Automotive Electronics

Deep coverage at the system, semiconductor and sensor levels, as well as the broad view of whole value chain. Highly detailed forecasts for automotive electronic system, semiconductor and sensor demand, analyzed by region and vehicle segment.

August 6, 2014 13:11 rlanctot

Last December two hackers, Charlie Miller, security engineer for Twitter, and Chris Valasek, (left, bottom) director of security intelligence at IOActive, tried their hand at standup comedy with the unlikely topic of automotive security. Like Comedy Central’s Key & Peele (left, top) they sought to mine the process of vehicle hacking for yuks and I can honestly say, they were pretty successful. The proof: http://tinyurl.com/kczelqr

This week the Miller and Valasek comedy team have released their roster of “the world’s most hackable cars” as reported in InformationWeek:http://tinyurl.com/m8eouau. And they will present today at Blackhat 2014 in Las Vegas (“A Survey of Remote Automotive Attack Surfaces - http://tinyurl.com/mwbm4x7) where, at the conclusion of their talk, they are expected to demonstrate a device, created from $150 in parts, to detect and prevent hacking in a car. The device plugs into the OBDII port and monitors vehicle network traffic.

There are two kinds of security presentations: The ones that scare you half to death and send you running to cancel your credit cards, and the ones that clearly delineate the extent of the problem and the known solutions.

But Miller and Valasek have taken a third path morphing from comedians and fear-mongers into pitchmen. Key & Peele cum Ron Popeil. Their vision of vehicle security apparently boils down to an aftermarket device. No marketing or sales plans have been announced.

There are a few things wrong with the Miller and Valasek message:

#1 They attempted to show how easy it was to “hack” into a vehicle network to access vehicle controls such as brakes and steering. For the purpose, they chose a Toyota Prius and a Ford Escape equipped with parking assist technologies.

The reality is that their “hack” – much of which could have been achieved with off-the-shelf diagnostic tools – required months to achieve as was made clear in the video. In retrospect this is oddly reassuring rather than terrifying. There was nothing simple nor was there anything remote about their vehicle “security breach.”

#2 Their roster of most hackable cars appears to be based entirely on whether or not the car has integrated controllers for safety and connectivity. In their estimation, the more segregated the vehicle systems are from each other and from connectivity, the better.

The reality is that vehicle systems are becoming increasingly integrated for the purpose of enabling autonomous driving and other safety-related applications including diagnostics. Commensurate with this integration has been a much greater focus from car makers on the security of on-board systems.

#3 They offer a device for monitoring for vehicle intrusions. But vehicle security is not an aftermarket product. If anything, the attachment of an aftermarket device is more likely to increase rather than decrease system vulnerability.

Vehicle security is a multi-layered proposition encompassing everything from the semiconductors to the wireless connections to the on-board networks all the way down to individual ECUs. Vehicle security is a philosophy that takes into account hardware and software and even leverages wireless connectivity for authentication and access (soon) to public key infrastructure and software updates.

The industry is rapidly moving toward a more robust gateway-ed and firewalled approach to security, but one that will enable off-board to on-board communications. Is remote control possible – sure – but it is not easily achieved, as Miller and Valasek have shown - chafed knuckles and all.

Miller and Valasek have helped to raise awareness of the security problem. Where they have failed is raising the understanding of the solutions to the problem which exist and are being implemented from suppliers as varied as Harman International and Covisint to Intel, NXP, Freescale, AMV Networks, QNX, and Cisco. Maybe, like Key & Peele, they need a little dose of Liam Neeson.


July 24, 2014 16:08 rlanctot

Ford’s Mark Fields started 2014 with the announcement of aluminum-bodied F-150s and, following his appointment as CEO, has doubled down on the fuel efficiency message with the announcement of the hiring of Dr. Ken Washington, a top researcher out of Lockheed Martin’s space program.  Washington will head Ford’s advanced research and engineering efforts bringing experience in “light-weighting, (powertrain) control, autonomy and energy storage” to Ford, as highlighted in a brief interview with Strategy Analytics earlier this week.

 

The move coincided with a shift of Kumar Gulhotra, current vice president of engineering for Ford and Lincoln, to global president of Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand.

 

Washington was most recently vice president of the Space Technology Advanced Research & Development Laboratories, or STARLabs, at Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems company.  He is expected to accelerate innovation at Ford and will report to Raj Nair, group vice president, global product development.  Washington’s background spans nuclear engineering, information systems, supercomputing, information privacy and R&D regarding space-related technologies.

