AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

March 16, 2010 19:03 rlanctot

Nokia, BMW and Daimler highlighted mobile phone integration in their Geneva Motor Show announcements this month. But each company took a different path with its own merits and shortcomings. The most flexible solution was shown by Daimler, but the BMW and Nokia solutions will influence future integration decisions.

 

The solutions – two iPhone-based and one Nokia specific - reflect the three fundamental paths to integration. Nokia’s terminal mode emphasizes leveraging the vehicle human machine interface via a bi-directional data exchange that transfers the device display into the vehicle head unit; hands control of the device over to the vehicle HMI; and makes use of vehicle CAN data for contextual feedback to the driver.

 

The BMW Mini iPhone integration puts iPhone applications, most notably Internet radio from RadioTimes, behind a large-screen embedded interface. Availability of this new connected solution is unclear, although the implication is that additional functions will ultimately be enabled and the vehicle HMI – in particular, a multidirectional, finger-sized toggle – will allow the driver to interact with phone-based applications without touching the phone.

 

The Daimler solution, offered for its Smart cars, is the closest to market – due this summer with a $400 price tag – and represents the most elaborate offering. It is also a third path to integration, providing a dash mounted iPhone holder with a suite of automotive applications – the first such suite developed by an OEM. Daimler has even gone so far as to customize the on-device interface with larger fonts and buttons.

 

Among the big differences between the Daimler integration solution and the competing offerings is that the driver mainly makes use of the on-device interface. Included in the application suite in the Smart iPhone application are hands-free calling, access to the on-device music library and Internet radio, Bing Internet search, a car finder function, and navigation with a “smart touch” feature. The cradle acts as a control unit, charger and microphone with stereo integration for muting during calls.

 

An additional enhancement due later in the year is a Smart drive kit camera, for fitting on the windscreen. The device will be able to transmit pictures of the area in front of the car to the smart drive kit via Wi-Fi and will thereby provide traffic sign recognition functionality including speed limits – a feature offered on a handful of portable navigation devices.

 

The smart drive app for the iPhone can be downloaded from the App Store at a one-off price of €9.99 for the basic version. The navigation upgrade with up-to-date maps costs €49.99 per year. Daimler says its researchers are currently putting the final touches to the smart drive kit camera functions.

 

The Daimler solution for its Smart car line-up is particularly appropriate since Smart cars in Europe are quite often sold without a head unit. In this case, the customer’s iPhone indeed becomes the vehicle’s on-board car radio, hands-free phone, navigation and driver assist system.

 

In contrast, the BMW Mini offering requires an embedded solution which will limit its scalability and upgradability, although the display real estate is substantial and the use of the vehicle’s HMI elements is preferable. The Daimler unit requires the driver to use the iPhone screen as the main interface. All three of these solutions will benefit from voice interfaces.

 

Like the BMW solution, Nokia’s Terminal Mode is intended to hand off HMI responsibility for smartphone functionality to the car. While the solution is promising, and Nokia is working with partners including Alpine, Magneti Marelli and Harman Becker, it is proprietary. As a proprietary solution, Nokia will face challenges to achieve market adoption despite working closely with the Consumer Electronics for Automotive (CE4A) coalition of German car makers.

 

Concept vehicles using the Nokia technology were shown at Geneva by Fiat and Valmet Automotive. In fact, the solution shown by Fiat, mounting a Nokia phone on a dash board as a navigation device connected to the Blue&Me system was significant given Fiat’s existing relationship with TomTom for a Blue&Me integrated PND.

 

Nokia’s terminal mode is promising, especially given its anticipated ability to obtain CANbus data for integration with different applications, but as a proprietary solution it is likely to be geographically challenged (ie. Eurocentric). A good example of an equally elegant solution with limited distribution is Novero’s proprietary Bluetooth interface developed for Ford. This solution is at risk of being marginalized once Ford finally decides to bring Sync to Europe.

