters. Sirius XM's satellite network has also been put to use for telematics applications including traffic and weather. Sirius XM also recently acquired the assets of Worldspace, meaning the European satellite radio provider could some day participate in telematics opportunities. Worldspace competitor Ondas has deals in place with several European OEMs, but no satellites. It’s been a long road, but the reality has finally caught up with the vision. The so-called S-band DVB-SH spectrum allocation for Europe was awarded to Eutelsat and a joint venture partner SES Astra. (Ico was one of the other bidders and is still mounting a legal challenge to the award.)   DVB-SH offers the ability for bi-directional communications for low-bandwidth ITS applications – available by the end of 2010 – along with some limited two-way communications to be launched in 2011. But DVB-SH expects to realize the prospect of entertainment content delivery for embedded, aftermarket and portable devices. This capability is important given that several SISTER participants expect that telematics services will have to be bundled with entertainment content to be attractive to consumers.   The recommendation of at least one presenter at the SISTER workshop was that all vehicles operated by public authorities should be connected via satellite, that all commercial fleet vehicles should be similarly connected and that, ultimately, all consumer vehicles should be linked via satellite. Some combination of public and private funding will surely be necessary, but the anticipated benefits to road safety and traffic management have already been proven by SISTER’s experiments.

May 15, 2010 16:05 rlanctot
Change is coming to the automotive industry via U.S. government entities that suddenly have the cash, the power and the public mandate to significantly influence the direction of vehicle design and surface transportation. With multi-billion dollar investments in two of the one-time Big Three automakers, the Federal government suddenly has unprecedented leverage over the industry along with a clearly defined agenda for enhancing safety and reducing vehicle emissions. Just a few years ago industry participants were inclined to eye roll and shake their heads at the plans of connected vehicle (VII, V2X) and HEV/EV advocates, preferring to stick with the prevailing traditional disconnected ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle mentality. In the words of an old American advertising slogan: When something works you stick with it. What a difference a few years, an economic downturn and a massive embarrassing recall can make! Consumers are shifting to 4- and 6- cylinder vehicles. And even without incentives, consumers are turning to HEVs most notably Toyota’s Prius. What were once seen as pie in the sky visions of connected electric vehicles have rapidly become remarkably realistic opportunities – even if substantial EV sales volumes are still somewhat out on the horizon (SA EV/HEV forecast - http://bit.ly/9s3lid). Hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested by federal and local governments – as well as overseas governments – to incent EV development and sales. (Strategy Analytics has a spreadsheet of more than 300 EV/HEV legislative initiatives worldwide -  http://bit.ly/aRdhK8.) At the same time, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has stirred to life stimulated by both a distracted driving crisis (from growing fatalities due to talking and texting drivers) and the Toyota unintended acceleration debacle. NHTSA, which was quite recently focused on fusion safety system technology in cars – making use of multiple sensor inputs to assist drivers in maintaining lanes, monitoring blind spots and avoiding crashes – has firmly shifted to an emphasis primarily on avoiding and surviving crashes. The agency is also seeking data recorder mandates among other initiatives. The crash avoidance portion of NHTSA’s campaign has V2X written all over it. While monitoring blind spots and maintaining a lane are important vehicle applications, true crash avoidance technology can only be achieved with vehicle connectivity to other vehicles nearby and not so nearby as well as to infrastructure using DSRC technology. In fact, at the latest ITS meeting the organization made clear that it is compiling a database of 5.9MHz DSRC providers who will be able to meet the antipated demand for line fit and aftermarket modules. DSRC was heavily touted and endorsed at the latest ITS meeting in Houston. The ITS is on the verge of releasing its roadmaps for V2X implementation. It is worth noting that the organization is expending significant energy on providing for the use of mobile devices and aftermarket boxes to enable connectivity. (Coincidentally, the European Union has announced its endorsement of similar connected vehicle objectives and implementation plans – http://bit.ly/bFaIUm.) The time lines may still be conservative and technical issues remain (see ITS conference concluding presentation http://bit.ly/bYio4k), but the mandate and the mission is increasingly clear on both the emissions reduction and the safety fronts: In the future, connectivity will be king. Still, despite the increased interest in safety among legislators, consumers and the Federal government, safety remains a tough sell with consumers. (SA – Consumers Interested in Safety, but not at Current Prices - http://bit.ly/a56WTM) This is why the increased influence of the