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.

July 12, 2013 13:53 Ian Riches

There is currently huge interest in the field of "autonomous vehicles", with there now looking a realistic prospect that some form if self-driving car could be on the road within the next 15 years or so.  The "Google Car" is gaining an ever-growing number of column-inches in the press, and OEMs (e.g. Audi and BMW) and suppliers (e.g. Continental) are already positioning themselves in this space.  There is also change at the software level, with a third-party supplier, Elektrobit, recently announced as Daimler's solutions-provider for advanced safety products.

The field of ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) is one of the fastest growing in automotive electronics, with radar, lidar and camera-based systems now appearing on mainstream, moderately-priced vehicles.

The automotive industry, although largely more measured than that of consumer electronics, is still not immune to hype cycles.  It is thus definitely worth having a realistic look at how autonomous vehicles may emerge onto our streets, and what some of the obstacles that remain are.

Our current forecast modelling only goes out to 2020, and going out to 2025 and beyond is more in the realm of future-gazing than modelling.

Having said that, we can draw some useful data points and thus projections from our current model.  Looking at the latest forecast data, the percentage of light vehicles worldwide fitted with all of autonomous cruise control, lane departure warning and blindspot monitoring was less than 1% in 2010 and is projected at around 5% in 2015, rising to 9% in 2020.

A simple linear projection of this trend puts the percentage of vehicles with all three of these technologies (and thus the prospect of being partially/fully autonomous) at around 13% in 2025 and 18% in 2030.  This is likely to be an underestimate, as we would expect growth to pick up as technologies get cheaper and more legislation is enacted mandating a certain level of driver support.

However, there’s a big difference between a car with multiple advanced safety technologies and an autonomous vehicle!  Thus, my gut feel at present is that these percentages are much, much more likely to be upper bounds on the market for autonomous vehicles than lower bounds.  A lot will depend upon the following factors:

  1. Early market experiences:  A high-profile accident (or worse, series of accidents) in the early stages of introduction could stop the market in its tracks
  2. Government support: The legislative framework for autonomous vehicles varies widely across the globe, and is not always as supportive as the industry would like.
  3. Supporting technologies: V2V and V2X will likely have a large role to play in any forthcoming autonomous vehicles, and despite many years of work, these types of solutions are typically highly fragmented, with differing approaches and technologies in different market places
  4. True consumer demand: I’m not convinced that current surveys are getting to the heart of consumer wishes for autonomous driving.  I suspect that some equate autonomous driving with having an electronic chauffeur – with the inference being that they can truly ignore the driving task, and get on with work/play/sleep (perhaps even sitting in the rear seat) while being whisked to their destination.  I’m not seeing that  being the product on offer in 2025.  The autonomous car in that timeframe is much more likely to be like a current Boeing or Airbus.  They have highly automated capabilities – but the pilot/driver must always remain in post and ready to take control.  I do wonder where they lawyers will find all the space to put their warning stickers!


Taking all of the above into account, my current assessment is that we’re are likely to see around 15-20% of cars globally in the 2025 to 2030 timeframe that are highly automated – that is they can offer significant support to drivers in multiple different driving situations.  However, the number that are truly autonomous – that is you can sit in your drive and program it to take you directly to the movie theatre, airport or vacation destination will be more in the low single figure percentages.  These products will likely only really emerge from 2025 onwards, and even then perhaps only initially offer full autonomous driving in certain situations – such as highway driving - or in areas with a certain degree of V2X support.

We’re certainly on a journey towards the autonomous car.  However, we’ll get there in small bite-size chunks.  We’re at stage one at the moment, with individual systems offering support in individual driving situations (highways, parking, lane-keeping).  We’ve been in this stage for the best part of 20 years, since the introduction of autonomous cruise control in the mid-1990s.  We’re now moving into stage 2, where these systems become linked together and integrated to fill in some of the gaps between the scenarios in which the car can support the driving task.  I see this stage as dominating from now until at least 2025.

It’s at that point and beyond that true autonomous driving may emerge.

A full list of Strategy Analytics ADAS reports can be accessed by clicking here.

April 5, 2013 10:18 Kevin Mak

Threat to Charging Infrastructures – Emergence of New Super-Efficient, Conventionally-Powered Compact Models

The global banking crisis of 2008/9 resulted in many governments transferring debt from the banking sector to the private sector. This has resulted in widespread cuts in public spending, including investment plans for charging infrastructures for electric vehicles, especially in Europe.  As a result of the ongoing financial crisis, consumer demand for pure electric vehicles in certain European countries could potentially be dampened by the lack of charging points.

  • The Republic of Ireland is one example of a recent slow-down in implementation.  According to the government plan, some 1,500 charging points and 40 fast-chargers were to be in place by the end of 2011 – but by October 2012, some 860 charging points (around 57 percent of the plan) and 30 fast-chargers were installed.  As one of the European governments under pressure to limit public spending, it is unlikely that further funds would be made available to complete the plan, especially when electric vehicle sales have not met expectations – at just 192 units since 2009.  The cost to Electric Ireland in installing the current network has estimated to be around €3.9m (US$5m).
  • Better Place has responded to the lack of demand for electric vehicles by curtailing its infrastructure operations in countries such as Australia and the US and concentrate efforts in Denmark and Israel.
  • The only recent announcement to build new infrastructure has been from the UK government.  However, such an investment is limited to covering 75 percent of the total cost of construction by private vehicle purchasers at their homes, local governments for use by apartment residents and at railway stations and government facilities. 
  • Very few European countries have announced a charging infrastructure plan.  Major public infrastructure investments are limited to just France and Germany.

The resulting recession from the crisis has also made European consumers even more aware of fuel efficiency in vehicle purchases, but it has also lowered tax revenues among European governments.