 

All indications suggest that the announcement revolves around Ford’s ability to meet Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards set by the U.S. government.  Washington’s boss, Nair, was quoted at the North American International Auto Show saying that Ford intends to double its global hybrid offerings by the end of the decade and expand auto start/stop to 70% of its cars.

 

Start/stop is already part of the plan for the 2015 F-150, shown earlier this week.  While Ford did not release its MPG estimates for the new F-150s, it did show a 732-lb. weight reduction from the use of aluminum, a surprisingly high figure.

 

The F-150 has always dragged down Ford’s corporate average fuel economy.  However, in January it claimed that the improved fuel economy of the new model will mean that for the first time the truck will help raise Ford’s overall fuel economy figure.  Ford has also had to restate the MPG of its hybrid models, as consumers complained of not being able to attain the originally claimed fuel economy levels.  So far, only the C-MAX, Focus and Fusion/MKZ have HEV/PHEV/EV versions.

It remains to be seen whether Lincoln will move toward a luxury HEV offering to take on Lexus or a more ambitious full EV to compete with Tesla.  The shift of Gulhotra and the hiring of Washington suggest that Ford is focused on fuel economy, electrification and autonomous driving, precisely in that order – even as it prepares to embed modems in its non-electric vehicles.


July 21, 2014 17:07 rlanctot

There is a spooky statistical confluence in the U.S. between highway fatalities and deaths resulting from gun violence (homicides and suicides, combined). Both figures hover around 30,000, or about 100/day.

And just as the world is treated to the U.S.’s perennial debate over the merits and nature of gun control, the auto industry is now grappling with the question of surrendering vehicle control to a computer. In fact, those socialist-leaning Europeans have even broached the subject of governmental remote control of cars (Telegraph report: http://tinyurl.com/pp4ol27) which actually aligns with Brazil’s delayed anti-theft mandate for vehicle immobilization.

It all reminds me of the late Charlton Heston (pictured, from "Omega Man"), five-term president of the National Rifle Association (1998-2003), who made famous the bumper sticker slogan “from my cold dead hands” as in "I'll give you my gun when you pry (or take) it from my cold, dead hands."

It appears that cars are second only to guns as a symbol of freedom and control - at least in the U.S. When surveyed by Strategy Analytics, only a minority of respondents express interest in owning or paying for self-driving cars. In fact, the paying for part will probably be the greatest obstacle as the price tag for autonomous driving is likely to remain in the thousands of dollars for the foreseeable future.

Pair the high cost with the inclination of consumers to preserve their access to freedom and control and you have two solid nearly impenetrable barriers to autonomous vehicle adoption. The U.S. consumer is essentially saying a la Charlton Heston – “you’ll get the steering wheel when you pry it from my cold dead hands.”

And now Google wants to take away the steering wheel and the brake pedals (New York Times report: http://tinyurl.com/o89oj7f).

So whether it’s the government (and not just the U.S. government) or Google, more and more organizations are interested in wresting control of the car away from the driver. This is aside from the plans being laid for “intelligent” highways that will take control of cars and the wave of interest growing in pay-per-use vehicle taxation.

But drivers can be expected to fight for their rights.

Call it an aphrodisiac. Call it a hallucinogen. Whatever you call it, the driving experience is intoxicating and drivers can be expected to fight to preserve their freedom from control. (Just imagine Germany surrendering its Autobahn network, nein!) Getting drivers to change their behavior and attitudes will require some sophisticated combination of coercion and temptation – even after the technology becomes sufficiently inexpensive. One thing is clear, we won’t surrender meekly.


July 18, 2014 12:09 rlanctot

The time has finally arrived to privatize the safety testing activities of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and to shift the funding model of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety away from the insurance industry. Here’s why.

Thatcham Research in the UK and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety are nearly identical organizations founded with nearly identical missions:

“The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries and property damage — from crashes on the nation's roads.” - IIHS Website

“Thatcham Research is the motor insurers’ automotive research centre. Established by the motor insurance industry in 1969, the centre’s main aim is to contain or reduce the cost of motor insurance claims whilst maintaining safety standards.” - Thatcham Website

Both organizations help to set safety standards and can ostensibly be held accountable to one degree or another for the rate of highway fatalities in the respective countries. This is a vast oversimplification, but it is intended to call attention to the fact that in the U.S. we are slaughtering approximately 100 people a day on our highways while in the U.K., as of 2010 and according to World Health Organization estimates, about 7 people are dying per day.