 

Nokia has the right idea in pushing hard at smartphone integration, but the company would do well to enable standards-based technologies already deployed rather than seeking proprietary solutions. Even in the best of scenarios, the deployment of a proprietary Bluetooth profile on handsets and in cars is a years-long proposition. Daimler’s solution arrives in a matter of months with upgrades and enhancements to come before the end of the year, no doubt. Mini won’t be far behind.


March 16, 2010 13:03 rlanctot
Intermap Technologies continues its steady advance on the automotive market, though many of its latest successful initiatives are focused in the consumer electronics market. The big payoff for Intermap will likely derive from the gathering enthusiasm for electric vehicles - and related green navigation and routing applications - and the emerging opportunity within advanced safety systems. In the meantime, the emergence of advanced safety and EV-related applications are creating an industry debate over whether vehicles will have one or more maps on board. The latest win for Intermap is an agreement to furnish Garmin with 3D elevation data for the United States and Western Europe for consumer electronic devices set to arrive in the market in the first half of 2010. The objective of the integration of Intermap's NEXTmap elevation data is to allow Garmin to create elevation sensitive content and applications across the company's product line. Intermap struck a similar deal with Tele Atlas to allow the company to integrate Intermap's 3D elevation data for its range of navigation products and services. Tele Atlas says the Intermap data provides a geospatial base layer enabling TA to conflate other visual assets such as building models, roads and landmarks to create a realistic visualization  product. Targeted launch into equipped automobiles is set for late 2010, the company says. Intermap's initial steps in advanced safety systems are focused on predictive lighting and partners include Visteon and Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. Intermap's concept is to combine its 3D elevation data, derived from its airplane overflight capture methodology, with map data for lighting systems that will conform to the twists, turns and changes in elevation of different roadways. The strategy puts Intermap in direct conflict with Navteq which has its own elevation data and is working with STMicroelectronics and Magneti Marelli to offer a similar solution. Intermap points out that its approach provides comprehensive coverage of road elevation data including secondary and tertiary roads, which Navteq's vehicle-based elevation data capture approach means it is focused on major roadways. No system has yet made it to market, but both systems are being closely watched by car makers and their suppliers. Most existing adaptive lighting systems are tied to steering wheel operation, which the map-and-elevation-based solutions integrate elevation and curvature and anticipate road conditions. Intermap has an equivalent development activity with Visteon and has demonstrated the solution at recent trade events. The real brass ring for Intermap, though, is efficient vehicle operation in the context of emerging hybrid and fully electric vehicle executions. Knowledge of road geometry, ie. elevation, is more critical than ever in a world of range anxiety, energy management and regenerative braking. Intermap has yet to claim any OEM design wins, but the proliferation of interest in efficient vehicle operation both for the large volume passenger vehicle market and commercial applications promise ample opportunity. Intermap and Navteq will no doubt engage on this battle ground as well. As a side note: With map data being applied to multiple vehicle solutions there are two camps emerging around the question of whether vehicles will have a single or multiple maps on board. Navteq's original offering for advanced safety applications was in the form of a module with its own on-board map. Some questioned the ability to easily update this map, while others wondered whether each vehicle can get by with a single map for multiple functions. Recent conversations with tier ones suggest a concensus of opinion around the single-map approach. But only time will tell how the industry resolves this debate. Of course, if there will be a single map in the car and it will be shared by safety systems, higher speed networking technology may be required such as Ethernet, MOST or Flex-Ray. And, of course, attach rates for safety systems will not correlate directly with on-board navigation attach rates. Let's hope the latter issue is sorted out by lower cost navigation systems and the growing variety of location-related applications in the vehicle.

March 8, 2010 12:03 rlanctot

European service providers have given up waiting for the European Union’s eCall initiatives and mandates to deliver emergency roadside assistance across Europe. A growing number of private service providers are turning to existing technology in SMS-based alternatives to deliver eCall solutions without using the official eCall in-band modem technology. (They are, however, including the minimum data set portion of the standard.)

