AUTOMOTIVE MULTIMEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

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

June 20, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
It’s difficult to comprehend the schizophrenia of the automotive industry unless you’ve been living with it for longer than you can remember. One minute OEMs are embracing suppliers, the next they are beating them into the earth, forcing down their margins. The latest manifestation of this schizophrenia (some may call it give and take) is the contest over infotainment operating system dominance. Which automotive OS is best? Which is gaining? Which is losing? Does anyone care? The questions are all serious ones and they reflect the struggles at tier one suppliers to determine which operating systems to support. The issue was highlighted, yet again, at the annual Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg last week. At the event, Audi voiced its support for QNX, Microsoft restated its devotion to the automotive industry as part of its wider embedded software initiative, and BMW announced its first Genivi implementation for a MY2013 vehicle program. But might these commitments shrivel in time as so many others before them have? What’s new in the current debate is the increased assertiveness of OEMs. OEMs are no longer content to take whatever a tier one supplier may deliver. In addition, there is a perception that the operating system represents a potential point of cost reduction. OEMs are taking charge in a variety of ways including specifying the operating system in the RFQ, creating a coalition for sharing and re-using code as in the case of Genivi, or getting into the system integration business itself as in the case of Audi’s e.solutions venture with Elektrobit. This new assertiveness on the part of OEMs has placed tier one suppliers in a bind. For many of these organizations, software and, by extension, the operating system, has represented the special sauce that the tier one brings to the RFQ proposition. From a tier one supplier’s perspective, the OEMs are seeking to strain that special sauce, which translates roughly as added value or cost, draining it of its value and ultimately diminishing the justification for an expensive solution. OEMs are hiring software engineers and programmers the way they used to hire line workers and tier one suppliers are feeling the pressure. The usual schizophrenia enters the picture when tier one’s try to make sense of what OEMs say they want. OEMs say they want open source software – as in the case of the Genivi Alliance built around Linux – yet they say, generally, that Android (also based on Linux) is too open. They say they prefer closed software systems – as in the case of Microsoft or QNX – but not too closed. It is a clever supplier, indeed, that can make sense of these conflicting messages. But with five-year development cycles in mind, hard decisions must be made. The fundamental criteria for evaluating operating systems break down to: Developer support Cost Flexibility Security Stability Cross Platform Functionality Long-Term Viability Independence All of the available operating system platforms have their merits and are competitive on each of these criteria with some notable exceptions. But it is worth considering the relative merits of each of the most popular platforms. Android is considered by many OEMs and suppliers to be “too open” – by which is meant vulnerable to attack. Android is supported most notably by Continental and Parrot and, indirectly, by a rapidly growing developer community and a growing range of hot selling handsets, Android is an OS to be reckoned with regardless of the qualms regarding its openness. And the widening use of an abstraction layer of code in automotive systems has rendered moot most security concerns. Our sources at Strategy Analytics say RFQs requiring Android have already been awarded. There is a broader battle surrounding Android in that the technology is being extended to a wide range of consumer electronics categories including televisions, netbooks and tablet PCs. Google’s promotion of Android into other domains places the Linux-based OS in direct confrontation with Microsoft and Apple which also have designs on the consumer electronics OS market. The fact that Android is being leveraged to facilitate connectivity to the wider device eco-system makes it an attractive choice for auto makers. Even GM/OnStar is considering Android for its next generation platform. Nevertheless, industry resistance persists. When it comes to automotive operating systems, though, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate consideration of the relevant criteria and all signals suggest Android is a legitimate contender for future automotive platforms. Genivi is a Linux-based, industry-coalition driven OS intended to reduce development costs for OEMs by re-using and sharing software code. Genivi inspires both respect and anger in the industry. But, again, Strategy Analytics recommends a dispassionate evaluation. Genivi inspires respect because it has been promulgated by Intel and BMW, which have attracted a broad coalition of OEMs, tier ones and second and third tier suppliers. It inspires anger because coalition members of lesser status feel their influence is diminished. Most industry participants feel they must “participate” in the Genivi coalition so as not to miss out on any business opportunities with the leaders of the coalition: Intel, BMW and GM. At the same time, skepticism abounds regarding the length of time required for Genivi to impact the industry, the motives of the founders, and the internal decision-making processes of the organization. The impact of Genivi can probably best be compared to the influence of Autosar or JasPar. These initiatives unfolded over many years with the true nature of their impact only recently becoming clear. A typical benchmark to put Genivi into perspective, is the 10 years it took for Nokia’s “terminal mode” technology to reach the market as a commercial standard. As for the motives of the Genivi founders, it is simply to share