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 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.

August 29, 2013 15:31 rlanctot

Watching “Iron Man 3” on multiple United westbound flights recently it suddenly hit me like a bolt out of the blue – what consumers really want is wearable transportation.  We spend all our time as gurus and industry analysts carrying on about the disruptive impact of Tesla, Google and Apple, but we’ve missed a fundamental paradigm shift in our thinking about cars and all other forms of transportation.  What if we could bring our wheels with us?

I know, I know, we can’t have 200M Tony Starks flying around.  If that were to happen we’d need an entirely new level of vehicle-to-vehicle communication to prevent collisions.  But the idea of bringing your wheels with you wherever you go is a powerful one.  I wish I had my own wheels with me right now – rental cars can be expensive!

Imagine if it were true, though!  (“Honey!  Have you seen my car?”  “It’s in the hall closet where you left it last night!”  “Thanks!”)

The reality is that we are tantalizingly close to this possibility and that possibility resides in our pockets or the palms of our hands.  Today’s smartphone has the power to bring all of our personal attributes with us into any moving vehicle transforming any vehicle into our own personal space.

Companies like Covisint, Airbiquity, Panasonic and others are diligently working to enable a smartphone-based experience that will render portable all of our personal information, preferences, appointments and applications to be brought to life remotely in different vehicles – even, perhaps, in public conveyances.  The technologies that will enable this Tony Stark-like experience are wired and wireless connections and cloud-based applications that will create the secure portability of one’s personal identification along with communications policies and protocols and commerce – all voice-driven and maybe even interfaced to the user’s thoughts.

This prospect is just far enough off on the horizon that the initial manifestations – USB ports and Bluetooth connections in rental cars – are but crudes hints at what is possible.  But combine seamless connectivity with proliferating dashboard and head-up displays and ongoing advances in speech recognition and, yes, thought control of vehicle systems (Freer Logic) and you begin to get the idea that wearable transportation – the combination of portable technology with transportation – is not nearly as farfetched as Robert Downey Jr. propelling himself into space in a wearable rocket ship.

Now excuse me while I check my Nokia 920 after-burners – don’t want to flame out during re-entry this morning.