  • As a means of meeting greenhouse gas emission targets, European governments encourage consumers to purchase vehicles that emit less CO2, by way of purchasing subsidies and taxes (called bonus-malus in France for example) or from a varying annual road tax system (as in the UK for example).
  • Other incentives, such as free entry to congestion charge zones, are also offered to low CO2 emitting vehicles, to limit congestion and air pollution in city centers.
  • As European consumers try to save money by running vehicles that emit less CO2, then the level of purchase subsidies increase and the receipts from annual road taxes decrease.  Fuel sales are also decreasing in some countries, as drivers seek more efficient vehicles.  For example, in the UK, fuel stations sold 37.67 billion liters of fuel in 2007 but only 34.16 billion liters in 2012.
  • As European governments try to limit public spending, then the offering of purchase subsidies and annual road tax discounts are changed to models emitting even less CO2.

Consumers’ desires for more efficient vehicles have yet to benefit EV sales in any large-scale way.  A lack of charging infrastructure and relatively higher costs over conventionally-powered models of the same segment has limited the market.  In addition, a new generation of super-efficient compact models are now entering the European market, which offer consumers many of the benefits of an EV without the drawbacks of high purchasing cost, patchy recharge infrastructure and limited range.

  • Since August 2012, the French bonus-malus system now offers a €400 bonus (US$516) to vehicles emitting less than 90 g/km.
  • The London Congestion Charge Zone offers free entry for vehicles emitting less than 100 g/km.  Future plans to amend the system are being discussed, which include the lowering of the exemption limit to 80 g/km, adding a group of models for congestion charging that are currently entering the Zone for free.
  • The current UK annual road tax exempts vehicles emitting less than 100 g/km.  It is also likely that the tax exemption level will also be lowered to 80 g/km, as receipts from the annual road tax decrease further as British consumers turn to more efficient models that are taxed less.
  • While plug-in hybrids, such as the Opel Ampera (Chevrolet Volt) and Toyota Prius PHEV emit less CO2 (27 and 49 g/km respectively), they are costly vehicles that essentially use two powertrains.
  • Models benefiting from a change in government policy would be those sub-compact or compact hatchbacks that can be modified by adding stop-start systems, adjusting compact diesel engines with reduced torque and variable vane turbochargers, using manual transmissions with longer gearing (but could also use re-programmed automated transmissions, as on the Peugeot 208), modifying the accelerator pedal mapping, reducing weight, use low rolling resistance tires and better aerodynamic features, such as grille shutters, extended tailgate spoilers and wheel deflectors.
  • Included amongst these models are the new Toyota mini-hybrids, with the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain modified to suit the smaller model.
  • But such modifications must not be at the expense of comfort and convenience features, such as power windows and air conditioning, nor mandated safety features, such as airbags.
  • Retail prices for these models are still at an affordable level, of between US$15,000 and US$20,000 (with sales taxes), and compare well against used cars that are more costly to run, as fuel economy of the efficient models reaches 60-67 mpg (US).
  • Examples include the Toyota Yaris Hybrid (79 g/km, T-Sprint 85 g/km), the Renault Clio dCi 90 Stop & Start ECO (83 g/km), the Hyundai i20 1.1 CRDi Blue (84 g/km), the Kia Rio 1 1.1 CRDi EcoDynamics (85 g/km), the Peugeot 208 Access+ 1.4 e-HDi Stop and Start EGC 70 (87 g/km), the Ford Fiesta Style ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi Start Stop (87 g/km), the Citroen C3 1.4 e-HDi (87 g/km), the Ford Focus ECOnetic 1.6 TDCi (88 g/km), the Opel Corsa 1.3 CDTi ecoFLEX (88 g/km) and the Skoda Fabia 1.2 TDI CR Greenline II (89 g/km).

The Strategy Analytics System Demand Forecast, to be updated later in April already includes this increased demand for stop-start systems and for full hybrid systems among Toyota’s compact segments.  But should the European Sovereign Debt Crisis end, likely to be some time in 2014, this growing demand is unlikely to fall away – it is more likely to accelerate deployment of stop-start and other fuel savings features in other regions and in other model segments in greater volumes.  The OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Strategies Report will be updated in September 2013.

This analysis was conducted following recent updates to the EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment Database and the Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support Database.


November 7, 2012 15:02 Kevin Mak

On November 6th, Qualcomm briefed the automotive industry on its progress with the HALO inductive charging system for electric vehicles. This blog reports on this briefing, in particular the forthcoming trial of the HALO system in London, and updates on a previous Strategy Analytics post, Qualcomm Inductive Charging – A Possible Solution To Range Anxiety in Electric Vehicles

Demonstrations of the HALO system has shown how the system can bring about wider deployment.

  • The charging pad alignment system is highly tolerant, to within 300 mm between vehicle and base charging pads.
  • As well as parking bays, lane markings could guide EVs onto charging pads embedded near traffic lights and in other urban streets where traffic is likely to stop.  This can assist EV drivers who are part of a charging membership scheme, improving the user experience even further by allaying consumer range anxiety.
  • Sensing data for the alignment system is sent to a smartphone using a Bluetooth connection.  The driver will be able to see the alert on the mobile handset, mounted on the front windshield.
  • With this Bluetooth connection, the alignment system can potentially be used on any EV model, thereby reducing implementation costs.  Future systems are being developed with DSRC communication.
  • The alignment system can also be tailored to send data to the vehicle’s embedded HMI (Human-Machine-Interface) system, thereby widening HALO’s appeal to OEMs.
  • A number of safety systems have been deployed to allay fears about wireless charging.  These include Foreign Object Detection that can prevent charging if there are metallic objects in the way of the charging pads.  Without this safety feature, these metallic objects will heat up during the charging process.
  • Also, EMF (Electro-Magnetic Field) emissions outside the charging pads have been shown to be way below harmful levels. 

One of the partners in the London Trial is Chargemaster.
  • The choice of Chargemaster can be regarded as essential for the trial in gathering user data on preferred charging methods, usage times and locations.  The company, based in Luton, is one of Britain’s leading equipment manufacturers that support electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructures.  It is also one of the country’s leading EV charging operators, through its POLAR network with a current 2,000 charging points located in 40 major towns in the UK being extended to reach a total of 100 towns by 2013.
  • At present, the UK government subsidizes charging cost.  But from March 2013, these subsidies will end and that new business models for EV charging will have be formed, either as membership subscriptions of as a pay-as-you-charge method.  With the know-how and experience from Chargemaster, it may utilize the HALO system as a means of adding convenience.