government is so important. It will require government mandates to change vehicle designs and force consumer acceptance. Now, more than ever, the Feds have the influence and industry participation they require to bring significant change to pass. This type of mandate applies to EVs as well. The U.S. is unique in the world in its governmental inability to force through the kind of fuel taxes that could change behavior. Lacking this lever, Federal and local governments have turned to incentives to encourage consumers – and car makers – to bring electric vehicles to market. (This and the CAFÉ standards regime - http://bit.ly/cBwp2r - U.S. #CAFE Standards Give Impetus to Wide Range of #Green Technologies.) Here, again, the influence of the government along with growing consumer interest in both HEVs and EVs are approaching a transformative critical mass. Industry observers have questioned the wisdom of fostering EV technology when the current state of technology is as limited as it is. But it is only with this kind of government support that the obstacles of charging infrastructure, battery capacity and price can be overcome. Ray Lood, the director of NHTSA, removed any doubt about the government’s passion for change in the automotive industry when he described his own anti-distracted driving efforts at the recent ITS event in Houston as “a rampage” (http://tinyurl.com/24vzrka). A rampage indeed! Change is coming, probably faster than previously conceived possible. It is coming with government impetus and supervision and it is coming whether the industry likes it or not. Additional Insight: http://bit.ly/bbhqGj - Voice HMI: Connected Car Opportunities and UX Best Practices - Chris Schreiner http://bit.ly/ajzQay - Future Promise of V2X Wireless Comms – Chris Webber http://bit.ly/9qf1Mh - EV/HEV Technologies Supply and Fitment Database – Kevin Mak http://bit.ly/9esI9W - Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Supply and Fitment Database – Kevin Mak

May 13, 2010 16:05 rlanctot
A heated debate over driver distraction animated an otherwise placid confab of the Networked Vehicle Association (NVA) in Palo Alto recently. The distracted driving discussion was led by an attorney and a representative of the National Safety Council (NSC). The significance of the exchange was rooted in the debate over safe use of mobile phones in a moving vehicle. But, of course, with the participation of the NSC the very issue of using any mobile device in a moving vehicle was called into question. The NSC is in favor of an outright ban on all mobile phone use in automobiles. On the legal front, a representative of the Gowlings law firm described how laws were introduced to prohibit radios in cars when car radios were first introduced in the 1920’s. These proposals were defeated, but they laid the groundwork for the current debate. Interestingly, the argument that won the day for preserving the right of the radio to be built into the car was safety. Radios were perceived as preventing accidents by keeping drivers awake. Vehicle and entertainment technologies have changed but the grounds for allowing mobile phone use in the car remain the same – safety. Mobile phones used by motorists are responsible for many more emergency calls than embedded telematics systems. For this reason alone, it makes sense for legislators and the industry to find ways to preserve the right of a driver to use a mobile phone. But the debate over using devices in a moving vehicle has changed with the passing of 80 years since the introduction of car radios. Thanks to 30 academic studies of driver distraction and mobile phone use, a variety of organizations, including the NSC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the National Research Council, have all concluded that talking on a phone held to the ear is cognitively equivalent to using a hands-free device. The NSC executive at the NVA event further described the types of studies – including brain scans etc. – and the outcomes – including the concept of tunnel vision experienced by distracted drivers. The significance of the findings of these studies, according to the attorney, is that they serve as the precursor to legal action which is the first step on the path to legislation. The findings of the various studies, as detailed by the attorney, included: NHTSA: Lower number of fatalities in states with primary legislation banning cellphone usage while driving; AAA: Degree of driver distraction no greater than tuning a car radio; Carnegie Mellon: MRI scans and simulation demonstrate impaired sensory and motor function equivalent to DWI; Highway Loss Data Institute: No change in loss data due to legislation vs. states without cellphone bans, but study concedes loss data may be inaccurate due to corresponding unmeasured rise in hands-free usage. The findings that have been used to oppose any mobile phone use in a moving vehicle, in turn, are countered by at least three industry studies that conclude that hands-free use of mobile phones is a safe and effective measure to counter distraction. But even the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found no reduction in distraction-related accidents from mobile phone bans. (The standard response from the anti-mobile phone community is that no states in the U.S. have introduced a complete ban on mobile phones that includes a ban on hands-free operation. Hence, existing laws banning phone use but allowing hands-free operation are not