To be sure, every fatality is a tragedy and the United Nations is in the midst of its “Decade of Action for Road Safety” while Sweden has adopted “Vision Zero.” Even the newly-elected Mayor of New York has set a goal of zero pedestrian fatalities for the city.

But the shocking truth is that the U.S. is failing badly in preventing highway fatalities. The U.S. has long been a “leader” in killing people with cars, only recently surpassed by Brazil (as a result of a booming auto market and lax safety standards). The difference between the U.S. and the U.K. is just as stark as the difference between the U.S. and Brazil, where the fatality rate is 22 deaths per 100,000 population annually as of 2010.

Of course, the difference between the U.S. and Brazil is more obvious from the standpoint of the quality of the cars and the roads. But an even bigger difference is that the U.S. has a significant safety testing and certification infrastructure that Brazil lacks.

But the safety testing infrastructure in the U.S. is failing. While Thatcham in the U.K. is a powerful advocate for vehicle safety systems – currently pushing for a government subsidy to support the purchase of new cars equipped with automatic emergency braking technology – IIHS offers nothing more than brochures and Website resources. And IIHS executives insist they have nothing to do with lobbying legislators.

The difference between Thatcham and IIHS is that Thatcham goes so far as to quantify the societal benefits of safety system adoption based on its own testing. In fact, Thatcham has taken up the banner of vehicle safety and carried it to international forums to promote its cause of collision avoidance globally.

Says Thatcham on its Website: “Around 23 per cent of new cars on sale today have AEB available as optional or standard fit. Insurers recognise the benefits, with AEB-fitted cars given a rating of as much as five groups lower than their counterparts, and potentially saving up to 10 per cent on insurance premiums.”

Thatcham goes further, stating on its Website:

  • 90 per cent of road crashes are due to human error or distraction
  • £90,000 - total cost of the average injury crash
  • 18% reduction in third party injury claims for AEB-fitted cars
  • 550,000 whiplash claims annually in the UK cost £2B, adding £90 to the average car insurance premium
  • 23% of new cars on sale today have AEB as optional or standard fit
  • Less than 10% cars sold have AEB specified
  • Regulation or Government incentive of £500 needed to accelerate take up

So Thatcham tells the safety story in terms of both societal and consumer financial benefits. IIHS steers clear of suggesting or promoting insurance discounts for safety systems. In fact, more often than not, IIHS either avoids the insurance premium savings conversation entirely or seems to go out of its way to avoid endorsing new technologies as potential life savers – based on the ambiguous findings of its own safety tests – ie. the test outcomes were unclear therefore we cannot endorse technology X.

A typical example comes from IIHS's testing of Volvo safety systems: "This initial analysis of the effect on insurance claims of 4 crash avoidance features, 2 of which are combinations of multiple features, suggests that they are helping drivers avoid some crashes reported to insurers. However, except in the case of Volvo’s steering-responsive headlights, the estimated benefits are not statistically significant. Volvo’s Active Bending Lights reduce PDL claim frequency as well as BI claim frequency, but there was not a corresponding reduction in collision claim frequency."

In other words, you, Mr. Consumer, may as well not bother with these safety systems because they won't save you a nickel on your premium.

It is perhaps no surprise, therefore, that better discounts for safety systems can be found in Europe than in the U.S. And it should also come as no surprise that annual highway fatality rates are almost universally and substantially lower in Europe, with a few exceptions.

Some insurers in the U.S. will offer discounts for some safety systems. But the dominant rating scheme in the U.S. is to focus almost exclusively on the driver and such rating factors as driving history and education, including driver education.

It is true that the roads and the cars and the rules are different in Europe, but the vastly lower fatality rates are hard to ignore. As with so many areas where the U.S. lags – education, healthcare, etc. – we spend more on road safety and get less benefit.

There are two problems with the automotive safety testing regime in the U.S. The pre-eminent safety authority for setting standards and issuing mandates is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA is led by political appointees hamstrung by limited funding options and staffed with engineers buffeted by changing regulatory priorities.