However, details about the forthcoming London WEVC (Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging) Trial are sketchy.  But from what information that was released, Strategy Analytics believes the scope of the trial is too limited and that progress of the trial has been too slow for Qualcomm to effectively promote its HALO inductive charging system.
  • The trial is still in the planning stage and will not be in place until next year.
  • An estimated maximum of 50 vehicles will participate in the trial.  Strategy Analytics regards the sample size as being too small to yield enough data to analyze from.
  • Chargemaster’s CEO mentioned that there will be 6 Central London locations currently being prepared for the trial.  Again, Strategy Analytics regards this as being too small when there is the potential to bring inductive charging capability to all of POLAR’s conductive charging points, some 205 points located inside the M25 orbital expressway.
  • Renault is the only major OEM participant in the trial.  While the Renault-Nissan Alliance is the most EV-enthusiastic OEM group, there are other large OEMs with plug-in models that need persuading.  Also participating in the trial are Delta E-4 coupes, which are costly sports car models and are likely to fill niche markets only.
  • Addison Lee is the only fleet participant in the trial.  The company will only be using Citroen C1 EVs as minicabs.  EVs are likely to see growth as small, urban delivery vans – this segment is not participating in the trial.
  • Neither are any iconic London black cabs participating, which make up the majority of taxi journeys in the city.
  • Also no car sharing operator is participating in the trial. 
  • It must be noted that one of the earliest implementation of HALO has been on large buses in Genoa and Turin, in Italy.  With the partnership of the Transport for London transit authority, such a system could be trialed on a London bus.

So although inductive charging technology is more likely to be deployed on a wider scale, and thus achieve Qualcomm’s aim of raising economies of scale and mass market uptake of HALO, the limited scope of the London WEVC Trial will hamper efforts at promoting the wireless charging concept.

June 21, 2012 16:12 Ian Riches


I am now sat in San Antonio airport awaiting my flight back the the UK after the Freescale Technology Forum (FTF).  I haven't attended the event for the last couple of years, so it was interesting for me to compare the way Freescale presented itself this week to the Freescale that I remembered being presented in the past.  Here are a few of my personal thoughts and impressions:

  1. A more rounded focus.  At previous FTFs that I haved attended, I have received the impression that Freescale was a processor company with a few other bits and pieces.  The overall impression this year was, to me, more rounded, with the analog side of Freescale's product portfolio getting a much more prominent billing.  The tie-up with Fuji for IGBTs was also mentioned multiple times across a number of briefings with different executives.  I saw a shift towards presenting solutions rather than products.
  2. Renewed focus on market share.  Freescale was the #1 automotive semiconductor vendor.  Our semiconductor vendor market share report gave them a leading 10.3% share in calendar year 2007.  In 2011 that had fallen to 7.9% - behind not only Renesas, but also Infineon and ST.  In some of my previous discussions on this topic with Freescale, the conversation seemed to gravitate towards the reasons why: currency effects, the travails of large OEM customers, some gaps in product portfolio etc.  This time around there seemed a greater willingness to engage in what they were going to do about it.  There's a real hunger to be technology leaders, and a stated willingness to look at more deals like the Fuji one where they make sense.
  3. Optimism about Japan.  I kept hearing, in many cases unbidden, a sense that Freescale was hoping for big things in Japan.  One stated reason was that they had received feedback from some customers that Renesas was in some senses now too big and too dominant - and there was thus an increased willingess to look beyond traditional partners.
  4. SafeAssure everywhere.  Freescale's efforts in the area of functional safety and ISO 26262 were very prominent.  I was interested when I was corrected for referring to Safe Assure as a "brand" - with the Freescale staff member insisting it was instead a "program".  Semantics maybe - but he was very keen to get across his message that there was real substance behind the logo, that it was far more than marketing.

It's really too soon to gauge any impact that new CEO Gregg Lowe has had: he's only been in the job a matter of weeks.  However, the focus on market share came right from him, right from the top.  We'll see!

March 22, 2012 12:21 Kevin Mak

On March 19th, Qualcomm presented its inductive charging technology for electric vehicles.  It had recently acquired the company HaloIPT, an offshoot of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, that had developed the technology.

The induction system involves the fitment of a receiving pad connected to a control unit and the vehicle’s battery pack.  On the infrastructure side, a charging pad is fitted to the road surface, inside a parking bay.  Both pads contain wiring coils, with magnetic fields transferring the electrical energy from the infrastructure to the vehicle.

The charging system is capable of full operation even where there is misalignment between the induction pads.  To park accurately to align with the charging pad is very difficult in practice – so user experience issues have been taken into consideration.  There is even tolerance in the vertical alignment, should the EV be an SUV model, should there be additional occupants in the EV or should the charging pad needs to be hidden from view under the tarmac surface, such as for street cleaning purposes.  This is due to the Double-D and Double-D Quadrature coils designed to enable energy transfer over a wider area.

Foreign Object Detection systems are currently being developed to prevent charging taking place where children or animals are present in the recharging area.  Despite the presence of magnetic fields and radio waves, Qualcomm is convinced that inductive charging is safe – thanks to its earlier experience with RF technologies in the mobile handset area.  It claims it is much safer than the use of conductive charging, with the threat of electric shock, and the presence of cables that people can trip over.

Qualcomm claim high charging efficiencies of 90 percent – another area where detractors claimed inductive charging has a weakness.  It earlier tested its inductive charging system on a Citroen C1 EVIE and the Rolls-Royce 102EX concepts.  Both a 3 kW single-phase and 7 kW three-phase system were developed.  On the Lola Drayson B12/69EV racing car, a fast-charging 20 kW three-phase system has also been developed.  Transport for London and other UK-based partners are evaluating the system from 2012 onwards.