and re-use code with the intention of reducing the cost of development. Leading Genivi participants expend a great deal of energy emphasizing the limited amount of software code that will be impacted by this sharing, but second- and third-tier players in the organization remain suspicious. BMW’s announcement at the Ludwigsburg event of te first vehicle implementation of Genivi for model year 2013 was momentous for the organization and the industry. But industry sources say the entry nav version of the platform in question – BMW’s NBT, for Next Big Thing – is being built around an nVidia processor. NVidia is not a participant in Genivi. Even in its first implementation, Genivi is raising questions about the solidarity of its coalition. (The premium NBT package will be QNX-based on an Intel platform.) Linux, in all its forms, appears to be the most popular operating system in the industry. Linux benefits from not having the support of any large organization with an industry shaping agenda. As an open source platform it is perfectly malleable and well-suited to a rapidly changing marketplace and technology eco-system. Linux is open and yet not perceived as representing a security risk and it is showing up in a growing range of systems and devices both within and outside the automotive industry. As in the case of Android, developer support is strong, and some tier ones previously working in older platforms, have begun shifting to Linux, as the safe choice. Robert Bosch and Clarion/Hitachi are just two of many suppliers that have turned to Linux even as they weigh other options. Visteon has been showing Ubuntu implementations during and since the Consumer Electronics Show in January. Microsoft, meanwhile, has one of the hottest hands at the OS table. The company routinely points to its two-million unit success with Ford Sync and its one-million unit (and counting) achievement with Fiat’s Blue&Me, with similar expectations for the soon-to-be-launched Kia Uvo platform. But Microsoft still struggles with a legacy of suspicion in the automotive industry. Car makers and OEMs frequently express their concern that the automotive industry is an afterthought for Microsoft. Microsoft has fostered this thought process by shuffling executives into and out of the automotive group. At the Ludwigsburg event the newest head of the Embedded Software group, Kevin Dallas, had his debut making a forceful statement for the Microsoft platform. In spite of any concerns about Microsoft's devotion, suppliers Alpine and Mitsubishi in Japan and Continental and Magneti Marelli in Europe have profitably embraced the platform. Microsoft can rightfully claim perhaps the widest developer support in the software industry. The company’s Bing search initiative is making impressive gains and its developer tools are widely supported. Microsoft even has its own alternative to Flash, called Silverlight, which is expected to see automotive implementations in the near future. Where Microsoft is weak, at least at the moment, is in the mobile market. Where Android has been able to counter Apple’s growing influence in mobile phone operating systems, Microsoft is struggling. Microsoft’s influence on the automotive market would no doubt be greater at this time if the company could point to a stronger position in the handset market. For now, Microsoft will be content to support individual OEM customers. Building on its success at Ford and Fiat and anticipated gains at Kia, it is likely that Microsoft will have a new OEM partner to announce within the next year. Chrysler and Mercedes are the most obvious but not the only candidates for a future announcement. QNX is in the strongest position it has ever been in in the automotive OS market. Harman’s design wins over the past five years have created a monumental backlog of premium infotainment implementations that will keep the company busy for the foreseeable future. At the Ludwigsburg event, QNX gained the endorsement of Audi as a critical element in its strategic plans. The company can also lay claim to the support of Panasonic and Denso, reflecting strong relationships with Chrysler and Toyota. QNX is perceived by many in the industry as being vulnerable for its lack of developer support and its lack of influence beyond the automotive market. But these perceptions may be subject to revision following the company’s acquisition by RIM. RIM creates instant credibility for QNX in the mobile market and QNX for RIM in the automotive market. In its current form, QNX is challenged by the need to keep pace with new drivers for mobile devices arriving on the market on a weekly basis. Microsoft and Android have the luxury of actually providing the drivers to many of these devices. QNX will gain from its RIM relationship, but the challenge will be to expand the capabilities of its operating system without increasing its system requirements. It is clear, though, that QNX has already gained a significant boost from its separation from Harman, making it easier for competing tier ones to adopt the platform. Conclusion The ongoing automotive operating system debate is complex and not easily resolved. Even aging platforms such as Micro-Itron or VxWorks (Nissan, PSA, Volkswagen) continue to persist and most vehicle infotainment systems and devices use multiple operating systems. In fact, the typical car might have a dozen or more operating systems processing information. The automotive business is not a zero sum game. Even at the Ludwigsburg event last week, new OS players Mentor Graphics and OpenSynergy were on hand taking in the latest industry developments even as they are laying the groundwork to make their own impact. Strategy Analytics can only recommend that industry executives make their OS decisions dispassionately and avoid prejudice and suspicion. There is plenty of business to go around and a win by one OS is not a defeat for another. Additional insight: Global OE Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight - http://tinyurl.com/24n9nz5 Global Automotive OE Audio/Visual (A/V) Systems Forecast 2009-2017 - Joanne Blight - http://tinyurl.com/2g897ax