Currently NHTSA is more than five years into a shift in its mission from surviving accidents to preventing them altogether. This shift in focus ought to have produced a complete revamp and re-staffing of the organization to address the modified technical demands of the new mission. Needless to say, the limitations of NHTSA being a government agency prevented any such sea change.

IIHS, too, is hamstrung by its funding model and its own perception of its role. The institute is a non-profit funded by the insurance industry. This puts IIHS in the awkward position of conducting safety research and assigning safety scores for the automotive industry, while its fundamental objective is seeing to the priorities and concerns of the insurance industry – which may conflict with the concerns of both car makers and consumers.

(It is worth noting that apart from IIHS’s research activities, individual insurers in the U.S. do conduct outreach directly with car makers to advise on the construction of cars to enhance safety and reduce the costs of repairs. These activities, which directly relate to Thatcham’s vehicle repair research and protocol development efforts in the U.K., are worthy and ought to continue.)

The government and the insurance industry need to be removed from the safety testing and standards setting activity, which ought to be funded by the industry. Government oversight may be an appropriate role, but not direct government management. The recent spate of recalls including the very public Toyota and GM recall controversies have demonstrated clearly that NHTSA lacks the necessary expertise or the funding necessary to acquire it.

With 100 Americans dying on the highways every day it is clear that we, as a country, can no longer depend on the government or the insurance industry to solve this problem. Vehicle safety should be put into the hands of independent commercial interests charged and evaluated on the basis of protecting consumers and saving lives. We are fighting a war and the body count is rising.


June 14, 2014 23:00 rlanctot

At an International Motor Press Association luncheon in New York City today GlobalAutomakers President and CEO John Bozzella noted that questions were being raised as to how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) might raise the additional $18M budgeted for FY2015 vehicle safety research.  Bozzella said that options on the table included a per-vehicle tax or fee to be paid by consumers or a similar tax or fee to be paid by car makers.  When asked, by this analyst, Bozzella said that he was not aware of any discussion of privatizing NHTSA or any of its functions.

I had asked the question because I believe it is time to consider the privatization option.

NHTSA's FY 2015 budget request totals $851M and includes $152M for vehicle safety research (an $18M increase), $122M for behavioral safety and $577M for state grants and high visibility enforcement support. In light of the rash of recalls blanketing the auto industry, there will be calls for additional funding for safety research. Given the embarrassing revelations implicating NHTSA's inadequate review, research and enforcement of its own safety standards vis-a-vis General Motors in the recent and still unfolding ignition switch recall, now looks like a good time to remove the government from the business of setting and enforcing safety standards.

Further oversight, research and testimony will be required before NHTSA is fully and formally exonerated of any wrong-doing as part of the ignition switch recall, but the fact that the agency is implicated at all in failing to identify the problem and initiate action suggests it is time for a change.  It also recalls the agency's admission of its inability to diagnose the Toyota sudden acceleration case of two years ago.

All indications are that the functional demands of safety research have transcended the agency's ability to keep up and adequately protect the public.  It is time for the government to recognize this fact and rather than throwing good money after bad - shift the safety research functions of the agency to the private sector where the expertise already resides.

This is a particularly important step to take as the automotive safety segment shifts to active from passive safety - requiring an entirely new analytical skill set for divining whether new technologies have prevented accidents - ie. proving a negative.  New skills require new strategies for studying and promoting the adoption of life-saving technologies.  NHTSA is not ever likely to have sufficient resources to keep pace with automotive industry innovation.

Of course, this is a radical concept - so I throw it open to you, the reader.  Is there any good reason for NHTSA to retain its safety investigative, standards-setting and enforcement responsibilities?  What do you think?


June 8, 2014 23:00 rlanctot

It has become fashionable in the auto industry to promise to protect customer privacy. Volkswagen’s Chairman of the Board of Management Martin Winterkorn pledged to do just that in a speech before the CeBIT fair in Hannover, Germany, earlier this year. But he was speaking for the entire industry. Car makers want to be perceived as protecting customer information and the security and privacy of the vehicle ownership experience.

The reality is precisely the opposite of these pledges. Car makers and their owned and franchised dealers routinely mine their customer data for valuable nuggets regarding shopping and buying behavior, vehicle ownership, credit scores, service history and anything else they can access.

The ignition switch recall plaguing GM highlights the twisted priorities of the car makers when it comes to the way they handle customer data vs. the manner in which they handle vehicle data. Customer data is more or less freely accessed and traded but vehicle data is guarded and walled off from even internal access at some car makers – but at GM in particular.