 

Volvo, Peugeot and BMW remain the only three OEMs with European eCall solutions implemented, using SMS technology. But third parties including insurance companies, automobile clubs and call center providers are stepping forward with solutions that will work with existing technologies. The latest launches include Allianz’s pay-as-you-drive offering, Allianz OrtungsServices GmbH’s LifeService offered in conjunction with AvD, TCS’s announcement of eCall service in Switzerland in connection with PSA, and ATX’s so-called “self-dispatch” solution.

 

These new systems are designed to provide eCall and bCall support throughout Europe and in the driver’s own language. But the language barrier is only one challenge to providing a pan-European eCall solution. The other challenge is the choice of connection technology. While the European Commission nominated in-band modem technology – sending data over the voice channel - as the standard for official eCall coverage, no mechanism was put in place for upgrading hundreds of public service answering points (PSAPs). The PSAPs must be equipped with the in-band modem technology to connect properly.

 

Qualcomm has stepped forward, as the winner of the in-band modem competition, to license its technology at no charge. But no action has been taken at the PSAP level, hence the emergence of private initiatives.

 

There is a bit of an irony in the focus on eCall. The volume of eCalls that are seen by the current providers number at most in the hundreds per year. This tiny number of incidents calls into question the value of the eCall mandate itself as a lifesaving technology, but this obscures the much more impressive number of roadside assistance calls, which number in the millions. (No one, including this analyst, is questioning the value of eCall services.)

 

The private service providers clearly recognize the value of the combination of these two services to their customers, hence the new offers. Lurking behind these initiatives is a battle for control of the automotive call center market in Europe. This multimillion Euro opportunity will grow in importance as more OEMs launch telematics services.

 

By some estimates, ARC Europe, European equivalent of the American Automobile Association, is the dominant provider of automotive call center support with more than a third of the market, followed by Mondial Assistance, Europe Assist and AXA. The Allianz PAYD offer is made in cooperation with Mondial, its wholly-owned subsidiary.

 

Allianz’s PAYD solution includes a module which provides a portfolio of services including eCall, bCall, stolen vehicle recovery, theft notification, and a hands-free Bluetooth interface. The range of solutions included with the device provide a more comprehensive offering reflecting the priorities of an automobile insurer including, most interestingly, a hands-free phone interface to reduce distracted driving.

 

From sister company Allianz OrtungsServices GmbH, comes the infrastructure for LifeService112, most recently added by Automobilclub von Deutschland (AvD). AvD, though older, is smaller than the widely known Allgemeine Deutsche Automobil-Club (ADAD), which is part of ARC Europe. With the new service, launched last week, AvD says it will be the first German automobile club to offer members GPS mobile phone localization for emergencies.

 

The new offer is made possible by the LifeService platform from Allianz. LifeService112 provides the technical platform for mobile phone localization for more than 90% of Germany’s public safety answering points. It is also compatible with both SMS and in-band modem technology.

 

Accident victims have previously been located via mobile phone cells with the accuracy depending on the number of radio masts. By contrast, GPS technology – independent from the network and available worldwide – can better pinpoint a victim’s location. Special software for the mobile telephone will make precise GPS tracking possible. Allianz OrtungsServices GmbH’s goal is to enable all European rescue coordination centers to access the LifeService112 system. In an emergency, the public safety answering point can locate every mobile phone by way of either radio cells or GPS. Allianz is seeking additional partnerships for the eCall/bCall service including, but not limited to, auto makers.

PSA has signed an agreement with Touring Club of Switzerland (TCS), announced at last week’s Geneva Motor Show to provide eCall and bCAll services for Peugeot and Citroen models sold in Switzerland beginning this month. In the event of an accident, an eCall SMS (with location data) is sent to TCS to process and contact the relevant PSAP. The system is a two-button solution allowing the driver or passenger to activate an eCall or bCall voice connection manually or automatically anywhere in Europe. TCS worked with Alabus AG to implement the solution and the hardware came from Magneti Marelli. The TCS call center will be able to respond in the driver’s language.