At present, the technology is at the pre-commercial stage and is awaiting interest from OEMs and Qualcomm’s Tier 1 and Tier 2 automotive customers to bring about a platform design, which would generate economies of scale to make the hardware affordable for mass market deployment.  The first deployment of inductive charging technology could come as early as 2015.

So far, business models mooted include the free or subsidized charging: Offered by retail corporations, perhaps time limited; Insurance corporations, to monitor vehicle movements to prevent theft; or Combined with toll road usage.

Dynamic charging is also a long-term possibility, where the vehicle is charged as it is being driven, thanks to the misalignment tolerance developed by Qualcomm – although this will depend on how fast charging takes place in order to replace the energy consumed to drive the vehicle.

Strategy Analytics believes that such a charging system has the potential to become a success in serving the plug-in vehicle market.  However, the technology is still dependant on the ability to persuade supporting infrastructure to be developed alongside Qualcomm’s attempt to have the system deployed by OEMs.  The danger is that as conductive charging systems are now being standardized (e.g. ChaDeMo, SAE J1772), Qualcomm’s inductive charging system could be left behind.  Even if OEMs do adopt the system, they may also have to fit a conductive charging system as a back-up to it – which adds unnecessary cost.

To help advance Qualcomm’s case in the short term would be to promote its charging system as a retro-fitment to the fleet market, whereby volume deployment can be generated quickly.  That way, OEMs would have an earlier indication of how successful such a charging system could be.

Otherwise, history may repeat itself when players having the right technology fail to succeed, by not getting it to market ahead of their rivals – Qualcomm has to work fast to promote its system, get infrastructure players involved  and develop a platform for OEM adoption before conductive technologies shut it out of the automotive market.

January 20, 2012 11:21 rlanctot

Participants in and observers of the automotive industry are familiar with the normally glacial pace of change in the business. But change sometimes comes rapidly as a result of unexpected events such as fatal accidents or the subsequent accident investigations.

The most recent example of this phenomenon lies in the final report and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panel reviewing the findings of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from the investigation of Toyota’s year-old sudden acceleration problems.

The NAS report has revealed the vulnerabilities of both the automotive industry and its regulatory body, NHTSA.  The fallout from the NAS recommendations are likely to quietly rattle the board rooms of car makers around the world.

Those recommendations are:

1.      That NHTSA become more familiar with and engaged in standard-setting and other efforts involving industry that are aimed at strengthening the means by which manufacturers ensure the safe performance of their automotive electronics systems.

2.      That NHTSA convene a standing technical advisory panel comprising individuals with backgrounds in the disciplines central to the design, development, and safety assurance of automotive electronics systems, including software and systems engineering, human factors, and electronics hardware. The panel should be consulted on relevant technical matters that

arise with respect to all of the agency’s vehicle safety programs, including regulatory reviews, defect investigation processes, and research needs assessments.

3.      That NHTSA undertake a comprehensive review of the capabilities that ODI (Office of Defect Investigation) will need in monitoring for and investigating safety deficiencies in electronics-intensive vehicles. A regular channel of communication should be established between NHTSA’s research program and ODI to ensure that (a) recurrent vehicle- and driver-related safety problems observed in the field are the subjects of research and (b) research is committed to furthering ODI’s surveillance and investigation capabilities, particularly the detail, timeliness, and analyzability of the consumer complaint and early warning data central to these capabilities.

4.      The committee concurs with NHTSA’s intent to ensure that EDRs be commonplace in new vehicles and recommends that the agency pursue this outcome, recognizing that the utility of more extensive and capable EDRs will depend in large part on the extent to which the stored data can be retrieved for safety investigations

5.      The committee also endorses NHTSA’s stated plan to conduct research on pedal design and placement and keyless ignition

design requirements but recommends that this research be a precursor to a broader human factors research initiative in collaboration with industry and that the research be aimed at informing manufacturers’ system design decisions.

6.      The committee believes that strategic planning is fundamental to sound decision

making and thus recommends that NHTSA initiate a strategic planning effort that gives explicit consideration to the safety challenges resulting from vehicle electronics and that gives rise to an agenda for meeting them. The agenda should spell out the near- and longer-term changes that will be needed in the scope, direction, and capabilities of the agency’s regulatory, research, and defect investigation programs.

7.      The committee further recommends that NHTSA place development and completion of the strategic plan as a top goal in its coming 3-year priority plan. NHTSA should communicate the purpose of the planning effort, define how it will be developed and implemented commensurate with advice in this report, and give a definite time frame for its completion. The plan should be made public so as to guide key policy decisions—from budgetary to legislative—that will determine the scope and direction of the agency’s vehicle safety programs.

The recommendations touch on the functioning of several vehicle systems including brake pedals, event data recorders and keyless ignition systems.  While the investigation resulted from several sudden acceleration incidents, one in particular, involving the Saylor family and Mark Saylor, a California Highway Patrol officer and former pilot, helped to bring the issue to the attention of regulators.

The Saylor crash was unique in the fact that it  involved a highly skilled driver and a live 911 call from the vehicle seeking help while the incident was in progress.  The vehicle involved, a Lexus, featured a keyless ignition system requiring a three-second depress of the ignition button to turn the car’s engine off.  The vehicle's floormats were implicated in the Saylor incident and an earlier mishap.  Mark Saylor and three family members died in the spectacular crash that resulted from the vehicle’s uncontrolled acceleration.

While mechanical failure was not completely ruled out, and Toyota endured a recall to replace brake pedal mechanisms, regulators focused on software issues.  NHTSA was unable to identify any specific software failure, a finding which was affirmed by NAS.

But NAS’s half-endorsement and half-critique of NHTSA is both unsatisfying and forboding.  (It is also a not-so-subtle request for additional research funding.)  NAS is in effect saying NHTSA was correct in finding no error, but that NHTSA is not and was not equipped to be successful in its quest in the first place.  NAS was only reviewing NHTSA’s findings and not conducting its own independent inquiry, so it is unclear whether NAS has the expertise, the lack of which it notes at NHTSA.

Two directions may emerge from the NAS report.  NHTSA may pursue additional research and regulatory actions or it may do nothing.  The likelihood is that NHTSA won’t do much as indicated by its comments on the report suggesting that it has already taken steps to beef up its capabilities.