true bans and therefore the data cannot be used as an argument against bans.) The NSC representative at the NVA event remained adamant throughout that any and all mobile phone use in the car ought to be forbidden. The attorney concluded that the status of case law was fairly fluid and was influenced not only by the emotional element of fatalities resulting from distracted driving incidents, but also by research. The likelihood of an outright phone ban, though slim, cannot be completely ruled out. But a ban is likely to be unworkable and a step in the wrong direction, especially when considering that existing embedded telematics systems with their on-board phones would be rendered illegal. In an ideal world, the technology problem of managing mobile phone use in a car ought to be resolved with a technological solution, particularly considering that if a mobile phone ban were instituted drivers would find workarounds. The good news is that smartphone applications - such as Zoomsafer and tXtblocker - have been introduced to mitigate distractions from mobile phone use in cars (see Additional Insight below) and auto makers and suppliers - such as Mercedes Benz, Denso and Volvo - have introduced applications that monitor driver behavior to identify and counter driver distraction and drowsiness. In fact, one solution that is available, though not yet built into any systems that have reached the market, combines driver monitoring with a conversational avatar. The concept takes the Mercedes Benz driver drowsiness alert feature to another level by integrating and alerting the call center when a drowsy driver is detected such that, following escalating warnings, the call center can contact the driver to prevent an accident. Alternatively, the system, created by Great Changes – which owns the transportation license for Cognitive Code’s Silvia avatar, can engage the driver in an artificial intelligence-assisted conversation. The irony is that the NSC executive pointed out in his presentation that multiple studies show that it is safer to drive with a passenger. Interaction with a passenger helps keep the driver focused and alert. The Great Changes solution fulfills that requirement and the proactive call center alert aspect is a unique realization of the kind of safety enhancements promised by telematics technology. In conclusion, the attorney at the NVA event suggested that all industry participants monitor distracted driving developments closely, take into account human ingenuity and resolve in creating workarounds for technological safeguards, standardize and continuously evolve standards for telematics, and develop new “low driver impact” user-machine interfaces. Indeed, telematics should be seen as a potential remedy for driver distraction issues and as a safety enhancement to vehicle design. Under the NSC regime even embedded phones – as in OnStar, mBrace or BMW Assist – will be banned. Additional Insight: http://bit.ly/d3FQbQ - CTIA 2010: Distraction Mitigating Apps on Display – Chris Schreiner http://bit.ly/bbhqGj - Voice HMI: Connected Car Opportunities and UX Best Practices - Chris Schreiner

May 10, 2010 17:05 rlanctot
OnStar is expected to bring out a mirror-mounted telematics device for the retail automotive aftermarket sometime early in 2011. The move is part of a broader strategy to take OnStar beyond the shelter of parent General Motors to tap into the wider market potential of safety and security and to finally and safely integrate entertainment technology with the telematics solution. General Motors’ OnStar division has yet to officially acknowledge its plans for an aftermarket product introduction in 2011, but the company has come close to affirming their existence with a report on CNNMoney.com that the company will “extend the OnStar business even beyond automotive.” The statement comes in the context of an announcement of a relaunch of OnStar before the end of 2010. As part of that relaunch new OnStar president Chris Preuss has been spreading the word that OnStar is looking to hire 30 or more engineers and developers to drive the revamp of the 14-year-old system. OnStar has declined to comment on any aftermarket plans. Preuss has moved quickly to put his imprint on the brand. Preuss arrived at OnStar with a long pedigree within GM as a senior communications executive both in the U.S. and Europe and has joined the broader effort within the company to project the brand into the world of social networking and closer connections with customers. For at least the past two months, GM has been building a team intended to bring an aftermarket OnStar product to the world of “big box” retail epitomized by Best Buy and others in the U.S. According to industry sources, the original plan was to launch before the end of 2010, but it now looks like a 2011 time frame is more likely. But OnStar’s plans likely do not end there. The reason for the aftermarket launch, and a potential move beyond automotive opportunities, is the potential crisis foretold by declining sales volumes for GM vehicles which are packaged with OnStar as a standard feature. Vehicle sales for GM are in the midst of a three-year swoon (down 21% in 2008, down 32% in 2009, flat in 2010) based on JD Power estimates. Assuming unchanged subscriber renewal and retention rates, the OnStar subscriber base – long reported to be 5.5M – is likely in the midst of a precipitous decline and in sore need of shoring up from other sources of subscribers. OnStar