ATX, which has lost its European telematics service relationship with BMW, is making what may be the most radical proposal of what it calls a self-dispatching approach to managing eCalls from vehicles. The company’s announcement says its system will work with SMS or in-band modem technology and will make use of multilingual text-to-speech technology and Internet resources all of which may help to define an entirely new approach to telematics and call center support in Europe.

 


March 7, 2010 17:03 rlanctot
It is very strange indeed to find Toyota at the focal point of a vehicle recall imbroglio after years of immaculate quality ratings and at the peak of its global market share. But the strangeness of the timing is even more severe than that, because it was Toyota’s Prius that was used by QNX and Alcatel-Lucent to promote their “ng connect” LTE Car initiative late last year. The Toyota Prius became the mascot for the ng connect program, popping up in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, in fact anywhere cars or automotive technology were on display. The purpose of the ng connect tour was to spread the word about the onset of 4G LTE technology and what it will mean for connected cars. Of course, the tour was also a showcase for QNX’s vision of both on-board and connected applications. Chief among the roster of on-board applications was a so-called Virtual Mechanic. The virtual mechanic is intended to provide live in-vehicle status reports on a wide range of vehicle systems including brakes, transmission, fuel, etc. with text and graphics. QNX is already the enabling software behind OnStar which, like Ford’s Vehicle Health Report feature, provide drivers with emailed status reports. The difference with virtual mechanic is that the information is live and delivered inside the vehicle. For QNX, the virtual mechanic was merely a concept shown in the context of a wide range of other concepts including in-vehicle displays of remote traffic cameras, access to Internet radio (Pandora), and a host of other location-aware and entertainment oriented applications. But the plot thickens with the emergence of Toyota’s recall nightmare because QNX is a supplier to both GM and Toyota. The virtual mechanic concept appears to belong to QNX, but the possibility for GM or Toyota to adapt the technology for their own marketing and customer relations purposes changes the prospects for this technology considerably. The question now is which manufacturer, Toyota or GM, will be first to enable a virtual mechanic-type application in the car. Or could some other QNX customer leap to the front of the queue: BMW, Peugeot, Mercedes Benz, Chrysler, Hyundai? Any one of these companies can look at Toyota’s difficult situation and realize they could be the next car company with software-laden cars producing unexplained, and seemingly unfixable, failures. A challenge for both Toyota and GM in implementing QNX's virtual mechanic will be the limited number of cars both companies sell with full-screen navigation sufficient to graphically display on-board systems. But LCD attach rates are improving for all OEMs in all segments and this application is yet another justification for large display fitment. Suffice it to say that the virtual mechanic is a concept that has arrived just in time to offer a way forward for a damaged auto maker and possibly for the entire industry. Whether QNX’s customers view this prospect from the same perspective remains to be seen. A final note: In this analyst’s opinion, the virtual mechanic will also make a great customer demonstration for car dealers. virt-mech-2.JPG Source:  Strategy Analytics