August 26, 2013 03:52 rlanctot
I am speaking to the National Associate of Insurance Commissioners tomorrow, Monday, in Indianapolis, IN, on the subject of distracted driving and on behalf of Strategy Analytics and Global Mobile Alert – a company with patents governing the use of location technology and wireless communications to mitigate driver distraction. 
Strategy Analytics surveys show self-reported daily smartphone use in cars while driving in the U.S. declining in each of the past three years - but still a problem encompassing writing and reading texts, and making and receiving calls.  And that is not the limit of app use while driving. 
( - Majority of US Smartphone Owners Use Apps while Driving)
Insurers have a clear vested interest in the emerging problem of driver distraction and how it can be solved.  The broad message is that the problem can be solved with technology and that laws should support and guide the progress and adoption of life-saving technology.
Unfortunately, legislators and regulators have been erring recently on the side of bans, regulations and laws that have created confusion among consumers and challenges for law enforcement.  As an example, 12 states have bans on handheld phone use, five have partial bans; three states have no texting ban, six states have a partial ban and 41 have complete texting bans.
The first step to a simplified scheme for mitigating distracted driving in the U.S. ought to be the adoption of a do-not-touch-your-phone-while-driving directive from the Federal government.  In the absence of such clarity, a fragmented landscape of texting and handsheld phone bans has spread across the country. 
To contend with this legal hodge-podge, the four leading wireless carriers in the U.S. are heavily promoting a public service campaign intended to discourage mobile phone users from texting while driving.  The campaign is called “It Can Wait” and features public service announcements that include celebrities and victims of distracted driving incidents discouraging the use of mobile phones for texting while driving and encouraging mobile phone users to take a pledge not to text and drive.
The campaign is unique in the world because of the regulatory environment in the U.S. since states pass the laws governing the use of mobile devices in cars.  The Federal government also passes laws, conditionally manages highway funds, and promulgates guidelines and mandates.
Federal involvement in regulation in the U.S. can include everything from Congress to the Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.  The texting and driving problem – blamed by NHTSA for an estimated 3,000 annual fatalities in the U.S. – raises questions regarding smartphone integration in cars impacting both the automotive and wireless industries, both of which support substantial lobbying operations in the U.S. capitol.
The lobbying organizations represent the interests of the two respective industries, both of which are struggling to come to terms with the relatively recent phenomenon of smartphone use in cars, generally, and texting, in particular.  The regulatory agencies are under pressure from crash victims and the general public to find ways to mitigate the impact of smartphone-related driver distraction that has emerged in the past few years as a source of crashes and fatalities around the world.
In fact, the issue of driver distraction has even impacted public transportation, with mobile phones implicated in multiple train and even bus crashes around the world.  There is no question that an urgent problem exists.
The safety of the driving public in the U.S., as in other nations, is influenced by the decisions of car makers, wireless carriers, insurance companies, handset manufacturers, and app developers as well as regulators and legislators.  In many countries, though certainly not in all, regulatory authorities have banned the use of mobile devices by drivers.
Multiple organizations in the U.S., and even the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), have recommended the complete jamming or disabling of mobile phones in cars.  NHTSA has taken the path of encouraging states to ban both handheld use of phones and smartphone texting by drivers. 
The good news is that NHTSA has not gone so far as to throw the baby out with the bathwater by opting for mobile phone jamming in cars.  NHTSA continues to work with car makers and their suppliers to develop voluntary guidelines, not only because they can have more immediate impact than rule-making, but also because they recognize that solving the problem is a work in progress.
In this context, the It Can Wait campaign is not unlike the warning on packages of cigarettes and other consumer products – smoking (and texting) can kill.  Clearly the wireless carriers have taken this pre-emptive step to head off onerous regulations and to make unequivocal their commitment to safety.
The underlying feeling is that an outright ban on the use of smartphones in cars will only motivate consumers to use their phones illegally.  A ban will not halt the problem.
Unfortunately for all involved – car makers, carriers, consumers and regulators – no single in-vehicle connectivity system has emerged as a safe and simple solution to smartphone connectivity.  Each car maker is pursuing its own path, undermining the potential for a national education campaign around universal smartphone connectivity.
A simpler do-not-touch-the-phone-while-driving law would have the added benefit of making the requirements for in-vehicle system interfaces fairly clear cut for car makers and app developers alike.  Even the carriers would benefit.
(In addition to laws that specifically mention mobile phone use in cars there are laws against all forms of distraction in the car which are routinely enforced and can include drinking coffee or applying makeup.  In fact, reckless driving is usually up to the discretion of the enforcement officer and could be interpreted to include texting while driving.)
Opinions vary about the degree of danger associated with looking at or touching mobile devices in moving vehicles.  In many countries enforcement is lax regarding limits on the use of mobile devices by drivers.
The concerns regarding distraction also apply to embedded navigation systems and other on-board apps as well.  In many cars and in many countries it is impossible to pair a Bluetooth phone or enter navigation destination information while a vehicle is moving.
NHTSA is working on the third generation of its set of guidelines for the design of in-vehicle systems to mitigate distraction.  The fact that NHTSA has progressed to a third generation of these guidelines is but one indication of the degree of difficulty to the challenge facing the agency as it tries to regulate mobile device use and mitigate distraction.
Car makers and wireless carriers are genuinely concerned about the problem and the It Can Wait campaign reflects a broad-based effort to raise awareness and stop the mis-use of smartphones in moving vehicles.  The problem for both the car makers and the carriers is that smartphone integration in cars is rapidly becoming a powerful selling point for new cars – creating a scenario where an integrated smartphone can either be part of the problem or part of the solution.
The challenge for the industry is complex.  Car makers are only just beginning to understand how to leverage connected smartphones to sell cars.  Honda, Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota, among others, have all begun using smartphone integration in their cars as a prominent selling point – including Chevrolet advertising the integration of Apple’s Siri voice recognition capability in the new Sonic.
The ads walk a fine line between promoting smartphone use without encouraging reckless or dangerous applications, such as texting.  But the industry is at a critical crossroads where smartphone integration is a powerful marketing tool, but one that requires educating consumers on how to connect their smartphones and use them safely.
A properly integrated smartphone will surrender control of applications to the vehicle’s interfaces.  The problem lies in the fact that connecting smartphones in cars is a non-intuitive process.  Multiple car makers report that usage of smartphone connections, outside of Bluetooth hands-free phone connections, is minimal.
For the auto makers to successfully and safely integrate phones, they must make the process simpler while training consumers and dealers in how to connect phones in cars.  Unfortunately, most of the early smartphone integration initiatives focused on applications such as Twitter and Facebook thereby highlighting the dangers of smartphone connections contributing to driver distraction.
Car makers have wised up.  The focus has recently shifted almost exclusively to navigation and streaming audio applications, both of which are more suited to the driving task and less likely to contribute to distraction.
Navigation and location-related applications, in particular, are increasingly emerging as key elements to building a location-aware connected car experience.  Car makers are beginning to understand that location awareness – enabled by vehicle connections (either embedded or smartphone-based) can help mitigate distraction and enhance safety.
A car with a connection is more likely to have up-to-date maps, traffic and weather information, all of which can contribute to driving safety.  At the core of these development activities is the objective of creating a location aware experience in the car and connected smartphones are especially well suited to achieving this objective.
Location awareness in the car is essential for a variety of purposes, not the least of which is safety.  The original location aware system in the car is the car radio which delivers local traffic, news and weather as well as emergency notifications and even local advertising messages.
Smartphone connectivity introduces the possibility for:
            Hyper local traffic and weather
            Crowd-sourced road condition information
            POI information – fuel, parking, tolls, food, lodging
            Roadside assistance, automatic crash notification, and event data recording
In fact, a properly connected and integrated smartphone is capable of managing the driver’s workload, limiting or managing voice and text communications, and alerting the driver to hazardous driving conditions.  In fact, Global Mobile Alert is designed to interrupt in-vehicle communications to alert drivers to intersections, school zones and railroad crossings - along with a pull over to text notification to the driver with an auto-response. 
The company also holds patents for wireless communicating signal light phases to cars.  (Global Mobile Alert is open to making its patents available for tests and trials.)
Car makers and carriers should be focused on solving the smartphone connectivity challenge with the primary goal of yielding control of the device to the car.  The best smartphone interfaces in cars disable or block use of the device’s screen – thereby removing any temptation to touch or use the device directly.
We have the technology to solve the problem of distracting driving, all that remains is to adopt the appropriate regulatory framework – ie. do not touch the phone while driving.  Technology and creative engineers in the wireless and automotive industries will solve the rest.