The so-called “Valukas Report,” named for report author, Anton Valukas, Chairman of Jenner & Block, a law firm representing GM, notes a culture of don’t-ask-don’t-tell at GM with regard to vehicle data. (Redacted report: http://tinyurl.com/l4htcq5) But the situation is even worse than these findings suggest. Investigators (and even internal GM users) have struggled over the years and even to this day to pry data out of GM’s OnStar division.

Seventeen years after OnStar’s founding president, Chet Huber, set the tone for protecting customer data accessed by OnStar, the division continues to guard both customer and vehicle data long past the point at which it is prudent to do so.  It is time to recognize that vehicle connectivity is no longer about automatic crash notification. 

 

The connected car has come to be defined by an experience enriched by the visibility of vehicle data to analytics for diagnostics, location awareness, driver behavior and, above all, safety.  It is a time for a change in privacy policy and that change can take one of five paths:

 

  1. Government mandated and centralized data sharing for the purpose of enhancing traffic and transportation data, improving vehicle safety, road use taxation, and mitigating driver distraction, harmful emissions and overall highway congestion.

  2. OEM-enabled customer opt-in scenarios with appropriate transparency and data access along with customer control.

  3. Independent third-party access (ie. Google, Verizon, Apple, Amazon, AT&T, State Farm, Allstate, etc.) for commercial purposes – contextual advertising, connected insurance, e-commerce, etc.

  4. A hybrid of the above scenarios.

  5. Complete data shut down.

 

There is little doubt that consumers and auto makers would prefer to keep the government out of the connected car business.  So let’s assume that the most palatable option is #2 – OEM-managed data gathering, interpretation and commercialization.

 

If OEMs are going to manage all access to vehicle data (aside from EDR data which is always subject to subpoena) then it is time to define the architectures to enable data gathering and identify the types of data that will be gathered.  In light of GM’s ignition switch recall, auto industry executives in the future will have a difficult time arguing that they did not know about a particular flaw in their vehicles, especially if the flaw was contributing to fatalities.

 

Connected car technology confers an obligation on auto makers to scrutinize their vehicle data to diagnose and anticipate vehicle failures. Unbeknownst to GM, the company arguably lost its ability to look the other way 17 years ago with the launch of OnStar.

 

As more car makers follow GM along the path of connectivity, the expectations of consumers will increase along with their willingness to share data.  In a recent Strategy Analytics survey of consumer sentiment regarding privacy, respondents universally supported sharing their data if it meant that it would enhance safety.

 

Car makers that insist on protecting customer privacy – along with vehicle data security – will find themselves on the wrong side of history, if not on the wrong side of an investigation.  The moral of the story is clear:  Safety trumps privacy in the auto industry.


June 7, 2014 23:00 rlanctot

I just returned from Telematics Update 2014 in Detroit – the leading global event focused on vehicle connectivity – and I came upon a story on thecarconnection.com regarding a recall on the 2013 Lexus GS350. (You can find the details here: http://tinyurl.com/pd5xkd6) These cars are braking unexpectedly and Lexus is encouraging customers to bring their cars in for a fix … when the parts are available. The thought suddenly popped into my head: What would Tesla do?

The reason I suddenly asked myself this question derived from the following sentence in the online story:

“Owners will receive a letter from Lexus when they are ready to recall the vehicles involved.”

So, let me get this right, the cars can brake unexpectedly. Owners are being notified of this issue by MAIL and will have to wait for the parts.

The automotive industry needs a new standard for customer service and customer communications as well as a better understanding of what a recall is and means. Given Tesla’s recent history of time-warping reactions to vehicle problems and paradigm-shifting customer engagement I think it is fair to say that a good measure of future handling of vehicle failure crises will be to ask: What would Tesla do? (There is a corollary: What would Elon do? – but let’s not get too personal about this.)

 

#1  A recall is by definition an immediate, vehicle safety issue.  Under such circumstances, the postal service will not cut it as a means of customer communication – especially in the event of a vehicle with an on-board modem.  Lexus vehicles are equipped with a system called SafetyConnect. This system should be used to communicate directly with the customer – and the customer shouldn’t have to pay for that service.

 

#2  The customer has rights and should be made aware of those rights and choices.  If the customer is uneasy driving a car with an outstanding recall, the option of a loaner vehicle should be made available.  And notification of the potential failure and recall does not release the car maker from responsibility and liability.

