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.

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: 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 regarding a recall on the 2013 Lexus GS350. (You can find the details here: 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:

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


January 7, 2014 13:37 Kevin Mak

In addition to developments in the wireless charging of hybrid and electric vehicles reported in the blog, EVS27 – Growing Interest in Electrification, New Players Entering Automotive, Strategy Analytics recently spoke to WiTricity, a company founded in 2007 by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who invented the foundational technology for highly resonant wireless power transfer over distance.

  • The original blog reported updates on developments made by Qualcomm.  This blog gives insight on developments made by its rival, WiTricity.
  • In December 2013, Toyota was licensed to use WiTricity's technology first for trials with plug-in hybrid concepts over 2014, for eventual series production in 2016 or 2017.

Despite being a much smaller company than rivals Qualcomm, WiTricity seems to have greater success in attracting trials with and licensing their technology to OEMs and Tier 1 vendors.

  • WiTricity made a demonstration of wireless charging in Germany as early as 2009.
  • In 2011, Toyota made a small investment in WiTricity in the belief it can speed-up development of a wireless charging system that can meet Toyota’s requirements and the requirements of other global auto makers.
  • Indeed, WiTricity’s strategy is to create reference designs for Level 2 (3.3 kW) wireless charging.   The company says that auto makers are focusing first on residential wireless charging systems for plug-in hybrids and, to a more limited extent, pure electric vehicles with battery packs of less than 40 kWh to ensure affordability and raising demand levels for economies of scale, before entering the market for public infrastructures.  It believes that the absence of a wireless charging standard would inhibit its take-up in public infrastructures anyway.  It also believes that pure electric vehicles will remain a niche market segment, due to the cost of large battery packs needed to offer driving range that is comparable to conventional or plug-in hybrids.  WiTricity believes the greatest demand growth for wireless charging in the next five years would come from plug-in hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius PHEV sold in mature markets.
  • Despite the Toyota investment, other OEMs have also agreed trials with its technology, which include Audi (in 2012) and Mitsubishi (in 2011).  WiTricity claims that the Toyota investment represents an endorsement of its technology by one of the world’s largest auto makers, but does not in any way prevent other OEMs from taking up its technology.  Tier 1 vendors hoping to generate new business and who have licensed WiTricity’s technology include Delphi and IHI.  Additional Tier 1 licensees will be announced in early 2014.
  • At present, Renault has been the only major auto maker that has agreed a Memorandum of Understanding to a trial with Qualcomm’s technology in July 2012.  Qualcomm technology appears to be similar to that of WiTricity, as it is also based on magnetic resonance rather than traditional magnetic induction.

Technologies from both WiTricity and Qualcomm appear to be based on magnetic resonance and are both targeted to meet the SAE J-2954 standard.

  • WiTricity uses magnetic resonance coils in both the transmitting charging pad on the road surface and the receiving pad onboard the vehicle, which enable a degree of alignment tolerance between the two.
  • The charging efficiency of the system is also around 90 percent, which is comparable with conductive systems.
  • In line with the drafting of J-2954 standard, it too has developed the Foreign Object Detection system needed for the safe implementation of wireless charging systems. Indeed, WiTricity claims to be the pioneer of such a system.
  • The SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) decision to adopt the 85 kHz frequency for wireless charging has come from the agreement of various players involved with the drafting of the J-2954 standard, which does not exclusively benefit Qualcomm but includes others such as WiTricity who are also committee members at the SAE.

With its wireless charging developments in consumer electronics, WiTricity hopes to leverage its expertise in the automotive industry and thus represents a serious challenger to Qualcomm’s aspirations in the sector.

December 17, 2013 16:45 Kevin Mak

Ian Riches, Director of the Automotive Electronics Service at Strategy Analytics, discusses the outlook for auto makers worldwide and Volkswagen’s strategy that is working best in Europe. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's “The Pulse.”

November 25, 2013 14:10 Kevin Mak

Some 4,010 visitors attended the 27th Electric Vehicle Symposium at Barcelona, compared to around 5,000 visitors to the previous EVS26 held at the larger Los Angeles Convention Center in May 2012.