In an ideal world, the following steps might be taken:

è Convene a panel to review the existing EDR standard (not currently a mandate though widely adopted on a voluntary basis) to determine what, if any, additional data ought to be collected;

è Consider a recommendation requiring greater sharing of EDR data voluntarily, on-demand or automatically in all accident cases;

è Review current OEM policies and procedures for vehicle data collection and distribution – ie. via embedded modems – what data is currently collected and processed, under what circumstances and for what purposes, and with whom and how it is shared;

è Develop a process for defining voluntary minimum standards for connected vehicle systems regarding safety-related data gathering and sharing;

è Convene a panel to assess the implications for remote vehicle control and real-time vehicle monitoring in circumstances impacting the safety of drivers or the public.

A review of the physical and electronic functioning of brake systems and keyless ignition systems implicated in the Toyota sudden acceleration incidents is inevitable and is likely ongoing.  And there are some in the regulatory community that have called for the implementation of a brake override capability.  Meanwhile, Toyota’s massive post-review investments in safety systems and safety research are noteworthy.

But the proliferation of connected vehicle technologies, particularly embedded systems, has wider implications in this context.  A live real-time connection to a car creates expectations from the consumer and obligations for the manufacturer.  OnStar’s remote vehicle slowdown capability for stopping vehicle thefts is but one example, but it is notable given its embrace in Brazil’s Contran 245 vehicle tracking and immobilization mandate.

If a car company has the capability to stop a car in danger of getting into an accident or the subject of criminal activity, does it have an obligation to do so?  Given the circumstances of the Saylor crash, such questions need to be asked and their implications explored.  The events are not dissimilar from the 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447, that regulators said might have been prevented by existing pilot monitoring technologies.


NAS’s lukewarm endorsement of NHTSA’s findings brought the Toyota investigation to an unsatisfying conclusion.  Observers are left with the powerful implications of the multiple fatal incidents that caused the review.

Software and electronics are playing an increasingly important role in automotive systems.  Connectivity, too, is emerging and creating new demands on OEMs even as the technology enables new functions for consumers.

OEMs will do well to get ahead of the issues by improving transparency regarding the operation of their systems.  Car makers will benefit from enhanced consumer awareness of their systems and regulators clearly need to be educated regarding system capabilities and long term industry direction.

In this context it is important to note that OnStar emerged from General Motors’ own initiative and not from a government mandate.  It will be best for consumers, the industry and the marketplace if the automotive industry can maintain its firm grasp of this initiative.

The day has already arrived that a vehicle connectivity system can be used to stop a thief.  The day may not be far off when a telematics system can prevent a crash – especially with V2X technology arriving before the end of the decade.

Car makers should do all in their power to demonstrate that telematics systems are the solution to the problem and not just another driver distraction.  Perhaps this communication is already taking place.

January 16, 2012 09:43 rlanctot

The very organizations that present themselves as most concerned with the welfare of the driving public are actually impairing the adoption of automotive safety systems. Insurance companies in the U.S. refuse to offer discounts for safety systems and the inability of regulators to prove the efficacy of active safety systems will likely prevent the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from mandating these enhancements.

In spite of the lack of regulatory support and insurance incentives, Strategy Analytics actually foresees robust adoption rates for advanced driver assist systems (ADAS) among auto makers. (New ADAS Systems: Reaching Compact Segments, Reaching Greater Volumes, More Sensor Fusion But that uptake will come in the absence and in spite of a lack of commercial incentives.

Soft mandates and incentives

The best that regulators can muster in the U.S., Europe and Asia is NCAP “recognition” for cars that offer these technologies – even though few are offered as standard. The safety mantra among regulators has shifted to crash avoidance from crashworthiness. This does not mean that crashworthiness has been abandoned, but the perception is that reductions in accident fatalities from mandated systems such as airbags have reached a point of diminishing returns and that most future reductions in fatalities will come from ADAS systems intended to avoid accidents altogether.

This shift in emphasis is also aligned with the long-term plan to deploy intelligent highway systems built around V2X vehicle connectivity. The key problem with this approach is that regulators are now facing the considerably more difficult task of proving that new ADAS technologies – candidates for new mandates – have actually or are actually preventing crashes. Crash worthiness is easier to demonstrate, measure and mandate.

The one company that stands out for its standard fitment of cutting edge ADAS technologies is Volvo. One might be forgiven for expecting the company and its well-appointed vehicles to be a shining commercial success for its leadership in safety system adoption. The XC60 – with its standard City Safety crash avoidance technology – has been blessed with research findings validating its effectiveness at crash avoidance, but nary a single insurance carrier in the U.S. offers a discount for the car as a result of its safety system.

Volvo’s XC60 changes the game

In 2011, the U.S.-based Highway Loss Data Institute released a study of claim frequency and severity for the Volvo XC60 – equipped with City Safety crash avoidance technology – and found that the estimated claim frequency was 27 percent lower than that for all other midsize luxury SUVs combined. The study concluded that “the overall loss ($68 per insured vehicle year) for the XC60 was lower than that for other midsize luxury SUVs combined by 20 percent, a statistically significant result.”

Strategy Analytics noted that this finding together with “the indication that the system reduces injury rates” provided some of the first real evidence that ADAS technologies can have a measurable, real-world impact on safety. But insurers have remained on the sideline. (For a description of the XC60 and the HDLI study: Advanced Safety Systems in the Real World: They Work!

There is a legitimate concern for insurers arising from the City Safety technology deployed by Volvo. City Safety is intended to operate under congested, low-speed traffic circumstances – applying emergency braking with no alerts or warnings to the driver in order to avoid collisions. The HLDI study validated the insurance savings attributed to this system, but the implications of such systems are only beginning to be grasped.

A new acronym AEB for autonomous emergency braking has emerged to describe this class of safety system and the insurance industry is clearly struggling to assess its attraction to consumers and life and property saving qualities in practice. As the HLDI study has shown and anecdotal evidence suggests, AEB may actually have the ability to pay for itself especially in the age of the distracted driver.