 

Given the recent wave of recalls sweeping the auto industry in the wake of GM’s ignition switch failure crisis, the value of an embedded telematics system in a car has been turned on its head.  No longer will drivers count on OnStar (or a like system) to save them when a vehicle crashes.  The new paradigm will be for car makers to use OnStar-like systems to contact their customers in advance to warn them of a potential vehicle failure.

 

The good news for the industry is that recall notifications are yet another powerful reason for cars to be connected and for those connections to be always live.  Tesla understands this and, for now, is providing an always live connection to its cars at no charge.

 

So, next time a car maker has a recall, or spontaneous vehicle fire, or unexplained failure, or has a newly discovered and potentially life-threatening flaw, the executives at the helm must ask themselves:  What would Tesla do?


April 2, 2014 23:00 rlanctot

Against the depressing tableau of General Motors and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives sub-committee yesterday over the recent ignition switch recall two inspiring developments impacting vehicle design emerged. GM CEO Mary Barra noted to the panel GM’s consideration of bringing keyless, push-button start technology across its entire line up, and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers separately petitioned NHTSA to relax its requirement for a driver side and rearview mirrors.

The proliferation of push-button start technology will obviously remove the electro-mechanical causal element behind the ignition switch failure in question. If there is a single positive element that can emerge from the entire recall debacle this may be it.No mechanical switch, means no ignition switch failure – at least not a mechanical one.

The AAM request for NHTSA to relax Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard #111 is intended to enable car makers to replace the driver-side rearview mirror and the internal rearview mirror with camera-based systems. The AAM request coincided with NHTSA’s last-minute decision (in the face of pending legal action) to announce the implementation plan for the rear-visibility mandate.

AAM’s statement: http://www.autoalliance.org/index.cfm?objectid=BE3624F0-B8F3-11E3-AB0B000C296BA163

Removing the driver-side mirror has been suggested by the design of Volkswagen’s XL1 plug-in diesel hybrid which has opted for cameras over mirrors to reduce drag and weight. Tesla, too, with the Model X, has been pushing for this change and joined the AAM's petition. Neither the XL1 nor the Model X will be street legal in the U.S. under current regulations.

At the Geneva Motor Show in March, Nissan demonstrated a camera-based rearview mirror system turning the in-cabin rearview mirror into a display with a panoramic view to the rear of the car. The GM Authority newsletter has reported that GM “is in the process of securing a trademark for the word ‘THRUVIEW.’”

According to GM Authority, the automaker filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jan. 24, 2014 for a “motor vehicle rear view mirror that can also function as a display monitor to provide a panoramic rear view.”

On a less heartening note, yesterday’s hearing laid bare GM’s failure to resolve the ignition switch problem in a timely manner while NHTSA’s representative, David Friedman, blamed GM for failing to notify the agency of the problem. Consumer advocacy groups found fault with both GM and NHTSA. Both Barra and Friedman are freshman leaders of their respective organizations contributing to the inchoate feeling to the entire proceedings.

During the hearing members of Congress highlighted inconsistent communication between GM and its dealers and between dealers and consumers.  This is another challenge for Barra and GM to resolve.  In the midst of Tesla's challenge to the dealer model of selling cars, GM finds itself more dependent on dealers than it has ever been.  Perhaps this will lead to a re-evaluation of these relationships.

GM CEO Barra repeatedly referred in her testimony to the “new GM” emerging with her appointment and how the old cost-based culture – under which safety concerns were mitigated by cost issues - had been banished. Let’s hope NHTSA sees its own rebirth as a watch dog instead of a lap dog.


April 1, 2014 15:15 rlanctot
It is somehow fitting that the day before April Fool’s Day, when GM’s CEO will be testifying before the U.S. Congress on the now 2M+ unit ignition switch recall, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) delivered its long anticipated announcement of an implementation plan for “rear-view visibility systems.”  In other words, at the very moment that the global automotive safety community is focused on front-facing technologies for collision avoidance, NHTSA is looking backward.  

The so-called back-up camera mandate is now expected to be phased in on 10% of vehicles after May 1, 2016, 40% a year later and 100% in May 2018.  The announcement reflects the struggle of NHTSA to remain relevant and to enable and drive innovation in the industry.