June 16, 2010 08:06 rlanctot
While major media and cable companies talk about four screen strategies the telematics industry is abuzz over the emergence of a three screen world. This was never more clear than at last week’s Telematics Update event in Novi, Mich. From OEMs to tier ones, software and service providers, the focus is on leveraging handsets, head units and the Internet to create closer and more profitable customer relationships. Companies on hand preaching the three-screen gospel included Nokia, Continental, Airbiquity, WirelessCar, RealVNC, QNX, Google, ATX, Tweddle Group Technologies and Parrot. The solutions demonstrated and debated point the way to a more connected experience in the car where the customer can access vehicle related information from outside the vehicle or on a phone or online when away from the vehicle. Even meta data provider Rovi and HMI supplier TAT offered their contributions to the three-screen vision. Nokia described and defended its terminal mode technology, a European-oriented campaign built around what some term a “screen scrape” transfer of a smartphone’s display along with a shift of device control to the vehicle HMI. Nokia intends to equip all of its smartphones with terminal mode technology by early 2011 and is working through the CE4A coalition to coordinate tier one head unit implementation of the technology throughout Europe, where Nokia’s market share is strongest. Using similar technology, RealVNC showed development tools for extending terminal mode technology into a wider range of devices and markets. While Nokia claimed to have two competing handset makers interested in the terminal mode solution, RealVNC’s more agnostic approach offers a suitable alternative. Airbiquity promoted its in-band modem technology by extending the platform to include a customized user interface, tied to the user’s mobile phone, along with app store functionality and location and user-relevant advertising messages. Airbiquity is increasingly taking on the role of a content aggregator, tying together content and applications in a single user interface. Airbiquity's Bluetooth-based approach was presented as a powerful and low-cost data-over-voice/packet alternative to packet-only solutions which require a payment for dial-up networking or SPP monthly service fees. Airbiquity estimates that OEMs deploying packet-only solutions will limit themselves to 20% of the penetratable market of which only 3-5% will have extra carrier service plan for BT DUN/SPP packet connectivity. On top of the data-over-voice solution, Airbiquity is layering its Choreo cloud service for both consumer and commercial markets. Airbiquity says Choreo allows OEMs to convert the car to an IT platform, creating a global infrastructure for content and service delivery. WirelessCar has also stepped into the content aggregator role, showing a clever vehicle-to-smartphone integration providing some basic vehicle control functionality and information access. The WirelessCar solution suggested the long-anticipated realization of a vehicle portal also accessible via smartphone for sharing vital vehicle data with the owner. OnStar has found this approach, with key vehicle status information, to be a valuable tool for driving customer traffic and service revenue via the dealer channel. To drive home its message, WirelessCar led a panel discussion with Ericsson and Cybercom, representing the wireless carrier and software integration perspectives on the implementation of a three-screen world.  Actually, WirelessCar has been pushing and demonstrating this concept for at least three years. Tweddle Group Technologies – the combination of Tweddle Group with UIEvolution’s former automotive division – is also looking to fill the content aggregator role. The company brings to the table its long history in the owner’s manual business – which itself is transitioning to electronic delivery – along with a relationship with Pandora. The Tweddle solution, which allows for the delivery of text and video content - via head unit or handset - related to vehicle systems has intriguing possibilities if integrated with CAN inputs such as alerts or other status messages. Tweddle has yet to marry these two sources of data, but the concept is certainly a powerful one. QNX has also envisioned sharing vehicle status information with the driver via on-board displays. The QNX LTE Car demo includes a “Virtual Mechanic” for providing the driver with images of vehicle systems and their status. Given Toyota’s recent disastrous recalls, the opportunity for these types of systems to catch on is strong. For its part ATX was demonstrating its new application for integration with Mercedes Benz’s TeleAid telematics service. The app provides for some basic vehicle control along with the ability to remotely send a destination to the vehicle’s navigation system. Continental’s AutolinQ concept may be a little ahead of its time in promising an on-board app store experience in an Android operating system environment. While car makers and suppliers have broadly embraced a variety of Linux distributions, Android is still running up against some industry prejudice over the issue of vulnerability to hacking and other perceived weaknesses. Industry buzz suggests that Android is being accepted and even specified in some RFQs, which is certainly a promising development for Continental. The growing Android momentum in the automotive, mobile and even consumer electronics markets suggests that Continental is on the right track. In support of its campaign, Continental announced an eco-system of solution providers contributing to the platform including Ygomi, Inrix, Navteq, Navigon and Deutsche Telekom. Continental will no doubt be flexible regarding these relationships if it means sacrificing a partner to obtain a new contract. But at least now the Continental vision has been clarified as a fully evolved proposition. Delphi executives attended the event, but did not demonstrate their own connectivity platform: D-Connect. Delphi has been vocal in its support of connectivity to Android devices, but resistance to building Android into the head unit. Since D-Connect has not been publicly announced it is hard to predict how Delphi’s final implementation will arrive in the market. Tier two Parrot showed chipsets optimized for mobile device connectivity including the latest Bluetooth protocols and Wi-Fi. Android also figures prominently in Parrot’s plans including some active programs, according to the company. Google announced additional “Send to” partners at the event – OnStar and Ford. For Google, the message for the industry is that it is a cloud-based world. Applications are no longer launched for desktop computers, they are launched on and for the Internet. Google’s recommendation is clearly that car makers facilitate cloud connections either on board or via mobile devices. OnStar, with the most powerful brand in the telematics industry, faces perhaps the greatest challenge in developing a cloud-oriented strategy. Not only must the company integrate its infotainment and telematics teams – long at odds over key applications such as Bluetooth connectivity and navigation – it must also reposition a brand identified almost entirely in relation to safety and security, not entertainment. The path is far from clear, but the promise of additional revenue from dealer service work to content consumption and, overall, a tighter relationship with the customer has car makers and their suppliers working overtime. All agree, at last, that the future lies in three screens. Leading the way are OnStar and Ford, each of which has defined its own three-screen strategy. BMW and Daimler are the next logical candidates to implement the handset-head unit-Internet approach. All of which points to common elements in future telematics solutions including: app stores (accessible via all three screens), vehicle control (across and between platforms), access to vehicle status information (all screens), content aggregation partner and back-end system provider, cloud-based content and services, and provision for multiple-handset compatibility. The emergence of these common threads are helping to clarify the future deployment of telematics systems speeding the delivery of in-vehicle connectivity. *Editor's note: Airbiquity executives suggested amending the strategy to FOUR screens. This week, Microsoft's embedded software division touted a FIVE screen strategy at the Fachkongress Elektronik in Ludwigsburg. Further insight: http://bit.ly/cMw4f1 - Solid Q4 for PNDs, but ‘Free’ Navigation is Shaking Up Monetisation - John Canali – Automotive Multimedia and Communication Service http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/8Yo4U6 - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel – Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/6FC6W7 - Smartphone Market Developments Shaking Up Automotive Strategies - Lanctot - Automotive Multimedia and Communications