  • EVS was originally founded as an academic circle that presented research papers on electrified transportation projects. 
  • But as a sign of the growing importance of electrification in automotive, EVS27 saw more research papers being presented by major auto makers and suppliers.  These papers include Hyundai on its enhancement of clutch control that has increased the efficiency of its full hybrid powertrain system and Honda on the development of its new full hybrid powertrain system. 
  • Among the exhibitors were auto makers, such as BMW with its i3, Nissan with its e-NV200 now being assembled in Barcelona, Renault with its ZE range and the Volkswagen Group with the Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid, SEAT Leon Verde Concept and Volkswagen XL1 plug-in hybrids, as well as new OEMs, such as GreenGo with its Chinese-assembled iCarO neighborhood electric vehicle. 
  • Also exhibiting were major suppliers of electrification systems, such as Lear with its chargers, Maxwell with its ultracapacitors for stop-start, Saft with its new 48 volt batteries for mild hybrids, Yazaki with its charging connectors and Tier 1 vendors, such as Valeo.
  • But most importantly is the gathering of non-automotive corporations at the Show that are also needed to ensure the future success of the plug-in vehicle market – namely power companies that can form charging infrastructures, public authorities and city planners that coordinate transportation policy where plug-in vehicles can be used to lower traffic congestion and pollution, communication providers that can enable consumers to use smartphones to hire electric vehicles and to pay for electric vehicle charging.


An interesting feature of EVS27 was the presence of Cummins and John Deere, which could both potentially be entering the light vehicle electrification market.

  • Cummins displayed its modular CorePlus hybrid system.  It uses the same 90 kW hardware for various levels of electrification, but targeting mild hybrid trucks, consisting of an integrated starter-generator and power electronics module with control software. While the vendor is an active supplier to buses and heavy and medium duty trucks, it is also seeking new business from the light truck segment.
  • John Deere displayed information on its new 644K Hybrid Wheel Loader, essentially an excavator with a stop-start system, at the Show.  It is marketing its motor inverters for hybrid powertrain applications on all truck classes.
  • What the above shows is a growing interest among heavy duty truck vendors to enter the light vehicle market and the growing competition this will mean in electrified powertrains.
  • Strategy Analytics has published a more detailed Insight report on EVS27 and the entry of these heavy duty truck vendors in the electrification market in the light vehicle segments: Heavy Truck Players Attempt To Enter Light Vehicle Electrification Market.

Among the exhibitors and speakers was Qualcomm, which presented a further update on its inductive charging technology.

  • The recent decision by the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) to adopt 85 kHz as the frequency for wireless charging.  This is the same frequency as used by Qualcomm in its development of inductive charging systems.
  • Further details of the forthcoming Formula E electric vehicle racing series were also given, including Qualcomm’s involvement in providing telemetry data communication and inductive charging for the pace cars in the first season, starting in September 2014, and for racing cars in the second season. 
  • Strategy Analytics has published an Insight report on the update from Qualcomm and how this could affect the potential for inductive charging to be adopted and Qualcomm’s position as a potential player in the automotive market: FIA Formula E and SAE J-2954 Standard Advance Qualcomm's Position in Wireless Charging Electric Vehicles.


A Viewpoint report on the current state-of-play in OEM electrification strategies has also been published: OEM Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Strategies: Emissions Mandates Will Grow Demand.  It reports on:

  • The tightening mandates that are forcing more auto makers to develop or to accelerate the development of electrified powertrains, with emphasis on more accurate driving tests and the likely requirement of reducing nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions and not just carbon dioxide;
  • The incremental improvements that are being made until a breakthrough battery chemistry will appear in the long-term;
  • The state-of-play of rival alternative powertrain systems such as hydrogen fuel cells; 
  • The potential threat posed by the new electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors on current players, and;
  • The state-of-play of electrification technologies. 
  • It includes a data file with the latest Strategy Analytics system demand forecast for different hybrid and electric vehicle powertrains.
[updated with report links]

September 4, 2013 19:01 rlanctot

The acquisition of Nokia’s devices business by Microsoft highlighted the key role played by operating system software and maps. The Microsoft acquisition demonstrated the importance of vertically integrating hardware and OS in a post-iPhone era. But Microsoft's ambivalence toward including HERE in its acquisition raised questions over the role and value of map data.

Microsoft will be an important licensee of HERE, most notably its navigation assets. But Microsoft clearly chose not to acquire those assets, including HERE’s automotive grade map.

Microsoft’s lack of interest in HERE highlights the growing interest in OpenStreetMaps. OpenStreetMaps is the crowd-sourced alternative to HERE, TomTom and Google maps. Founded by Steven Coast, OSM has devotees around the world who continue to contribute, raising the quality of OSM’s offering along with the interest level of navigation companies.

Most recently Coast left Microsoft to join TeleNav.  TeleNav has been working hard to take advantage of OSM as a potential alternative or enhancement to the company’s existing map partners TomTom and HERE.  Navmii is another OSM partner, with its own OSM-based navigation app and automotive ambitions.