LIDAR and RADAR technologies are in need of regulatory support to drive cost-reducing adoption for autonomous emergency braking (AEB).  Europe has taken the lead here, with the Euro NCAP five star safety ratings likely only extended to cars with appropriate front-facing collision avoidance technologies.  The phase-in of Euro NCAP requirements will mean standard fitment (100%) by 2017.  (For more on this subject, please see the Strategy Analytics report, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Euro NCAP gives $2.8 Billion Boost to Demand.)

In fact, the United Kingdom’s insurance research organization, Thatcham, went so far as to suggest a £500 incentive for consumers fitting optional collision avoidance systems – a suggestion that was rejected by insurers.  Thatcham says its research shows that 75% of collisions occur at speeds of less than 20 miles per hour.  Radar technology is more suitable to the requirements of collision avoidance involving greater distances and higher speeds.

The bottom line is that far more injuries and fatalities can be avoided via front-facing sensors vs. rear-facing cameras.  Required by the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007 the U.S., the back-up camera implementation plan for the U.S. arrives after years of public comment and research and after multiple unexplained delays.  It is perhaps no surprise that the U.S. is alone in its fixation on backup cameras.

The backup camera requirement is expected to save 210 lives annually and avoid 15,000 injuries.  Front-facing sensors, in contrast, are expected by European authorities to save thousands of lives and avoid far more injuries to vehicle occupants and pedestrians alike.

The implementation of the backup camera mandate in the U.S. reveals a regulatory environment that is reactive and lacking in vision.  It is reactive in that the government’s legislative arm appears to be taking the lead as in the case of the backup camera mandate.  It is lacking vision in its focus on V2V technology to the exclusion of front-facing LIDAR and RADAR technologies capable of saving thousands of lives and avoiding hundreds of thousands of injuries.

Part of the challenge for NHTSA is that it is mired in a political environment that is toxic to all forms of government intervention in industry.  This environment discourages research that is not tied to some constituency’s economic gain.  (In fact, if NHTSA had not chosen recently to move forward with V2V research massive layoffs would have undoubtedly ensured.)

The new Transportation Secretary, Anthony Foxx, and NHTSA missed a chance with the announcement of the backup camera mandate, to redefine its vision and objectives around collision avoidance with a front-facing focus.  To avoid any more April foolishness the agency must refocus its attention on more realistic and existing collision avoidance technologies – such as LIDAR and RADAR – capable of delivering immediate benefits to drivers, pedestrians and society as a whole.

March 24, 2014 09:08 Kevin Mak

On March 17th, Paris instituted a very brief ban on vehicles entering the city, based on license plate numbers, in a desperate attempt to limit pollution levels that were heightened by the mild weather.  This was not an isolated incident, as all European cities are facing a rise in traffic congestion and tightening emission mandates

  • The European Union has mandated that auto makers must meet a fleet average carbon dioxide emission of 130 g/km by 2015 and of 95 g/km by 2020 (95 percent compliance by 2020 and 100 percent compliance by 2021). 
  • Government incentives to lower CO2 emissions have resulted in European consumers preferring to purchase diesel vehicles.  This, in turn, has likely to have resulted in greater pollution from nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) now affecting its cities.  
  • European cities are also legislated under European Union law regarding levels of harmful pollutants.  Failure to deal with pollutants and meet acceptable levels of air quality will lead to fines imposed on city authorities.  
  • As a result, city authorities are using a number of measures to limit pollution, such as increased investment in public transportation.  
  • Another measure is to ban the entry of certain polluting vehicles into Low Emission Zones – for example, all vehicles entering the zone in Greater London must meet Euro-4 emission standards.  However, such measures may not be enough.

Also included in the latest update of the Strategy Analytics Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support database is the recent announcement by London mayor Boris Johnson of the “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” plan – an area in the city center that will ban any vehicle not meeting Euro-6 emission standards for diesel engines, for example, from 2020 onwards.  The plan also includes the control of emissions from construction equipment and new low emission specifications for future buses.

 

New Taxis for London

Johnson also announced a related “New Taxis for London” plan, which called on new taxi designs that are capable of zero (or low) emissions (although the final requirements have not yet been set).  