June 15, 2010 09:06 rlanctot

Stolen vehicle recovery (SVR) suppliers are integrating smartphone and Internet access with remote vehicle control and tracking applications rapidly changing the value proposition for dealers and consumers. The resulting solutions are finding increasing traction as both dealer and port installs and raising the interest of OEMs in offering own-branded SVR solutions.

 

Leading the way in this ongoing integration effort is Guidepoint Systems which has been putting pressure on market leader LoJack. Guidepoint now offers a smartphone integration with remote vehicle control functionality and an Internet portal for determining vehicle location and status – functions which are also supported by the company’s call center.

 

Any confusion as to whether Guidepoint has LoJack in its cross hairs should be removed by the pricing and positioning of Guidepoint’s dealer offer. While LoJack is normally offered at $695 for the basic theft prevention package with a $395 bump for its early warning solution and another $295 for its $5K warranty proposition; Guidepoint has a $795 basic stolen vehicle recovery package with a $395 early theft alert and an additional $5K theft protection plan for $99.

 

Guidepoint’s focus is the automobile dealer channel, but the company has begun closing some direct relationships with OEMs. Competitor Cimble, which showed its products at the Telematics Update event last week, is also pursuing OEM relationships for dealer and port installs.

 

Cimble claims to have port and dealer install programs in the works with Honda, BMW, Subaru and Toyota (for two regions). Mopar is thought to have a similar product offering in the works from an unnamed supplier, due later this year. And Ford offers SmartAlert from Skyway Systems (acquired several years ago by Innelec) as an official licensed Ford product.

 

The importance of these developments is that it shows OEMs seeking to take more control of a valuable piece of dealer aftermarket business. Stolen vehicle recovery has long been the captive realm of LoJack and its RF solution – to the consternation of OEM accessory managers.

 

The arrival of telematics systems with their own stolen vehicle recovery capabilities at OnStar, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and, most recently, Toyota Motor Sales in the U.S., have had only a modest impact on LoJack’s dealer business. OnStar probably had the greatest influence with its vehicle slowdown enhancement. But the new branded accessory solutions, integrating both GPS and cellular technology, may be beginning to get LoJack’s attention.

 

LoJack still has the advantage of being built around stealthy RF technology, which is better able to penetrate a wider range of barriers, and is supported by the installation of tracking equipment by cooperative police forces in 28 states – most recently joined by Utah. But LoJack has been reporting consecutive quarters with losses, including $5.6M in its first quarter reported last month.

 

LoJack’s weaknesses include its inability to offer universal geographic coverage and the lack of a relationship with OEMs. Since OEMs have not been given a “cut” of LoJack’s business, the company has long been seen as an interloper.