currently offers its services free for one year on most GM models, and then at subscription rates of about $20 to $30 a month, depending on the level of service, or $200 to $300 a year. Those numbers translate to more than $1B in revenue. OnStar’s new president claims a better than 50% retention rate among new car buyers – though the overall renewal rate is likely lower. Even if OnStar is maintaining a 50% retention rate, the diminished vehicle sales volumes are undermining GM’s ability to replace subscribers lost to attrition. Under these circumstances, maintaining the 5.5M subscriber base will be a challenge. OnStar executives privately aver that the division is and continues to be profitable, but a significant decline in subscribers is putting that profitability in jeopardy. Further, OnStar is famous within the industry for claiming to save GM hundreds of millions of dollars in warranty costs from catching vehicle problems early in vehicle life cycles. And Preuss is quoted in the CNNMoney report saying that OnStar is a factor in at least two-thirds of customers' decisions to buy a GM product. The challenge for OnStar goes beyond the decline in vehicle sales volumes. GM is competing against Ford and other OEMs that are emphasizing smartphone connectivity, which provides many of the same features and functions as OnStar. With so many functions shifting to phones customers are less inclined than ever before to add yet another subscription, even if it is for an embedded vehicle safety system. One of OnStar’s greatest assets, though, is its brand, which is why the group is looking beyond GM. Preuss says OnStar may return to offering its system to competing OEMs or may vary its business model to allow for sponsored content or services such as ad-supported turn-by-turn instructions. There are other scenarios for an OnStar move beyond GM including a commercial telematics solution for fleet or asset tracking, offerings for insurance companies to target pay-as-you-drive or teen driver applications, as well as, finally, buy-here-pay-here products for the sub-prime auto lending market. Given the urgency of the subscriber erosion situation, it is likely that OnStar will bring multiple solutions to market including, no doubt, a smartphone application offering with roadside assistance, concierge services and other location aware functions. OnStar has shown such a concept in the past but never pulled the trigger on introducing it to the market. Now, such an application is seen not only as a potential source of revenue but also as a brand builder and, of course, an extension of the OnStar platform. Preuss has sent mixed messages regarding the positioning of OnStar going forward. In the CNNMoney report he says the focus will be squarely on vehicle safety. In an Automotive News article announcing his appointment he stated that “fun” will be a priority for OnStar going forward. There is not doubt, though, that OnStar is being re-architected and repositioned to be competitive in a world characterized by social networking and device connectivity. What is most likely in the short-term, is an aftermarket offering, most likely in the form of an OnStar-equipped mirror. In fact, Gentex, which manufacturers an aftermarket replacement version of the OnStar-equipped mirror, stopped distributing its product through distributor Mito two months ago, at the request of GM. OnStar is likely taking control of the distribution of the product in preparation for mass market sales. An introduction of the OnStar brand into the retail automotive aftermarket is in keeping with growing interest in vehicle connectivity, navigation and tracking in general and telematics in particular. The Federal government has made known its interest in standardizing event data recorders in vehicles as a result of the recent Toyota unintended acceleration recall debacle. And companies as varied as TomTom, Hughes Telematics, Guidepoint, Rosen Entertainment and Pioneer Electronics are enabling roadside assistance capabilities in their devices and systems. Guidepoint is the single largest incumbent supplier of aftermarket telematics solutions. The company distributes primarily through car dealers and maintains its own call centers for roadside assistance and concierge calls. Guidepoint recently partnered with Rosen to bring an aftermarket head unit to the retail market with an on-screen button to access call center services. Hughes Telematics is another company looking to enter the aftermarket. Hughes has had an aftermarket offering ready for more than a year and is believed to be putting the team together to bring the product to retail. Given the fact that OnStar has been hiring executives to staff a regionalized sales force, the indication is strong that the group is target both consumer opportunities through retail and commercial opportunities. And an offering to be sold through expediters to competing OEM dealers is not out of the question. (After all, what can a Ford dealer do when the customer asks for OnStar by name?) The key difference, and main advantage, of OnStar remains the automatic crash notification – a function which may be problematic to offer in an aftermarket device. No one believes an aftermarket solution will be an easy sell at retail. But an OnStar-branded device will likely get serious consideration from consumers. The wild card for OnStar will be the precise nature of its reconfiguration and repositioning. The best news is that OnStar is not sitting back in the face of incursions by Google, Apple and others into the vehicle connectivity and infotainment business. The challenge will be for OnStar to demonstrate its ability to retain its industry leadership position and maintain or grow its subscriber base. The announced hirings at OnStar and relaunch indicate much more than a business model tweak for the group. Further Insight: http://bit.ly/cZOxuG - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight

March 26, 2010 19:03 rlanctot
BMW’s wholistic EfficientDynamics campaign is the latest and clearest manifestation of an industry movement that is propelling telematics technology adoption. In a recent presentation to the International Motor Press Association (IMPA), BMW executives clearly defined an integral role within the EfficientDynamics agenda for navigation, embedded vehicle connectivity and even smartphone integration. The company has already made impressive gains in fuel efficiency and CO2 reductions while preserving or enhancing performance via mechanical means, such as optimizing transmissions and adopting brake energy regeneration and auto start-stop functions. Now, BMW foresees even greater gains coming from the integration of on-board sensor inputs. BMW seeks to extend efficiency gains from the fusion of data inputs from navigation systems, adaptive cruise control and parking distance control systems, cameras and light/rain sensors, DME and DSC systems and V2X communication. The output of this data fusion will lead to the prediction of upcoming driving situations and optimized vehicle conditioning (ie. charging or discharging of the battery). These system enhancements will help optimize operating strategy and determine optimal driving distance for available consumption. The integration of navigation and safety system inputs means that in the future both the navigation set-up and the portfolio of safety systems will increasingly be standard equipment. They will be integral to the efficient operation of the vehicle. And connectivity will be necessary so that the very latest information on road conditions (including traffic) is available. While a growing proportion of cars will have embedded connectivity, smartphones will still play a vital role in the drive for more fuel efficienct cars. The company has already learned from its Mini E field trial that smartphone applications have a key role to play. Drivers will use smartphone applications to remotely check the state of vehicle charge as well as to signal the car to begin heating or cooling batteries while still connected to the grid. OnStar has foreseen this as well, showing just such an application at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. It is true that range anxiety is a very real customer concern with electric vehicles. In fact, it is yet another reason for such vehicles to be equipped with standard navigation systems. But BMW executives told the IMPA delegates that customers in the Mini E trial found that “charging (was) not a big issue even without (an) extensive network of public charging stations.” According to the results of the trial, the range of the Mini E was sufficient for most trips. This finding corroborates GM’s finding that 78% of people drive 40 miles or fewer per day. In the end, therefore, the role of the on-board map and navigation will likely have more to do with maximizing vehicle range as opposed to easing driver anxiety. And road elevation data will no doubt play a greater role as well in route planning. The drive for fuel efficiency and electrification will combine to bring cars to market that are not only more efficient and emitting less carbon dioxide, but that are also safer with the additional sensor content and map data. Further insights are available: http://bit.ly/bv3Q0B - Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: OEM Strategies Reviewed – Kevin Mak http://bit.ly/alm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 – Joanne Blight

March 25, 2010 16:03 rlanctot
The state of Maryland’s approval of a cellphone ban yesterday – by a slim 24-23 margin – perfectly encapsulated all that is both right and wrong with the current mobile phone ban hysteria. Will people be safer driving cars without mobile phones? Probably. Is it reasonable to ask people to use hands-free technology in the car? Definitely. Is the law enforceable? Maybe. Can all drivers be expected to completely give up mobile phone use in the car? No. The bigger issue, though, is that the objections to mobile phones in cars masks a movement opposed to an even wider array of emerging and existing automotive technologies and in-cabin interfaces. If the industry does not step forward to defend these technologies, consumers will lose and safety will suffer. This is a topic of legitimate concern given the federal interest in in-vehicle interfaces in both the U.S. and the European Union, among other geographies. Twenty states and the District of Columbia currently ban text messaging while driving and six states plus the District require hands-free devices. (Stricter laws are already in place in many European countries.) Advocates for the bill dragged out multiple statistical justifications for the legislation calling to mind the apocryphal phrase attributed to Samuel Clemens, among others: There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. The Washington Post reported that the push to require hands-free devices is seen as a step toward an outright ban on