March 4, 2010 00:03 rlanctot
At a recent telematics event in Shanghai a General Motors executive, when asked who owned the vehicle data generated by the OnStar system, said the customer owned the data. His response was somewhat misleading, and it highlighted the quandary facing the automotive industry, particularly in the wake of Toyota’s unintended acceleration woes and related recalls. What vehicle data are car makers going to collect, who will have access to it and under what circumstances? In truth, customers have little or no access to the data generated by their telematics systems. In fact, the sharing of this data is anathema within the industry. Some limited information is being shared under very specific circumstances (vehicle location, fuel level, battery charge, etc.), but the volume of data being shared is miniscule in the context of the scope of data collection. Actually, for many OEMs it is a cardinal rule to not preserve or share vehicle data for a wide variety of reasons including, but not limited to, liability and privacy. It is for this reason that companies such as BMW, Mercedes Benz and GM have not provided Web delivery platforms for preserving and reporting comprehensive historical vehicle data to their telematics customers. While it might make sense to provide complete driving and service history to the customer it is also possible that either the customer or the OEM does not want all of this information shared for the reasons noted earlier. (Of course, OEMs are particularly concerned with liability, consumers are more concerned about privacy.) Toyota’s recent recalls related to vehicle acceleration and other failures have highlighted these limitations and threaten to upend the manner in which vehicle data will be managed in the future. One early press report suggested that the current Toyota on-board systems for capturing event data were limited and definitely not able to shed light on incidents that may have contributed to driver fatalities. Whether that is true or not, it is clear, by now, that Toyota either has insufficient data to properly diagnose the problem(s) in a timely manner or is hiding valuable information from its customers and NHTSA. It is hard to envision governmental organizations such as the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) resisting the urge to demand higher degrees of data collection, disclosure and analysis. (A brake override system mandate is already in consideration, according to published reports.) Consumers may demand more data as well and solutions already exist from suppliers such as Hughes Telematics and QNX. Hughes has been showing for more than three years its concept of a vehicle Website showing the status of various vehicle systems in realtime. And QNX has demonstrated comprehensive on-board diagnostics including data and graphics and complete user interface with its LTE car project in conjunction with Alcatel Lucent. Ironically, even in a perfect world, the prospect of diagnosing vehicle problems from vehicle-generated data is far from guaranteed. Still, more data is generally better and the federal government in the U.S. long ago contributed its voice to the debate. A mandate for electronic data recorders – set in 2006 - comes in to being in 2011 in the U.S. laying out requirements for data collection, retention and the terms and conditions for access to the data. Perhaps Toyota would have benefited from such an implementation. (The U.S. mandate contrasts with Europe where privacy concerns have trumped the interest in accident diagnostics thereby forestalling wider EDR adoption either voluntarily or via mandate.) EDR data, unlike telematics-related data, is typically only gathered in connection with a vehicle accident and is normally only accessible to public authorities acting on behalf of law enforcement or insurance agencies with the cooperation of the vehicle owner. OEMs that have deployed telematics systems are already capturing, processing and leveraging vehicle data whether consumers have access to this data or not. GM, for one, claims hundreds of millions of dollars in savings from warranty claims avoided by leveraging OnStar data to resolve problems before they become recalls. Most consumers are not aware of what data is being captured or how it is being used. This contrasts with the mobile market where Droid phones, for one example, ask the customer to opt into sharing location-related information. The proliferation of connected vehicles will force OEMs to reconsider their data management and sharing policies. Toyota is no doubt weighing its strategy for managing its fleet; processing vehicle failure information; sharing that information with regulatory authorities, dealers and consumers; and responding to inquiries from the public and the press. Out of a worst case scenario for the industry is likely to come a new paradigm for information sharing that will be more open and comprehensive and which, hopefully, will lead to greater peace of mind, safety and understanding of vehicle functions among the driving public.

February 10, 2010 20:02 rlanctot
Harman International

Harman announced a return to profitability for its fiscal second quarter in an earnings call earlier this week. In that call, the company detailed its marketing plan which could be taken as a blueprint for the entire industry – particularly the company’s inroads into larger volume mid-segment vehicle categories.

Harman is pursuing emerging market opportunities in China, Brazil and India with local development and manufacturing presence – including a $1B revenue target for China by 2015. The emerging market initiative is reflected also in a targeted shift of engineering/R&D balance from 99% high capital and cost (HCC) markets to 60% HCC, and manufacturing/assembly from 81% HCC to 50% HCC by 2012.

The company expects to maintain its luxury segment leadership while leveraging its previously announced “scalable system” strategy, which has already contributed to a Toyota European design win for MY2011. The scalable system is part of an initiative targeting what Harman sees as a $5B high-growth, mid-segment market opportunity reflecting the company’s desire to capture a broader portfolio of business.