 

Perhaps a greater shortcoming of LoJack is its business model. LoJack is a set it and forget it solution. After the initial upfront payment and installation there is no further interaction with the customer. This lack of interaction means there is a limited upsell opportunity.

 

Worse even than this business model, though, is the fact that most LoJack systems are sold as a basic package which requires the customer to report the stolen vehicle to LoJack. (LoJack does offer a step-up keyfob-based service which provides an early warning to the customer if the vehicle is moved without the keyfob.)

 

In contrast, GPS-based products not only provide vehicle locator functionality they also allow, in the case of Guidepoint, for a pro-active call to the customer if the vehicle is moved, violates a geo-fence or if the wireless connection to the vehicle is lost. Guidepoint can then notify the police and the vehicle can be located by Guidepoint.

 

The added functionality afforded by GPS technology means the new OEM-branded offerings allow more flexible pricing and marketing models. Guidepoint is perhaps the most unusual market player in maintaining its own call centers and offering services ranging from roadside assistance and concierge support to the ability to disable a vehicle if it is stolen.

 

Interestingly, Guidepoint also offers a member rewards program and has a relationship with Liberty Mutual and is also active in the buy-here pay-here market for customers with compromised credit. Guidepoint also has a cooperation in aftermarket navigation systems with Rosen Entertainment integrating Guidepoint SVR and concierge functionality via an on-screen button.

 

 Guidepoint privately refers to its offering as “OnStar on steroids,” but the company does not offer automatic crash notification functionality because of liability concerns. The key to the Guidepoint business model is the initial call the customer makes to Guidepoint upon activating the service. Guidepoint call center responders are trained to introduce new customers to the complete range of available service enhancements.

 

The power of the integration of smartphone and Internet interfaces has not been lost on companies in the 12V aftermarket channel, such as CompuStar and Auto Page. Later this year, CompuStar (by Firstech) will introduce an iPhone app which works with the company’s DroneMobile iPhone app/module for remote starting, tracking and security.

 

According to a report in CEOutlook (http://ceoutlook.com) the CompuStar solution works with remote starters from multiple companies and allows users to lock and unlock the car, release the trunk, remote start the vehicle, control sliding doors and heated seats, track the car and control the security system from their phone.

Users can also view the car’s battery voltage, temperature and alarm status and can set geo-fenced areas. CEOutlook says the DroneMobile DR-1000 will be available in two packages: $549.99 suggested list including basic installation or a $349 package available without the remote starter. Users get one year of basic service. GPS tracking requires a premium service plan. Auto Page is another company that has taken the iPhone plunge.

 

As for LoJack, the company reported in Q1 that “penetration rates are consistent with those of the fourth quarter of 2009, demonstrating that our business has not been negatively impacted by any competing technology.” LoJack says its U.S. unit volumes increased each month of the first quarter with March delivering a double-digit increase. .

 

In the words of one LoJack executive on the company’s earnings call: “As the U.S. auto market recovers, we expect that our installations will increase in a manner that is consistent with the broader domestic auto market trends. We are cautiously optimistic about the broader U.S. auto market based on recent projections that indicate new vehicle sales may exceed prior expectations of 11 to 11.5 million units.”

 

LoJack clearly anticipates healthy business as usual, but even in an environment where theft rates are on the rise, the company may be challenged by the growing influx of GPS/cellular-based solutions - especially as car makers seek to take back the SVR business. The added enhancement of smartphone integration and remote functionality may ultimately force the company to reconsider its RF-only proposition.

Further Insight: http://bit.ly/aIm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight

May 22, 2010 15:05 rlanctot
A grand experiment is unfolding in the traffic reporting industry around the simultaneous confrontation between and combination of GPS probe and handset signaling data for traffic flow analysis. Both technologies offer the promise of transforming traffic data from an annoying and often disappointing proposition to a more precise and satisfactory experience. But push is about to come to shove in North America – with three pending OEM RFQs in play. The results of these OEM evaluations will likely have a global impact on the traffic data processing industry. To recap, current traffic data consists of: 1. GPS-based fleet data – derived mainly but not exclusively from commercial vehicles 2. Public data – loop sensors and other traffic tracking systems installed and managed mainly by public authorities 3. “Journalistic” data – incident inputs from emergency responders and private sources GPS probe and cellular hand-off data is, in essence, a fourth layer that is of increasing importance to traffic reporting and interpreting systems. The other key element, of course, is the secret sauce added by the aggregators and processors of this data. The aggregators and processors are of several types including those that aggregate a single type of data, such as AirSage or IntelliOne that process cellular handoff data, or that combine several different types of data, such as Inrix or ITIS Holdings, or that provide a system or a tool for processing or for publishing multiple data feeds, such as MILE (MobileInfo.Life Europe) Traffic and Travel, Gewi or PTV. Inrix is a fourth type of provider in offering a platform for both service and content aggregation – including traffic. Inrix has also been a pioneer, along with Navteq’s Traffic.com, in combining multiple real-time and historical traffic data into a predictive traffic model. This strategy has been adopted by others, most notably TomTom. MILE Traffic and Travel is unique for its model of licensing its data processing technology. TomTom is also best known for its pioneering work in integrating both cellular hand-off data (from Vodafone) and GPS probe data (from its Live Service subscribers). TomTom’s success in turning cellular hand-off data into a compelling solution in mobile devices has been an inspiration for both the emerging GPS probe market players (TCS, RIM, Google, Nokia Navteq, etc.) and the cellular hand-off companies. (ITIS claims to be the first to achieve this integration in a commercial solution.) The impending integration of both GPS probe data and cellular handoff data is a test for the industry to see if it can finally get the traffic data solution right. At stake are the hearts, minds and wallets of hundreds of millions of drivers using mobile devices and embedded navigation systems to seek out the most efficient means of getting from point A to point B. GPS probe data is renowned for its accuracy and increasing pervasiveness, as public authorities in multiple geographies have begun requiring GPS technology on handsets for emergency response purposes. The problem with GPS, though, is its impact of device power consumption. Because of this, many users choose to turn their GPS signals off when not in use. In contrast, cellular hand-off data is truly pervasive. While more difficult to interpret and notorious for the incidence of false positives, cellular hand-off data is unmatched for the sheer volume of data generated. For this reason, companies playing the cellular hand-off game, such as TomTom, MILE Traffic and Travel and AirSage, have an edge in the next wave of traffic data solutions. The only implemented solutions thus far have been TomTom’s industry-leading HD Traffic offering in Europe and Westwood One’s more limited use of AirSage data as an enhancement to its own traffic reporting products. AirSage is unique in its recent successful efforts to bring together data from multiple carriers. The company recently added Verizon to its existing Sprint relationship and is poised to deliver the first multi-carrier solution for North America. AirSage and other North American players have long been delayed in their efforts to deliver a cellular hand-off solution in North America due to the more heterogeneous carrier networks. The good news for these companies, though, is there is a significant business in logistics to be derived from the location data (for shipping, traffic management, store and cell tower locatin selection) and location-based advertising solutions are also beginning to emerge. The turning point for the industry likely lies in pending North American RFQs at BMW, Toyota and OnStar. From luxury vehicles to mass market movers, drivers have let car makers know that the current crop of traffic solutions are not cutting it. The information on the display does not correspond with the events unfolding in front of the windshield. The outcome of these OEM evaluations will likely determine the direction of traffic data processing for years to come. Additional Insights: http://bit.ly/bMeg36 - Global Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel - Navigation and Location Opportunities http://bit.ly/aoQdpd - North America Mobile Handset Navigation Forecast 2004-2014 – Nitesh Patel – Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/aHhWeV - Nokia & Google Shake Up $3.8 B Handset Navigation Market - Nitesh Patel - Wireless Media Strategies http://bit.ly/cc6O9K - PND Owners Unlikely to Discontinue Using Their Device - Chris Schreiner - Automotive Consumer Insights http://bit.ly/c5f65I - Automotive and Portable Navigation Market Forecast 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/b5W8ZS - Nokia and RIM Push Into Automotive as ‘Apps’ Competition Mounts - Joanne Blight - Automotive Multimedia and Communications Systems http://bit.ly/9NoM13 - From Probes to Crowd to Community to Ads – Traffic Data Evolving Rapidly - Roger Lanctot - blog - Global Automotive Practice