cellphone use by drivers, a prohibition endorsed by the National Safety Council, which blames 1.4M crashes annually on drivers talking on their phones, according to the paper. The Post continues: “Two-thirds of drivers interviewed by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety said they thought hands-free cellphone use was less risky. But "scientific research shows that's simply not the case," said Fairley W. Mahlum of the foundation.” The article further cites a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety that “found no declinen in collision rates” once states went hands-free. This leads to the argument surrounding the cognitive equivalence of talking on a mobile phone held to the ear or speaking over a hands-free system. Many experts argue that the two are equivalent, although a similar number disagree. Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute has weighed in on the cognitive equivalence side finding no added safety in hands-free operation. The Post quotes Jonathan Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association: “There's no indication that hands-free is risk-free. You're still on the phone, you're still focused on the conversation, and you're still a distracted driver." The bill approved Wednesday by the Maryland Senate bans handheld use of cellphones except to begin or end a conversation. First-time offenders can be fined $40. Emergency calls would be exempt. Opponents took some of the teeth out of the legislation with a secondary enforcement requirement that prohibits a police officer from stopping a driver solely for using a mobile phone. The officer must have another reason for finding the driver at fault before enforcing the ban. The push to completely ban mobile phones in cars is real and is embodied in Oprah Winfrey’s NoPhoneZone campaign. Is the motivation legitimate? Sure it is. Lives are at stake. But I’d strongly argue against throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The supporters of an outright ban on mobile phones in cars have a larger agenda. They are not just opposed to Ford’s social media integration in cars. They also argue that the OnStar service, with its embedded phone, is too distracting. OnStar!? A recent statement from AAA of New York reflects this anti-technology philosophy: “Technology improvements and applications present a real double-edged sword for motorists. On one hand, improved driver interfaces for essential vehicle controls hold the potential to make driving safer. Voice-activated climate control systems, for example, can help keep motorists’ eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel. “Applied irresponsibly, however, these technologies might actually make driver distraction worse by giving drivers access to even more non-driving activities (voice-driven e-mail and text messaging, for example) that draw their attention away from safe driving.  Safety concerns must be paramount when technology advances might encourage motorists to spend more time engaged in risky, non-essential tasks like talking on the phone or sending e-mails via voice recognition software. Technology applications that introduce new distractions for drivers work at cross purposes with the many positive things automotive engineers have done for safety. “We’ve seen auto manufacturers miss the mark before with improvements that weren’t really improvements. For example, more than twenty years ago a manufacturer made some models with a touch screen control panel that required drivers to look at the screen to change the radio station or adjust the heat. More recently, another manufacturer’s “all in one” vehicle control system was widely criticized for the visual and mental distraction involved in controlling temperature, radio, navigation, and phone using one knob, several buttons, and a display screen. We must make sure that one step forward in the name of convenience doesn’t take safety two steps backward.” It’s true that we ought to make sure we continue to move forward. But moving forward means embracing technology and harnessing its power to improve safety and convenience in the car. Based on the AAA statement the touchscreen, the iDrive and a host of other innovations might be banned. But why? People can change radio stations today with voice commands as opposed to reaching out for a knob while calibrating the movement of a needle across a dimly lit display. To return to the matter of safe operation of a phone in a vehicle, multiple solutions have been introduced that leverage technology to control mobile phone use in the car including DriveSafe.ly, SafeReader, tXtBlocker, and Auto TxtBak. But most of these applications lack the policy management elements of a ZoomSafer – which allows for the disabling of phone functions while in a moving vehicle. In fact, Zoomsafer's Voicemate has application in both consumer and commercial applications for monitoring, managing or controling driver use of connected devices. The solution recognizes the need for access to connected devices and provides the means for facilitating safe uses. Zoomsafer is offering a technology solution to a technology problem, but it is just one example. New solutions using new interfaces will help the industry steer its way through the challenge of enabling communication in a vehicle. Voice, touch, haptic, gesture, facial recognition, sensor inputs and fusion-based technologies that process all of these inputs are how enhanced safety will be achieved.