HERE has near monopoly status as the sole provider of what it defines as an automotive grade map.  TomTom, AND and a handful of local map providers around the world also offer navigable, automotive grade maps.  But no other organization in the world gathers as much road attribute information as HERE or has a data gathering fleet the size of HERE’s.

In fact, while competitors, such as TomTom, have pared back their data gathering resources, HERE has stepped up its efforts – expanding the quantity of information gathered, the miles of roads driven (by the company’s True II survey vehicles) and the frequency and flexibility of map updates.  HERE’s data gathering was enhanced by the acquisition of Earthmine and its camera-based road surveying technology now widely deployed.

While respecting and using HERE’s map data (HERE claims upwards of 80% share of in-dash navigation systems), car makers and their suppliers have been increasingly tempted to tap OSM’s map resources as a base level of data upon which to build their own crowd-sourced maps.  More than one OEM is exploring the build-your-own map proposition by combining OSM data with connected car probe data a la Waze.

Waze famously built its own map and traffic data from user probe inputs leading up to its near-billion-dollar acquisition by Google.  Car makers are eager to leverage their own probes, vehicle connections and sensor and camera inputs to create an in-house alternative to HERE’s map.

Between Google and OSM, the pressure on map pricing is intense.  And Apple is also thought to be considering tapping into OSM which, again, will pressure both TomTom and HERE.

HERE has chosen to buck the trend by enhancing its data gathering and linking map data to advanced safety systems and powertrains.  TomTom has taken a page from OSM’s playbook by leveraging its probe network to enhance its map data.

The challenge for OSM is to overcome existing limitations in its map offering including the lack of TMC location information for linking to traffic incident reports and the lack of road attribute information, such as turn restrictions.  These are not insurmountable obstacles (ie. OSM is thought to be working on using lat./long. data in place of TMC location referencing) but car makers must be honest with themselves regarding the scope of the effort.

The issue of map quality was highlighted recently by a class action lawsuit filed against BMW in the U.S. over its navigation systems, which are based on TomTom maps.  According to a report on the Website:

“The BMW class action lawsuit claims that the optional navigation feature, which costs $1,800, is faulty and cannot be fixed. Plaintiff Karen Morris says that the feature gives wrong directions, resets without warning and misidentifies locations. She accuses BMW of knowing that the technology was defective based on its own testing, industry testing and complaints from consumers and dealers. 

“ ‘BMW’s failure to disclose the propensity of the BMW navigation system to fail and malfunction is especially egregious in light of the safety risks resulting from driving with an unreliable navigation system that directs drivers to unsafe terrain or hazardous road conditions, distracts or confuses drivers, or otherwise suddenly fails to properly work or function at all, thereby placing drivers at greater risk of accidents and harm,” the class action lawsuit says.

“According to the class action lawsuit, Morris purchased a new 2012 BMW 5 series car in August 2012 and paid $1,800 for the BMW Navigation System Professional. Allegedly, BMW provided her with a vehicle warranty covering four years and 50,000 miles. She claims that the navigation system took her on long detours, directed her to the wrong locations and instructed her to travel in the opposite direction of where she was going.

“She took her car to a BMW dealer in Las Vegas to complain about the faulty navigation system. According to the class action lawsuit, employees verified the problem and found that other cars had similar issues. They informed her that they had no way to repair the problem but suggested that she update the system with a 2014 map upgrade.

“Morris alleges that she requested a refund from BMW, but she was told that the problem was caused by the map and was not an issue with the navigation system. According to the class action lawsuit, the representative told her that it wasn’t BMW’s problem. Morris claims that she would not have paid for the optional navigation feature if she had been aware of the problems associated with it. 

“In her class action lawsuit, Morris alleges violation of New Jersey consumer fraud law, federal and state laws governing warranties, violations of Nevada’s deceptive trade practices law and unjust enrichment. She seeks injunctive relief, damages, restitution and attorneys’ fees. She is bringing the BMW navigation class action lawsuit on behalf of herself and a proposed class of “current and former owners and lessees of model year 2012 or 2013 BMW vehicles purchased or leased in the United States that came equipped with the BMW Navigation System Professional.’ “

BMW declined to comment on the lawsuit.  This analyst has had his own unsatisfactory experiences with BMW navigation maps in a 2013 3 Series.

Car makers seeking to take advantage of what OSM has to offer will be watching advances in OSM closely along with the progress of the BMW class action.  For now it looks as if Microsoft has chosen a wait-and-see approach to its long-term map strategy.  HERE, meanwhile, continues to gather data, expand its database and speed its map updating.  Only time will prove whether HERE is able to upgrade or preserve the value of its maps or simply slow the erosion in their value.