Of course, if insurers will not step forward to incentivise consumers to purchase XC60’s, it is no shock that cars equipped with more familiar safety offerings such as blind spot detection and lane departure warning also fail to qualify for discounts. The same applies for telematics equipped cars offering automotive crash notification and stolen vehicle recovery technology. Discounts are available for limiting miles driven for OnStar drivers with State Farm insurance policies, but not for any other purpose.

Discounts for everything BUT safety systems

The reason this lack of insurance discounts is so aggravating is that it seems that insurers will offer discounts for almost anything else including student driver good grades discounts, online policy signing discounts, and accident forgiveness. In the words of Progressive Insurance from their Website: We offer dozens of discounts depending on your state. You can receive discounts for mileage, students, coverage choices and more. Simply complete your quote and we'll include any applicable discounts for you.

It is no less than shocking that even research findings from the insurance-industry funded HLDI are not enough to justify even the shadow of a discount. At one level, this failure is understandable, given the nature of insurance selling in the U.S.

Most consumers walking onto a dealer lot in the U.S. already have insurance. This proposition makes it difficult for a dealer to access or offer a discount since it would, in most cases, require the consumer to change his or her coverage or carrier – especially since, in the U.S., a substantial proportion of drivers have combined their car with their home insurance.

A lost opportunity?

Still, given the mature nature of the insurance industry – where large market share swings are almost unheard of – the opportunity to steal customers away from competing insurance companies ought to represent an opening to reward safety-system-buying consumers. The problem, though, is that the automotive insurance industry is as conservative as it is mature and the industry is also subject to 50 state regulatory bodies in the U.S. Insurers will not offer these discounts until there are more cars fitted with the technology, according to industry experts. And the low number of XC60’s on the road limits the attraction of reaching out to these buyers.

Here we arrive at the chicken and egg conundrum where consumers will resist adopting these advanced safety technologies because they are expensive, often hard to find on dealer lots and there is no reward – ie. a discount on insurance. The lack of a discount actually sends a secondary negative message that maybe these systems really aren’t worthwhile in the first place.

Further validation of the value of Volvo’s City Safety technology arrives in the form of a recent report in FenderBender magazine. (Cars with Crash Avoidance Steer Clear of the Repair Shop - The article notes: An October report from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) estimated that crash avoidance technology could eliminate all accidents caused by driver error. That’s a whopping 90 percent of crashes.”

European insurers crack open the discount door

A glimmer of hope for drivers and Volvo arrives in the form of an emerging array of insurance company discounts, some in place and some under consideration, across Europe for the XC60. Volvo executives indicate some progress with European carriers even as they continue to lobby U.S. insurers.

The company says it has seen some reductions ranging from 10 percent to 30 percent for cars with City Safety. In some cases, the insurer requires the additional bundling of the full Driver Support package: blind spot detection, lane departure warning, active cruise control, front collision warning, etc. (See chart below.)


All indications suggest that there is some hope for ADAS systems finding additional regulatory and insurance industry support. The current sad state of affairs where consumers obtain no insurance rate advantage from opting for advanced safety systems not only discourages interest but sends a strong message about the effectiveness of those systems.

Car makers bear some of the responsibility for low fitment rates and a lack of emphasis in advertising messages. Volvo and Mercedes are standouts in their safety messaging – focusing heavily on safety messages in their national advertising.

The opportunity for insurance companies to steal business from rivals with safety-system-based discounts ought to be attractive – especially in light of the HLDI study. But insurance companies may have been burned in the past by new technologies that failed to deliver discount-worthy savings.

By now, though, it is clear that these increasingly sophisticated safety systems – which are finding their way to larger volume vehicle segments – are very likely saving lives and money. When repair shops are starting to complain, as in the case of the FenderBender article, it is a strong indication that an insurer does not need a sophisticated study to interpret the writing on the wall.

For NHTSA, the emergence of advanced, active safety features represents a new opportunity to provide carrot and sticks to guide the industry, but unlike more mechanical solutions such as airbags, the path is less clear for software-based technologies such as LDW and BSD. New kinds of metrics are called for, although they may be, by necessity, rearward looking.

The HLDI study of the XC60 may ultimately serve as a preliminary template for creating standards recommendations for future enhanced safety systems. But given the wide range of functionality and performance of these camera- and radar-based systems it is likely that NHTSA, like the NCAP movement, will be forced into more of an advisory role.

Above all, NHTSA will have to walk a fine line between too-specific standards and providing no guidance or vision at all. The best outcome might be for NHTSA to define a roadmap or vision of ADAS development and deployment to assist the industry in prioritizing its development activities. This process will put at the top of the list those technologies or systems expected to save the most lives. But again, NHTSA will do best to mandate solutions such as automatic crash notification without specifying the physical implementation.

And it is time for NHTSA to intervene on behalf of the automotive industry and the driving public and insist on insurance industry support for safe driving technologies. Consumer-driven adoption of safety technologies is a proven life saver, after all.

Additional insight:

ADAS Supply & Fitment Database:

Automotive RADAR: Design Trends Point Towards Performance And Affordability:

Advanced Safety Systems in the Real World: They Work!

New ADAS Systems: Reaching Compact Segments, Reaching Greater Volumes, More Sensor Fusion

NHTSA Rear View Requirements Will Provide up to 10 Million Unit Boost to Automotive Camera Market

ADAS Demand Outlook: Affordability and Reliability Key to Future Growth


January 16, 2012 09:14 Kevin Mak

The North American International Auto Show was opened in Detroit on January 9th, 2012.  In comparison to earlier shows, Detroit revealed greater optimism in the automotive industry, following the crippling recession of 2008-2009.  LMC Automotive (formerly JD Power Automotive Forecasting) released its Q4 2011 sales forecast, showing US light vehicle sales rebounding for 2010 and 2011.  However, with the arrival of Volkswagen at Chattanooga, Tennessee, and the growth of Hyundai in the US, such as the Elantra winning the 2012 North American Car of the Year Award, the Detroit-based auto makers face stiffer competition to regain their market shares in their home markets. 

