AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

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 21, 2010 20:02 rlanctot
Telematics has become synonymous with automatic crash notification and roadside assistance, thanks to the admirable and successful marketing efforts of General Motors and OnStar. But telematics is so much more than this and this story needs to be told, particularly in the wake of Toyota’s recall debacle. I have been driving a telematics equipped vehicle for the past year.  For me, telematics has meant destination and navigation assistance, movie times and theater locations, and flight arrival times, but, most importantly, telematics has been a powerful connection with my dealer. When combined with on-board diagnostics, the telematics system in my car has meant notifications for low coolant, an engine failure (although the vehicle was still able to operate), low oil level, low tire pressure, and scheduled maintenance.  In each case, the warning in the vehicle caused me to contact the concierge service for guidance.  And in almost every case, the guidance led to an on-the-spot invitation to visit the dealer to correct the problem. While saving lives via ACN is certainly a valuable contribution for a telematics system to make, it is the daily needs related to maintaining a vehicle (and preserving its function and value) that determines the true worth of a telematics system to the dealer and the customer.  With each dealer visit I have learned more about my car and forged a stronger bond with the dealer and with the brand. The combination of diagnostics and call center connection has made the ownership experience one of the most pleasing automotive experiences I have ever had owning a car. In contrast, I receive occasional mailings related to my other vehicle when the computer for the dealer of that vehicle guesses that I have crossed a mileage threshold and am due for scheduled maintenance. (For some reason, dealers – at least the ones I have worked with - routinely fail to properly set the on-board diagnostic systems to the correct mileage thresholds or time stamps, which leads to premature visits for oil changes etc.) There is a big difference between an onboard service notification – which conveys a degree of urgency – and a dealer postcard that looks like a mass mailing come-on. The value of integrating diagnostics and telematics systems has not been lost on OEMs, as both Ford and GM have introduced diagnostic elements in their respective systems. Both systems provide email notifications of vehicle status and functionality. And Hughes Telematics’ vision for automotive connectivity includes Internet-delivered vehicle status reporting. For me, though, it is the integration in the car itself that is most powerful. What is missing in some systems, though, is a more complete integration. When I call the OEM call center, the OEM should already know that a problem has been flagged. The driver shouldn’t have to tell the call center what the error code is. In fact, there are some indications that OEMs such as BMW are moving toward more pro-active messaging to customers in the event of error codes or system failures. Acura, for example, leverages the XM satellite radio connection to the vehicle to provide for direct one-way communications to specific vehicles in the event of recalls or other urgent service issues. (The market is also moving toward onboard and offboard digital manuals, but OEMs will remain hesitant to focus on enabling the customer to correct any but the simplest vehicle problems.) The next step in this process will see a more complete and comprehensive vehicle connectivity solution.  Today’s integrated telematics and vehicle diagnostic offerings fundamentally help to preserve and extend the customer relationship as well as the value of the vehicle investment. For those reasons, it is time for a more complete portfolio of integrated messaging to include leasing, insurance and warranty service partners and their information. Customers should only have to go to a single Website to manage or obtain all of their vehicle information including financing, insurance, scheduled maintenance, maintenance history, and warranty information. Bits and pieces of this kind of integration exist, but the OEM or dealer group that makes a more complete solution happen will have a significant advantage in building customer relationships and maintaining the value of the fleet. Toyota’s woes – and the many other less noteworthy recalls that regularly afflict the industry – are a wake-up call.  As more OEMs move to bring vehicle connectivity to the market, the focus will be on the leveraging of diagnostic data for enhanced dealer-customer connectivity.

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.


November 16, 2009 12:11 rlanctot
Mercedes-Benz launches its Mbrace 3G-based telematics system today as standard equipment on all models except the GLK, the E-Coupe, the SLK and C-Class cars. It is an option on those models. The first six months of service are free and $280 a year after that. Keeping the concierge service costs $20 a month. The new system sets a new standard for smartphone integration, upgradability, voice recognition, dealer-customer integration, car-phone-PC integration, and customer support via three call centers one each for roadside assistance, concierge and emergency calls. Mercedes has been quoted as saying that it plans to add an application store and is also looking at enabling access to concierge and other services via the customer's phone, independent of the car. The bottom-line is the system is intended to be future-proof. The announcement marks the beginning of a transition by Mercedes away from current TeleAid telematics service provider ATX toward Hughes Telematics. The Hughes Telematics vision of service provision ultimately includes satellite and Wi-Fi connectivity, but the Mercedes system launches with 3G cellular connectivity. (Hughes' plan also calls for Website management of vehicle status and diagnostics. It is not clear how much of this capability, if any, will be available at launch.) The significant aspects of this industry changing announcement includes: -> VoiceBox natural language understanding voice engine. - Mercedes is the second OEM, after Lexus, to implement this technology which allows users to make naturally spoken requests for information and assistance either for controlling the car or for location information. The voice recognizer can speed access to information regarding weather or location data, for example, by eliminating the need to connect with an operator, but the operator is still available if the voice recognition fails. -> Three call centers for processing different types of calls. - Most telematics systems use a single call center for processing all types of calls. The Hughes system behind Mbrace has separate call centers for ACN or emergency calls, roadside assistance, and concierge services. -> Upgrade and updatability - Applications can be added wirelessly or at the dealer. -> Connectivity to customer phone - Vehicle doors can be locked or unlocked remotely via smartphone. The vehicle can be located in a crowded partking lot via smartphone app. If the vehicle is stolen, the user can be notified via text message. Additional smartphone functions will be available and an "app store" is in the works. Bluetooth connectivity is also provided for. -> Access to off-board information - Routes and POIs can be sent from Google to the car. (The Hughes vision ultimately calls for Website management of vehicle status and content ranging from audio and video files to service status and remote diagnostics. Mercedes will either be enabling these capabilities at launch or shortly thereafter.) -> Dealer connect - The system will connect the nearest Mercedes dealer if there is a problem. -> Automotic collision notification - Activated in the event of an airbag deployment or by a press of the SOS button, a Mercedes operator will get on the line, notify 911 and stay on the line until help arrives using vehicle coordinates. -> Real-time weather and traffic reports - Also provides real-time assistance in the event of a disaster. An operator will help locate shelter or alert family members. -> Concierge service - Access to a representative who will help make dinner reservations, order flowers, buy tickets to the opera, or book a flight. -> Access to services via phone - Mercedes may eventually allow access to services via phone independently of the car. Link to Wired News story: http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/11/mercedes-mbrace-telematics/ Related Strategy Analytics reports: Telematics as a Downloadable App Arrives - http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4973 App Stores Coming to the Automotive Market - http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4802 27M Users of eCall and Infotainment Services by 2015 - http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4428 Economic Climate Demands Sharper Connected Vehicle Business Models - http://www.strategyanalytics.com/default.aspx?mod=ReportAbstractViewer&a0=4425