The complexity of vehicle connectivity

  • 14-Apr-2014 12:56 EDT
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Swamy Kotagiri, Executive Vice President of Corporate Engineering, Magna, addresses attendees of the "Leveraging the Great Convergence" panel session April 8 at the SAE 2014 World Congress. Steve Ridella, Director of Applied Vehicle Safety Research, NHTSA, and Jay Joseph, Senior Manager, Product Regulatory Office, American Honda Motor Co., Inc., look on.

Attention engineers: Problem solving is about to get a lot more complex as the global automotive industry moves to make the connected vehicle as commonplace as portable digital devices.

“There are technologies on the horizon that will clearly be significant game-changers for the industry. And these technologies will all have an inter-relationship with each other and also with (sensor-based) technologies that exist on the vehicle today,” Deborah Bakker, Director of Regulatory Affairs at Hyundai America Technical Center, said during Tuesday morning’s SAE 2014 World Congress panel discussion in the AVL-sponsored ballroom at Cobo Center.

As moderator of the “Leveraging The Great Convergence” panel, Bakker and five other industry experts talked about the complexity and opportunities associated with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and other connected vehicle technologies.

In today’s vehicles, fuel economy and CO2 emissions are primarily influenced by powertrain technologies, lightweight materials, and assorted vehicle-based solutions. But fuel economy and CO2 also can be “augmented by V2V with technologies such as platooning and the green-way, where vehicles hit all the green lights,” Bakker said.

Jay Joseph, Senior Manager of the Product Regulatory Office, American Honda Motor noted that powertrain variety means customers can choose from spark ignition, diesel, naturally aspirated, and forced induction engines as well as hybrids, battery electric, and fuel cell electric.

“In the midst of this convergence, we’re seeing the greatest diversity in powertrains ever offered to the market. Of course, over time the market will pick winners and losers among those technologies. And that will all be based on a variety of factors, including cost, performance, maintenance, warranty, and consumer preferences. An elegant solution doesn’t necessarily attract customers and a solution that doesn’t appeal to them is no solution at all,” said Joseph.

For many consumers, saying no to an Internet connection is extremely unappealing. According to Swamy Kotagiri, Executive Vice President of Corporate Engineering, Magna, a survey of 18 to 34 year olds underscores the younger generation’s attraction to being Internet-connected. While 60% of those surveyed said they could live without a car, only 25% of the respondents said they could live without a mobile Internet-connected device.

“It really doesn’t mean they want to give up their freedom of transportation or the car,” said Kotagiri. But it does indicate that choosing between a car and an Internet connection would be a difficult decision, “so I think it’s very important to address that topic.”

Mike Mansuetti, President, Robert Bosch LLC, said the notion of being always connected is a response to consumer expectations. “The impact of the connected world is influencing automakers and suppliers at an exponential rate.”

But responding to consumer expectations as well as to global market needs and government regulations is unfolding as automakers and suppliers look for ways to reduce costs and improve the speed to market for top-quality products that are relevant to the end-user.

“Managing this convergence both internally and externally requires that we set a plan, think differently, and seek opportunities to allow us to collaborate with one another while still maintaining our ability to compete,” Mansuetti said.

Managing vehicle connectivity and associated technologies will require engineers to re-think how they will address the various tasks, according to Douglas Patton, Senior Vice President of Engineering, Denso International America.

“We don’t have to follow the conventional wisdoms that we followed in the past,” Patton said, suggesting that a domain-based electrical architecture is one way to bring various technologies together at the vehicle-level.

“There is nothing really innovative about the domain-based architecture itself, but the fact is we have to change,” Patton said. “We have to be able to have the most cost-effective system to reduce the amount of software that we need to do this and the time to develop it.”

But whether or not the vehicle’s electrical architecture is changed, there are challenges for the connected vehicle. Topping the to-do list is cyber security. “What happens if somebody hacks into your vehicle and takes control of it? It is something that we need to be aware of as we bring all this information into the vehicle,” Patton said.

On the V2V front, the largest deployment of connected cars began in August 2012 with nearly 3000 vehicles involved in the U.S. DOT’s road test pilot program in Ann Arbor, MI. In February 2014, officials with the U.S. DOT and the NHTSA announced that the agencies will take steps to enable V2V communication technology for light-duty vehicles.

Game-changing technologies will alter the way consumers interact with those technologies, said Stephen Ridella, Director of Applied Vehicle Safety Research, NHTSA. “Government and industry need to explain to the customer what the safety proposition is and also what the limitations are with devices.”

As V2V, V2I, and vehicle connectivity evolve, testing procedures will evolve.

“We need to do something different with respect to crash avoidance and crash worthiness and computer models,” Ridella said. "It’s going to be much more complex. Cyber security might be a process-type of regulation vs. a performance-based regulation. These are some very challenging things for us to think about.”

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