In that regard, Harman wants to pioneer energy-saving GreenEdge technologies for hybrid and electric cars in partnership with Intel and Texas Instruments developing solutions to reduce power consumption by 75% including high efficiency speakers, one of the few objectives the company has yet to realize in the marketplace. Similarly, the company is working with Lotus Engineering on Active Noise Management solutions for hybrid, electric and conventional vehicles to address impending legislation regarding pedestrian safety. Noise management will also apply to in-cabin noise cancellation and reduced weight and CO2 emissions. And Harman is also targeting advanced driver assist systems, an entirely new segment for the company.

In its earnings call the company mentioned winning $2B of additional business, expanding its contract portfolio to $10B, a figure the company claims is the largest in the industry. Included in its current and recently executed order book are:

->     Infinity branded audio systems for next-generation Chrysler SRT series high-performance vehicles;

->     Launch of Mark Levinson premium surround sound for MY10 Lexus GX 460;

->     Launch of JBL premium sound for MY11 Toyota Sienna in U.S.;

->     Launch of Harman Kardon Logic 7 HD system with Range Rover for MY10 mid-model year introduction;

->     Launch of Ferrari 458 Italia equipped with Harman audio and infotainment;

->     Exclusive Haman Kardon sound lounges at BMW brand centers in Munich and Berlin;

->     Press launch of Harman/Lotus Engineering HALOsonic sound synthesis technologies;

->     Selected by BMW for next gen, high-end “Professional infotainment system for all new platforms including BMW, Mini and Rolls Royce;

->     Selected by Daimler for next gen Comand infotainment system for new Mercedes S-Class and C-Class models;

->     Selected by Toyota to provide Harman next gen scalable infotainment for vehicles sold in Europe beginning MY11;

->     Selected by Toyota to provide premium JBL branded audio for 4Runner and Land Cruiser in the U.S., Europe and Middle East and the MY11 Siena in U.S.

All of this contributes to what Harman estimates as 45% global branded automotive audio market share, with Bose at a distant 25%. Harman’s branded audio solutions are used in more than 200 car platforms from 12 OEMs shipping more than 2M audio systems annually. Sources indicate that this 500,000 units/quarter pace is actually approaching 1M units/quarter – a pace that will no doubt be stimulated by the recent Toyota wins and future higher volume segment wins.

The pace of launches has eased somewhat for Harman, which may help explain the return to profitability as profits cusually come later in the program cycle. The company hit a peak of six program launches in FY08, followed by five in FY09. The programs for those years included Mercedes, PSA, Porsche, Audi, BMW, SSangYong, Chrysler and Hyundai. Going forward, Harman says it will have four launches in FY10 (including Audi, Mercedes and BMW (2)), three in FY11 (Toyota, Mercedes and Chrysler) and one in FY12 (BMW), before ramping up again in FY13 with four: Harley-Davidson, Mercedes and BMW (2).

The company further notes the evolution of its infotainment architecture:

1997: SH1/16MB – Tuner/CD/Navi – Turn-by-Turn

2002: SH3/32MB – MMI2000 – VxWorks – Tuner/CD/DVD – Phone/SDS – MOST25 – 2D/2.5D Map

2008: SH4/512MB/1024 – MoCCA Framework – QNX CAR Platform – Tuner/CD/DVD – Phone/SDS – MOST50 – 3D Map – Internet Connectivity

2012: Intel Atomm/1GB – MoCCA & DSI 2.0 – QNX CAR – Tuner/CD/DVD/Blu-Ray – Phone/SMS/Email – MOST150 – NDS Navi – Enhanced 3D Map – Internet.

Worth noting in the architectural evolution is the growing role of both QNX (CAR Platform) and Intel (Atomm) as well as the onset of Internet connectivity - pioneered by BMW - Blu-Ray, MOST and enhanced navigation features, many of which will revolve around 3D and augmented reality implementations.