Compact Luxury – The New Battleground
While light truck sales have recovered, the North American market is seeing a particularly faster growth in compact models.  This will result in higher production volumes for them.  According to LMC Automotive, the C-Segment will see the largest unit increase in production from 2011 to 2018, followed by the D-Segment, while the A- and B-Segments will see fastest percentage rise.

  • The Show’s top launches were the Cadillac ATS sedan, the Dodge Dart sedan and the Buick Encore compact crossover. 

Not only do the above models come from the compact segments, two of them come from luxury brands.  As many North American consumers downsize, in order to lower their fuel consumption, they still demand a high level of comfort and convenience in their future vehicle purchases – and with this, electronics demand in the North American market will continue to grow.

  • The Cadillac ATS aims to compete against more successful German branded sedans, in particular the BMW 3-Series.

Fuel Economy
Growing demand for fuel economy will also result in the adoption of direct injected gasoline engines across the industry, as on the Buick Encore and the Cadillac ATS.  The Dodge Dart, however, will come equipped with the new Tigershark gasoline engine, developed with FIAT’s MultiAir exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and variable valve timing (VVT) technology, although MultiAir is expected to be deployed on gasoline direct injected engines in the future. 

Ford has made major strides in electrifying the powertrain with the announcement of its roll-out of stop-start systems, starting with the 2013 Ford Fusion.  Ford’s common platforms will also enable its customers to opt for electric, hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions of various models, such as the Ford Focus compact and C-MAX compact minivan.  The GM eAssist mild hybrid system has already been offered on the 2012 Chevrolet Malibu, so perhaps the Buick Encore will follow suit? 

And there may be the possibility that Honda and Toyota may assemble hybrid models in the US – following the unveiling of the Acura NSX sports car equipped with new all-wheel drive hybrid powertrain technology, the auto maker announced that development and future production will occur at its Marysville, Ohio, facility.  The Acura ILX compact sedan also featured a hybrid concept.

  • Should tensions in the Arabian Gulf escalate, then demand for hybrids will rise rapidly in the short term.  However, auto makers must bear in mind the revisions to the CAFE mandate, such as proposals by the Obama Administration to raise the level to 54.5 mpg (4.3 l/100 km) by 2025, a level that will certainly require more powertrains to be electrified in the long term, especially if the model segment mix remains unchanged.  An an example of making hybrids more affordable for wider consumer adoption is the Toyota Prius C compact ('Aqua' in Japan).

Comfort and Convenience
Despite their size, the new or recently-launched compact models have many features that would only be offered to larger segments.  Examples of these luxury features include passive keyless entry and start systems (PKE), dual-zone automatic HVAC (heating-ventilation-air conditioning) systems as standard, electric parking brakes (EPB), RLT (rain-light-tunnel) sensing for automated lights and windshield wipers and electrically-adjustable, heated and ventilated seats. 

  • Examples of compact models with PKE that are assembled (or will be assembled) in North America include the Acura ILX, the Cadillac ATS, the Chevrolet Cruze, the Dodge Dart, the Hyundai Elantra and the Nissan Tiida.

Consumer demand for connectable systems for smartphones and the use of the Internet as a gateway to various features has led to the development of new all-encompassing, software-based infotainment systems.  The launches at Detroit are no exception, which will further lead to growing electronics demand for Bluetooth, voice control systems and HMI systems controlled by color displays and touch screens. 

  • Examples of new infotainment systems include Cadillac CUE, Chrysler UConnect, Ford SYNC, Hyundai Blue Link and Toyota EnTune.  The Cadillac ATS and Dodge Dart are equipped with large color touch screens.

As side airbags become mandated in North America, the focus for safety applications in new models has been advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). 

Blind spot detection (BSD) and rear cross traffic assist (RCTA) have been key additions in the North American market, as consumers there tend to drive into perpendicular parking spaces and need assistance when backing out of them – the new Cadillac ATS and Dodge Dart will offer radar-based systems. 

Front windshield camera-based systems offer greater value-for-money, offering both distance warning and lane departure warning (LDWS) from the same module – the Cadillac ATS and the Buick Encore are likely to offer the same Magna-supplied system, as already being offered on some GM crossovers. 

Other features making a greater appearance in North America will be adaptive front-lighting systems (AFS) and high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps, as well as head-up displays, as on the Cadillac ATS.  In line with the Kids & Cars mandate, the HMI displays enable the Cadillac ATS and the Dodge Dart to play back park assist cameras.

According to the latest (January 2012) edition of Strategy Analytics’ Automotive Electronics System Demand Forecast (2009 to 2018), North American demand for the above applications will grow the fastest, mirroring the trends seen at the Detroit Show.

  • Among the fastest growing applications were Collision Warning (+26.9 percent CAAGR by $M value), Passive Keyless Entry (+15.8 percent) and Engine Control (+14.9 percent).

Despite vehicle downsizing, demand for automotive electronics in the North American industry remains strong.

The Automotive Electronics System Demand Forecast 2009 to 2018 – January 2012 Update, can be downloaded at:

Updates on the following databases will be published in February / March 2012:
- ADAS Supply & Fitment
- Advanced Entry and Start System Supply and Fitment
- EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment
- Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support

November 23, 2011 16:27 Kevin Mak

According to an interview with Auto Express magazine in November 2011, Koji Sato, deputy chief engineer for product planning said: “We are working on a number of solutions to offer low CO2 emissions and these include a small hybrid.”

At present, the E-Segment hybrid model in the Lexus line-up is the newly-launched GS 450h, with a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine, capable of 0-100 km/h (62 mph) acceleration in 5.9 seconds.  However, most luxury sedans sold in the European market need to lower their carbon dioxide emissions in order to lower the annual road, company car and registration tax burden on their purchasers. 