  • With the measures described above and the Congestion Charge also limiting the entry of private cars into the city center (exempting vehicles emitting less than 75 g/km of CO2 (carbon dioxide)), then it is logical for the mayor to legislate on the 78,000 taxis in use in London.
  • Under the new policy, taxi licenses from January 1st, 2018, will only be awarded to vehicles that can comply with the “Ultra-Low Emission Zone.”  
  • Five taxi concepts were also announced at the same press conference.  One such concept shown was the Frazer-Nash REE (Range Extended Electric) Metrocab – a typical London black cab with a series hybrid powertrain featuring a 1.0-liter gasoline range extender feeding energy to a lithium-polymer battery pack mounted under the cabin.  It has an 80 km (50 mile) electric-only driving range and a 560 km (347 mile) total driving range.

Despite the intentions of the mayor, Strategy Analytics see a number of challenges facing the new taxi policy.  

  • Zero-emission capability will be hampered by the use of large battery packs and range extenders, in order to achieve the driving range for taxi use.  
  • The pure electric variant of the current generation Mercedes-Benz Vito van was recently discontinued due to high cost.
  • Access to fast-chargers in the center of London are limited to just a few locations that can be regarded as being inappropriate for taxi use, with too few parking spaces.  
  • Trials of pure electric cars being used as taxis in China have not been entirely successful, with cold weather lowering driving range and lengthy recharging times losing revenues for cab drivers.  
  • The ZAP E380-S was recently given type-approval by the China National Grid Corporation for battery switching – which, given the demise of Better Place, Strategy Analytics has commented to be too costly a solution and a business model lacking in sustainability, in the report, The Electric Vehicle Conundrum: A Tale of Two Markets.  

 

Gasoline Resurgence – More Electrification

Given the challenges facing the “New Taxis for London” and “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” plans, the resulting drive to combat pollution in European cities may to lead to further changes in government policy.  These policy changes will, in turn, lead to the demand growth of certain automotive electronic systems:

  • The next policy trend may lead to consumer incentives towards lower emissions of NOx and PM in new vehicle purchases, not just in CO2, and could lead to the resurgence in European gasoline powertrains.  Downsized, turbocharged gasoline powertrains could see growth when linked-up with cylinder displacement technologies, such as from the Volkswagen Group, giving them the fuel economy edge on a par with diesel.  Current developments in PPCI (Partially Pre-mixed Compression Ignition) and MPCI (Multiple Pre-mixed Compression Ignition) systems may accelerate. These developments are more affordable to consumers in the short-term and are more likely to provide the necessary reduction in NOx and PM pollution than from a few, costly plug-in hybrid taxis.
  • Certain European governments could also end tax incentives towards diesel fuel sales and allow its price to rise to a point that consumers will reconsider their choice of powertrain.  
  • Requirements for future diesel emissions may also go further, as Euro-6 comes into force this year that aims to lower NOx and PM, especially since Euro-5 did not sufficiently tackle harmful emissions at low loads when compared to earlier emission standards.  Euro-6 sees the growth of diesel emission control systems, such as Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR).
  • Deployment of hybrid powertrains will also increase that will meet future mandates that enhance fuel economy and controls harmful emissions.  Powertrain electrification has to be scalable, so that affordable 48 Volt mild and non-plug-in full hybrids can be used to drive volume deployment and make a meaningful impact on pollution, before a battery technology breakthrough and a usable charging infrastructure are in place in the long-term – Strategy Analytics has written a report, OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Strategies: Emissions Mandates Will Grow Demand that reports on this growing electrification in powertrains.
  • Electric car hire schemes will also increase in number and size in an effort to encourage consumer use over privately-owned combustion engine-powered vehicles. London has recently awarded the Bolloré Group the right to run a similar scheme to Autolib, which is already in place in Paris.  Government policies could enhance the desirability of such schemes, such as tax incentives for operators, who would pass on the cost savings to consumers and thus be able to displace more private cars off city streets.
  • Recharging infrastructures may receive a boost in investment, since the Euro Zone crisis concerning government debt may recede.  European governments could also consider a new round of scrappage (“cash-for-clunkers”) incentives designed to remove old polluting vehicles from the road and thus increase production of new vehicles with the systems described above.
  • City authorities are also looking at ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) and, possibly, V2X DSRC (Vehicle-to-X Dedicated Short Range Communication) and ETC (Electronic Toll Collection) systems, in an effort to lower traffic congestion that can cause pollution – Strategy Analytics has also written a report, V2X: A Safety Benefit For Automotive, But How Should It Be Deployed?, that has a forecast showing European deployment of DSRC as early as 2015