March 19, 2010 19:03 rlanctot
In the new Roman Polanski movie “Ghost Writer” there is a scene which perfectly captures the cultural divide between the U.S. and Europe over in-vehicle human machine interfaces. The lead character, played by Ewan MacGregor, enters a BMW X5 and is verbally greeted by the ConnectedDrive system. The system has stored the last route driven by the vehicle and proceeds to attempt to navigate to that destination. The MacGregor character tries futilely to terminate the navigation by touching the screen.* Aye, there’s the rub, or maybe I should say, there’s the smudge. European HMI mavens are almost universally opposed to the touchscreen, although some cracks in the wall of resistance to touch interfaces have appeared in recent years – most notably at Volkswagen. BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz, however, remain in the haptic camp and announcements at the recent Geneva Motor Show reinforced their stance. Audi introduced gesture recognition enhancements to its HMI, Mercedes showed a gesture recognition interface enhanced with a camera and BMW showed a toggle interface for managing its new Mini iPhone integration. Following Geneva, Audi provided an elaborate defense – or maybe I should say explanation - of its MMI approach at the Nuance Automotive Usability Forum (http://bit.ly/c6omG2). In its consumer studies, Audi found “track deviation” during testing to be most severe for touchscreen interfaces, followed closely by “turn push knob” devices. Touchpad technology, normally situated at the front of the console under the driver’s right hand, had minimal deviation. Additionally, Audi found that “eyes off the road time” was at least twice as much for the “turn push knob” type of interface for actions including “input of destination” and “dial a number.” Audi performed a further analysis of driver assessments of interfaces before and after using them and found a positive assessment of touschscreen and negative assessment of touchpad prior to driving that was completely reversed, after driving, to negative for touchscreen and positive for touchpad. Conclusions from Audi’s global study included: “high potential of innovation for touchpad” (Germany); “simplicity in operation and handwriting recognition is convincing” (USA); and “high customer friendliness especially while driving through optimal position” (China). Audi’s conclusion: The input by touchpad surprises by its error robustness and exceeds clearly the expectations of our customers. Of course, as these conclusions were being expressed at Nuance’s voice-centric event, Audi proceeded to describe the ultimate automotive interface as a multimodal solution with robust speech recognition. It appears that everyone can agree about the importance of voice, but prying Americans away from their touchscreens will be a challenge. *A note on the BMW X5 appearance in "Ghost Story". The character who last drove the car the Ewan MacGregor character was driving is presumed to have made it to his destination and was on his way home when he met his demise. Therefore, the destination should not have automatically activated when the car was started. Trying to figure out how to terminate unwanted navigation assistance is one of the great conundrums facing the industry and drivers. So MacGregor’s hopeless poking of the navi screen represents a moment many people can identify with. And to think, all he had to do was press the “voice” button on the steering wheel, wait for the “beep,” and say: “Stop guidance.” Additional insights: Automotive Bluetooth: Profile Strategy Key to Infotainment Success - http://bit.ly/9NwxfC CES 2010: The Arrival of Converged Automotive Multimedia Products - http://bit.ly/baUnoV

March 18, 2010 16:03 rlanctot
Thanks to Meta Systems and its Octo Telematics subsidiary, the Italian market has become the de facto European proving ground for pay-as-you-drive insurance products. Octo Telematics pioneered pay-as-you-drive insurance in Italy and elsewhere in southern Europe with a connectivity box capable of providing tracking and stolen vehicle recovery services. As a result, it is no surprise that Allianz chose Italy for the launch of its Service Pack and Pay Per Use services more than a year ago. Many insurers in Italy provide PAYD products and services. By some estimates, as many as 800,000 drivers are enrolled in such programs. Allianz has set itself apart from the existing competition in a number of significant respects, but it is similar in also making use of a Meta System supplied “black box.” Both the Service Pack and Pay Per Use services from Allianz are enabled by this connectivity box. Service Pack offers customers eCall, bCall, theft notification and vehicle tracking applications via the Meta Systems box. The service is 99 Euro/year and requires the free installation of the box on the vehicle by a network of professional installers. The customer surrenders the box when the service is terminated. Allianz does not claim to offer stolen vehicle recovery, only theft notification. This notification is achieved through the use of an RF keyfob device, not unlike the way LoJack works in the U.S. If the vehicle is moved without the keyfob being on-board, the customer will be notified by Allianz representatives via the company’s wholly-owned Mondiale Assistance call center subsidiary. Vehicle recovery is left to the public authorities after the customer notifies the police. The Mondiale call center also support the bCall and eCall applications. Unlike the eCall services of competing insurance companies, the Allianze system provides for call center reception and processing of both eCalls and bCalls via an embedded SIM. Calls are activated manually via a single button or automatically in the event of a crash. Competing insurance companies that offer eCall-like features typically set up the application with the customer’s home or mobile phone number, with no connection to a call center. As a result, customers receiving these calls are responsible for seeking assistance for the driver. In this way, Allianz has put itself squarely in the eCall business for its Italian customers who choose Service Pack. Switzerland is expected to be the next market to be activated. The Pay Per Use product is an add-on service for customers who have already chosen Service Pack. The Pay Per Use service is targeted at low mileage drivers who can achieve savings of as much as 25% on their premiums based solely on the amount of driving they do – ie. mileage. Allianz is thought to be satisfied with the response thus far, though it has not been overwhelming. The 99 Euro/year price was introduced in 2009 as a promotional offer but remains more than a year later. The next steps for Allianz are to bring its solution to more European markets. The range of savings on the Pay Per Use product  will vary based on demographic and geographic calculations. The Allianz initiative shows a maturing in the PAYD market as location-aware insurance products begin to move into the mainstream. The Allianz offering is significant for its integration of eCall and bCall services along with theft notification all enabled via the customer’s phone, though the theft notification is enabled by an embedded connection.