May 21, 2010 05:05 rlanctot
As Hyundai Motor America has surged to the top or near the top of ratings and sales rankings, the company has also been preparing a unique launch strategy for its Equus luxury sedan while simultaneously laying the groundwork for a January 2011 launch of a telematics system comparable to General Motor’s OnStar - a launch that is likely to take place in conjuction with the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show. Hyundai’s goal is nothing less than to become the most loved, most trusted and highest satisfaction mass market automotive brand. That is the word from U.S. president John Krafcik, whose background includes tenures with Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Sales. Krafcik says digilence, frugality and harmony are the internal principals that have guided Hyundai Motors to a remarkably competitive stance in the market. He proceeded to share the roster of recent company achievements this week at the monthly Washington Automotive Press Association luncheon: -> Projected 4.4% share of 2010 global unit vehicle sales -> 7th largest brand in the U.S. – expects to surpass Dodge for 6th place by the end of 2010 -> 4th largest OEM globally 2010 -> 4th in J.D. Power’s IQS (Initial Quality Survey) in 2009 behind Lexus, Porsche and Cadillac -> 4th in Consumer Reports reliability report card for 2010, up from #9 in 2009 -> Genesis: 2009 Car of the Year -> Automotive Lease Guide residual values: Sonata tops Honda Accord, Tucson tops Toyota Rav4, Veracruz tops Toyota Highlander, Genesis tops Lexus GS350 -> #1 in EPA’s average fuel economy rating: 30.9 – 2008, 30.1 – 2009 (projected), 31.9 – 2010 (forecast) -> Overall transaction prices up 11% relative to 2008 – now 97% of Toyota transaction prices -> Sonata most shopped on Edmunds.com for past straight eight weeks -> Hyundai included in the shopping lists of 28% of light vehicle purchase intenders – company survey -> Sales up 51% year-to-date vs. 2009 Key elements to Hyundai’s strategy include rapid deployment of marketing programs such as Cash for Clunkers (deployed July 2 – ahead of the July 24th completion of the policy announcement) and the assurance program for customers that might lose their job after their vehicle purchase. Perhaps most important was the company’s 10-year/100,000 mile warranty, which internal surveys showed to be the primary reason customers chose Hyundai. Hyundai also implemented free roadside assistance for five years, which surveys showed was the third highest reason for brand selection. A strategic decision that reduced cost and weight on the company’s highest profile vehicle, the Sonata, helped the company achieve category leading fuel efficiency. Hyundai chose to offer the Sonata with only four cylinders, including direct injected and turbo versions. By offering only 4-cylinder engines on the Sonata, the company saved 50-100 lbs. in weight from not needing the hardware on board to support optional 6-cylinder engines. Hyundai was thereby able to achieve both category-leading 274 horsepower and 37 mpg fuel efficiency. The next step for Hyundai is the launch of the Equus. The company is limiting distribution to a select group of exclusive Hyundai dealers (ie. that sell only Hyundai-brand vehicles) capable of supporting a program characterized by test drive requests fulfilled at the customer’s home or office, pick-up of vehicles for service calls with the drop off of a loaner at their home or office and the inclusion of an Apple iPad pre-loaded with the vehicle’s owner’s manual and a service scheduling application. In fact, after a recent meeting with its dealer council, Krafcik says Hyundai is considering the possibility of offering Equus-like customer service across its fleet. He noted that the Equus is expected to arrive in September with extraordinary luxury appointments (ie. heated rear seats and refrigerator) yet priced between the mid-50’s and mid-60’s. Other calendar year 2011 introductions detailed by Krafcik include new versions of the Elantra, Accent and Santa Fe and a hybrid "sporty coupe" to compete with Honda's CRZ. Of course, the icing on the cake for Hyundai will be the launch of its telematics service in January of 2011. Krafcik offered no details except to suggest that the company will opt for an embedded solution a la OnStar. Hyundai is no-doubt envious of the kind of customer loyalty a well-executed telematics strategy can deliver. Hyundai clearly thinks telematics will only get them closer to fostering the love and trust they are seeking. The timing of the telematics launch suggests Hyundai will seek to make a Ford Sync/Microsoft-like splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in January. The 2011 CES is shaping up as a significant automotive technology launch pad as rumors of Apple- and Google-branded cars are swirling in the industry seven months in advance of the event. Additional Insight: http://tinyurl.com/249ajt7 - Tier 1 Vendor Regional Design Center Database – Kevin Mak – Automotive Electronics Service http://tinyurl.com/27jt7bt - EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment Database - Kevin Mak – Automotive Electronics Service