Overall, Harman appears to have emerged victorious from its cost cutting regimen with fewer European facilities but with a profitable organization in place pursuing business building initiatives throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S. The most significant business transformation of all, though, will be the Toyota wins. Not even Toyota's recent marketing stumbles can tarnish this achievement and how its will transform Harman's operations and growth profile.


February 10, 2010 00:02 rlanctot

While car makers around the world are developing traditional embedded telematics systems for deployment worldwide, a secondary market in embedded (ie. line fit) and aftermarket modules intended to meet local mandates for eCall, vehicle tracking and road charging are proliferating. Mandates in such diverse locations as The Netherlands and Brazil are feeding this frenzy and new suppliers with new solutions are emerging on the scene on a weekly basis.

 

The six most prominent applications driving demand and interest - among suppliers, car makers and service providers – are pay-as-you-drive insurance (PAYD), the European eCall mandate, the Brazilian stolen vehicle recovery mandate, eHorizon map-as-a-sensor offerings, road charging (The Netherlands, France, Germany) and buy-here-pay-here solutions. Each one of these opportunities represents millions of devices to be sold and installed although, interestingly, the service opportunities are more limited with only PAYD, SVR and buy-here-pay-here promising any service revenue. Road charging in The Netherlands alone represents an 8M unit build with 300K-500K units/annually going forward.

 

PAYD is the highest profile opportunity in the industry today with Octo-Telematics leading the way in Europe with more than 1M installed devices in use. Smaller players are multiplying throughout the continent, though, as insurers recognize the opportunity to take customers from competitors, reward their own “best” customers, and gather better data for determining risk. Progressive is the market leader in the U.S., but with competition fierce in the automotive insurance industry, PAYD will be embraced nationwide. Not coincidentally, Octo-Telematics has partnered with Directed Electronics to tackle the U.S. market.

 

After PAYD, the Brazilian mandate for stolen vehicle tracking and vehicle immobilization has attracted as much attention as PAYD with several companies claiming design-in wins. There were some hiccoughs on the way to achieving a nationwide mandate, but the latest indications are that 100% of vehicles produced in Brazil will be obliged to be fitted with tracking devices enabled for vehicle immobilization. The compromise that allows the mandate to move forward leaves the service provisioning to the customer’s discretion.

 

Road charging, an application already widely deployed in the fleet industry, is coming to passenger cars to reduce emissions, traffic, and accident rates. The volumes for road charging will be significant and suppliers are circling.

 

The eHorizon solutions, in module form, offered by Navteq/Magneti Marelli/ST Microelectronics and lately demonstrated by Intermap/Visteon offer to integrate map and road elevation data into advanced driver assistance applications. The volumes here will grow, but the rate will be slow as consumers gradually come to embrace emerging safety systems.

 

Buy-here-pay-here modules used by both new and used car resellers to track and immobilize customers that miss payments is the most well-established of all the module-related opportunities. Players in the industry have recently coalesced around the Payment Assurance Technology Association (http://www.patassociation.com/index.php) to raise the profile of this vital application as a legitimate segment worthy of attention and respect. No doubt demand has never been higher given current economic decisions.

 

Supplier approaches to module mania range from application specific solutions to all-purpose devices not only suitable to multiple uses but remotely configurable and integrated with Website access. ABS T&T, which has partnered with Continental, distributes a multipurpose module for tracking and telematics applications ranging from shipment tracking to stolen vehicle recovery and telematics.

 

NXP offers its ATOP module which it describes as the world’s first single component on board unit (OBU) capable of supporting ITS applications, stolen vehicle tracking, PAYD applications, last mile tracking (automotive black box) as well as enabling ADAS systems. The device can be configured with a wide range of connectivity including GSM, CAN, near field communication (NFC, USB, and GPS and also enables downloadable applications.

 

Whether purpose-built or all-purpose, module makers are proliferating spurred on by government mandates as well as new and existing commercial opportunities from both the consumer telematics and fleet market segments. This is precisely the right stimulus package for an automotive industry on the mend.