March 18, 2010 16:03 jcanali
Autoliv has announced the return of night vision technology in the automotive industry with a forecast of as much as 200K/year by 2014. The company shared its plans at a recent meeting of the International Motor Press Association. While the outlook may seem modest, it reflects a $100M+ opportunity for the industry and the potential for significant life saving in the future. If these expectations are fulfilled, it will represent vindication for a technology first introduced with much fanfare by Cadillac and other makes, but which never caught on. The consumer appeal of night vision technology is significant. More than half of consumers recently surveyed by Strategy Analytics (http://tinyurl.com/y8jalzh) reported a willingness to pay for the technology, the highest proportion in the survey for any safety technology. Consumers also indicated a willingness to pay more for night vision than nearly any other safety system. Unfortunately, on average, consumers indicated they were only willing to pay $400-$500, well below the cost of current systems. In addition to broad consumer interest, industry data related to traffic fatalities suggests a powerful role for night vision to play in saving lives. image Source:  Autoliv To make its case for night vision, Autoliv cites data from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute which breaks vehicle fatalities into four categories and assesses the percentage of fatalities within those categories that occurred at night. The report shows 30% of “other vehicle in motion” fatalities occurred at night, 70% of pedestrian, 50% of “overturn,” and 60% of “tree.” Time of day pedestrian fatality data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows most fatalities occurring during the hours of darkness or dusk. And data gathered around the world and reported by Autoliv shows substantial percentages of pedestrian fatalities occurring at night-time and away from intersections – which might provide better lighting. The greatest challenge for broad acceptance of night vision has been and remains cost. Consumers looking to add the technology to their vehicles are still paying upwards of $2,000 for the privilege. Pricing has not come down much, but the solution itself has changed considerably. Night Vision 2, as Autoliv refers to it, has benefited from enhanced imaging technology (ie. clearer pictures), the integration of other sensor inputs such as pedestrian detection, the wider deployment of larger in-vehicle displays, extended range, and improved sensitivity. Taken together, these improvements have made for a more acceptable and effective – though still expensive – solution. Autoliv’s solution is based on far infrared camera technology from Flir, not to be confused with near infrared technology supplied by Bosch on the 2010 Mercedes S Class. Autoliv’s Night Vision 2 is able to “see” 50% further down the road and the enhanced images can now be displayed in head-up, driver information, center stack or other navigation displays. Autoliv the increased sensitivity in the system allows it to detect pedestrians in a “static warning” or as they move into the vehicle path. Warnings to the driver are speed dependent, the company says. Night Vision 2 has been implemented on the 2010 BMW 5 and 7 Series, Rolls Royce Ghost and Audi A8. The next challenge for Autoliv is animal detection. The company cites a wealth of data from multiple sources pointing out the number of fatalities related to animal strikes, which are particularly suited to a night vision solution since they tend to occur at night and away from well lit intersections. Night Vision 2 has arrived, according to Autoliv. It is now up to OEMs to determine if this technology will find a permanent home in the automotive market on its second visit. Related Report: Consumers Interested in Advanced Safety Features, but not at Current Price - Schreiner - User Experience Practice image Source:  Autoliv Technorati Tags: ,,,,,,,,,,