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

April 23, 2010 12:04 rlanctot
Reflecting Airbiquity’s rising star in the automotive telematics market, the company and partner Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd. have announced a partnership to provide telematics services for electric vehicles (EVs) globally. The announcement clearly positions Airbiquity – given its existing relationships with Toyota, Ford and OnStar – as the dominant telematics service provider of the future. The announcement emphasizes the global nature of the network and relationship between Hitachi Automotive and Airbiquity. The magnitude of this relationship is substantial, therefore, encompassing as it likely does, not only potentially the launch of the Leaf EV in North America but also perhaps lining up Airbiquity as a candidate to serve as the technology and infrastructure behind Renault-Nissan’s wider EV agenda including Europe, South America and Asia-Pacific. (Airbiquity had no comment on any potential relationship with Nissan or any other OEMs.) While Airbiquity is known for its so-called data over voice solution, the Leaf relationship is related to Airbiquity's Viaaq technology. Viaaq is serving as the back-end infrastructure for some Smart-grid implementations, paving the way for a next-generation role for Airbiquity in the telematics eco-system. The Airbiquity platform is well-suited to the task of supporting the needs of an electric vehicle to communicate vehicle location and battery charge. This relatively low bandwidth, data over voice, solution provides more than enough capacity both for battery-related information communication as well as safety and security and even eCall support. But the tie up with Hitachi is targeted at a broader IT infrastructure play. The only competing solution provider with an equivalent global footprint in telematics is WirelessCar, which already boasts relationships with Volvo Trucks, Volvo and BMW. In many ways, the WirelessCar solution represents a next generation answer to telematics service provision, emphasizing Internet protocol communications and voice-over-data technology. Where the global ambitions of Hitachi and Airbiquity may fall short is in extending the vehicle pipeline they currently offer to smart-grid applications and a deeper relationship with Nissan. The current point of leverge with Nissan derives from Hitachi Automotive's IT work in Japan in support of Nissan's telematics offerings in that country. The prospect of moving beyond "pipes to cars" and into the back-end systems represents a major leap for Airbiquity and puts the company in contention with IBM and other back-end integrators including Microsoft (Hohm) and Google. Unfortunately for Airbiquity, Ford has already announced its partnership with Microsoft for Smart-grid integration. OnStar has announced its intention to provide similar Smart-grid capabilities, but has not announced an IT partner. Hitachi and Airbiquity say their platform forms a central hub in the smart-grid network. They say the partnership paves the way for creating gateway infrastructures that can be linked with smart-grid systems. This will increase the footprint of both companies in the field of global connected vehicle services, and help automotive manufacturers worldwide quickly implement EV solutions, creating efficiencies and optimizing the costs of their service operations. Airbiquity has already made great progress in bringing the platform to a wider audience. The relationship with Hitachi also has implications for Ford Motor Company, for whom Hitachi/Clarion is a major manufacturing partner. Ford has implemented the Airbiquity platform as have OnStar and Toyota. All four OEMs have global ambitions for electric vehicles and telematics. Ford, for example, is expected to bring Sync to Europe soon. While several of these relationships are relatively new, it is fair to say that Airbiquity is poised to become the telematics service industry leader in the coming years. It is worth noting, however, how fleeting such leadership can be. It has been just three years since Continental acquired Motorola’s telematics business which at the time included contract manufacturing of the Ford Sync and OnStar modules. Within two years the OnStar business had shifted to LG Electronics and the Sync manufacturing relationship had shifted to Flextronics. But given its relationships with four of the largest car makers in the world, Airbiquity may have finally found  recipe for a more enduring position at the top of the industry. Further Insight: http://bit.ly/aIm4vK - Global Automotive OE Telematics Market 2008-2016 - Joanne Blight

April 2, 2010 16:04 rlanctot

Amid the hybrid hype and horsepower hoopla at the New York Auto Show this week Ford Motor company presented a unique vision of the future of efficient driving in its partnership with Microsoft’s Hohm power management initiative. Launched in June of last year, Hohm is an energy management application developed in cooperation with U.S. energy suppliers and intended to manage and conserve home energy consumption.

Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally acknowledged what few car makers have addressed, which is the potential doubling of home energy consumption for home owners who choose electric vehicles. Ford is working with Microsoft to help mitigate that added cost of ownership. Hohm is an Internet-based application that will help owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles determine when and how to most efficiently and affordably recharge their batteries.

Microsoft says Hohm is available for free to all U.S. residential energy consumers and has multiple partnerships with utilities and other relevant partners. Ford is the first auto maker partner in the program. Ford also announced its plan to offer a smartphone-based application to remotely assess vehicle charge status and find charging locations, not unlike the application shown earlier this year by OnStar in connection with its Volt EV launch.

Ford’s electric vehicle and hybrid plans announced at the New York show include five vehicles in North America and Europe by 2013. For North America, Ford has planned the launch of the Transit Connect Electric later this year, the Focus Electric in 2011, a plug-in hybrid and two next-generation hybrids in 2012, joining four Ford and Mercury hybrids already on the road and a new Lincoln MKZ Hybrid coming this fall.

Other major EV and HEV announcements at the New York Auto Show included:

Kia said it will offer a 2.4L hybrid version of the Optima late in 2011.

Lincoln introduced its first hybrid – the 2011 MKZ Hybrid premium midsize car. The car is expected to deliver 41mpg in city driving when it arrives in the fall.

Think announced plans to begin selling the Think City EV in New York and other select cities later this year.

Hyundai showed its first hybrid, the new Sonata Hybrid based on lithium polymer technology offering what it claimed as more horsepower (169hp), more torque (156 lb. ft.) and better gas mileage (52mpg) than competing hybrids and using Hyundai’s Hybrid Blue Drive architecture with its 2.4L Theta II engine.

Volkswagen showed its first hybrid at the show – a Touareg with a nickel-metal hydride battery due later this year. The hybrid drive is paired with a 3L supercharged, direct injection V6 and VW claims a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions and 25/21mpg in highway/city driving.

Porsche showed its first production hybrid, the 2011 Cayenne S Hybrid due this fall, which will sell for $4,000 more than the $63,700 Cayenne S with a 400hp V8.

 

For further insights into global EV/HEV programs:

http://bit.ly/bv3Q0B - Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: OEM Strategies Reviewed – Kevin Mak


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