  • An example includes the BMW 520d.  It is priced competitively, at £30,030 in the UK (US$47,000), capable of a respectable 0-100 km/h time of 8.1 seconds.  Its combined cycle (EU) fuel economy is a segment leading 4.7 l/100 km (50.0 mpg) and emits 123 g/km of CO2 with the optional 8-speed automatic transmission.
  • In comparison, the GS450h is more expensive at £44,615.00 in the UK (US$69,500), and can only achieve 7.7 l/100 km (30.5 mpg) and a higher 179 g/km of CO2 emissions.
  • The result for a UK purchaser is that the annual road tax for the BMW 520d is £115 (US$180) less than for a Lexus GS 450h.  Savings for company car usage is even greater, at 18% Company Tax instead of 26% (based on Benefit-In-Kind rates) in the UK.

Lexus needs to make its GS sedan more competitive, not just in Europe but worldwide, as all consumers seek fuel efficiency to cope with the rising cost of fuel.  The brand has to broaden from its high performance-led strategy and embrace smaller, more economical and low emitting powertrain options for its hybrid models. 

  • This has already begun with the launch of the smaller CT and HS hybrids, based on the powertrain platform of the Toyota Prius.

Lexus has indicated that it will not expand diesel powertrains to other models.

The brand has only one diesel model in its line-up, the IS 200d in Europe, equipped with the Toyota AD Series 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel engine.  Toyota does not assemble a larger diesel engine, except for the commercial vehicle segments.

It is likely that it will deploy a smaller capacity, four-cylinder gasoline engine to its hybrid platforms to meet the new strategy.

  • The Lexus/Toyota hybrid platform is mostly integrated in its transmission modules, involving two electric motors, and can thus be mated to any combustion engine.
  • The smallest gasoline engine in the Lexus line-up, in the IS 250, is too powerful to bring about the fuel economy needed by the new strategy.  This is a V6 2.5-liter unit producing 153 kW (208 bhp).
  • A likely choice would be a modified 3ZR (four-cylinder 2.0-liter) engine from Toyota, to match the 135 kW (184 bhp) generated by the diesel engine in the BMW 520d. 
  • Another candidate is the 1.8-liter Atkinson Cycle engine in the Toyota Prius, but uprated to match the performance required by the Lexus brand.
    The final decision on the new engine will be announced in the summer of 2012, before sales begin for the GS sedan in Europe.

Strategy Analytics has analyzed the decision to pursue an all-hybrid approach to the Lexus’ dilemma and believes the brand has taken the correct course of action.

The reasons are:

  • Lexus is experienced in the development of hybrid powertrain technology and is well-known among consumers for it.  Sato said: “Lexus has a strong association with hybrid and we want to continue to develop this.”
  • With current hybrid platforms in place, it would be more cost effective to develop less-powerful but more economical hybrids than to develop new diesel models virtually from scratch.
  • By widening its hybrid offerings, it can also raise volume in hybrid powertrain production and bring about economies of scale across the hybrid line-up.
  • Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission standards have been tightened in recent mandates, involving the adoption of new emission control strategies for large segment diesel models, such as the injection of AdBlue in the exhaust to meet Euro-6.  Although not as complicated as hybrid powertrains, the fear is that NOx controls would become too severe, and thus too costly, for Lexus to develop on its own.
  • If Lexus is unable to develop new diesel powertrains, by sourcing from outside suppliers it would undermine the brand’s reputation and lose control of its powertrain design.
  • The volumes required for the new strategy may be limited, given that Lexus is a luxury brand, and may not justify the additional investment needed to develop new diesel powertrains – Infiniti are to source from Mercedes-Benz and the Chrysler 300 features a V6 diesel engine supplied by VM Motori (a joint venture with FIAT and General Motors), but only in limited volumes.
  • Away from Europe, the new strategy is relevant in North America where the CAFE fuel economy mandate has got tougher (for 2025) and following the lower uptake of diesel there.
  • Diesel powertrains are increasingly being threatened by the development of new, more efficient gasoline powertrains, such as stratified combustion, which would negate any investment in new diesel powertrains.
  • Hybrid powertrains are perceived to be more refined and relevant for the Lexus brand than diesel powertrains.
  • Zero-emission drive, although for very short distances, can give Lexus the advantage should Chinese and European mandates appear to ban combustion-driven vehicles from city centers, as already seen for motorcycles in Beijing.

While competing luxury brands are already successful with diesel powertrains, this does not mean they should follow the Lexus strategy – It is a problem unique to Lexus, which requires a strategy that is unique to Lexus.

For further information relevant to diesel and hybrid powertrain strategies, please refer to the following products from Strategy Analytics:

EV/HEV Technologies Supply & Fitment Database

Hybrid Technologies Legislation/Support

Analog Semiconductor To Get Market Boost From HEV/EV Growth

Economies of Scale - Driving Affordability In Electric and Hybrid Vehicles

Auto Shanghai 2011: Domestic Car Makers Face Tougher Battle Ahead (commentary on the BMW 5-Series plug-in hybrid)

Automotive Gas Sensors: Emission Mandates Boost Demand

Hybrid and Electric Vehicles: OEM Strategies Reviewed

Sensors for Advanced Powertrains: Efficiency Solutions Drive Demand

HCCI: The Single Solution For Combating Both CO2 And NOx (commentary on stratified combustion technologies)

Diesel Challenges Hybrids in the US

BMW Sets The Pace in Engine Efficiency

November 16, 2011 14:47 Ian Riches

I've just go back from a very enjoyable couple of days in Munich, where I was invited to present at the 1st Ethernet & IP @ Automotive Techday, which was put together expertly by Kirsten Matheus and her team at BMW. 

The event gathered more than 350 people from across the industry.  I estimate that the attendance broke down very approximately as follows:

It was also a very international event.  Yes, there were a lot of German accents - but there were also plenty from other parts of Europe, the US, Japan and Korea.  

I'll be publishing a report on High-Speed Bus Networks to Strategy Analytics clients by the end of November.  However, in the meantime, here's the answer to the question that Kirsten ran out of time before she could ask me in the Q&A session at the end of my presentation yesterday:

Q: "In the light of what you've seen and learnt in the last couple of days, are you minded to put your forecast up or down?"

A: "Up."

Watch this space.