The future of automotive connectivity, which entails the further integration of automotive and consumer electronics as well as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, was discussed at a Driving Connected technology briefing seminar at the annual SEMA (Specialty Equipment Market Association) Show in Las Vegas.
Paramount for that connectivity to occur is open architectures, stressed John Waraniak, SEMA Vice President of Vehicle Technology and organizer/moderator of the session.
“It has to be driven by open architectures, particularly from an aftermarket perspective,” he said. “The best architectures recognize that the best app may not have been developed yet, so how will that app be integrated into your architecture?”
A manifestation at the SEMA Show of all the talk about integration was a collaborative project vehicle built by American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) and the Automotive Electronics Connectivity Committee (AECC), on display to demonstrate what is possible today with connectivity when aftermarket companies are invited to the vehicle-development party.
“By working together with automakers and consumer electronics companies, the AECC and specialty equipment aftermarket can help accelerate the deployment, commercialization, and acceptance of onboard-vehicle, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), and vehicle-to-roadside connectivity,” said Waraniak.
That drastic acceleration of the life cycle—regardless of the technology—is why aftermarket companies need to be included in the push for connected vehicles, he added. “Whether it’s beamed in, built in, or brought in, [consumers] want that seamless integration in this type of [cool-looking] vehicle. If we wait for the automakers just to do it themselves, we’re going to be out to the year 2030.”
Waraniak believes that the deployment of VII (Vehicle Infrastructure Integration, but now called IntelliDrive) for all new vehicles, for example, would move up 12 years to 2018 with aftermarket involvement. “The innovation has to come first,” he stressed. “If we try to standardize first, we’ll never get there. Get [the technology] out there and standards will come.”
The AECC Phase I Project Vehicle is based on a 2009 AEV Expedition Package Jeep Wrangler with a 5.7-L Hemi engine and products, services, and technologies provided by more than 15 AECC member companies and integrated by InstallerNet. Aftermarket content for the project vehicle includes Autonet Mobile internet, Sprint MiFi, Jenson Bluetooth, vehicle CAN and OBD-II networks, Mobileye collision warning, and Kicker performance amplifier and speakers.
“Many of the products we’ve added are not just integrated point-to-point but also seamlessly talk with the communication buses found in the vehicle to assure safe and reliable use of both the product and the vehicle’s pre-existing features,” said Kris Bulla, InstallerNet President and COO.
“This project enhances public awareness of the spectrum technologies ranging from haptic input touch screens to real-time transmitted output metrics for today’s marketplace,” said Mike Blicher, Director of Business Development, Immersion Corp., and Co-Chair of the AECC, which was created by SEMA and the Consumer Electronics Association in October 2007.
Plans beyond this first project vehicle include a Phase 2 vehicle to be shown at the Consumer Electronics Show in January; another iteration at SAE Convergence 2010 in October, which will complement what the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is doing in terms of V2V and vehicle-to-roadside connectivity; and a future test center at the Michigan International Speedway to prove out the vehicles and technologies.
“In Michigan, we don’t care which technology it is; we don’t care whether it’s Wi-Fi or WiMAX or DSRC (dedicated short-range communications) or 3G or 4G—we want it to work, soon. And we know there are technologies out there that we can leverage today,” MDOT Program Manager Greg Krueger said during the SEMA technology seminar.
Michigan, following this “technology agnostic” approach, is trying to build a “connected vehicle incubator” to support the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) IntelliDrive initiative, Krueger said, by establishing education and training, R&D, and business opportunities, with the necessary test beds, infrastructure, and funding to accelerate deployment.
IntelliDrive replaces the VII model, which focused on DSRC for production vehicles only.
With each successive phase of the AECC project vehicle, “we’re going to be showing the evolution of hand-carried devices and the evolution of the embedded elements that layer on top of OEM architectures,” Blicher explained. “When we start getting more toward Detroit [for Convergence], you’re going to see more of the tiered suppliers—Denso and Visteon, for example, will be major players.
“We want the cowboy spirit of SEMA but also the discipline of SAE,” he added. “So we’re working closely with SAE, talking about what are those standards coming out? We want to make [the vehicle] legal and make it right.”
Making connected vehicles safe is another concern. “We certainly encourage aftermarket retrofit opportunities to bring benefits to bear sooner; however, driver distraction is a huge issue and one that we have to be very careful about,” said Michael Schagrin, Program Lead, ITS Joint Program Office, Research and Innovative Administration, U.S. DOT. The key, he said, is to enable innovators within the construct of, it’s got to be safe and not distract the driver.
From the V2V perspective, DOT is moving toward a regulatory decision point in 2013 that all vehicles would have technology and applications for V2V safety, Schagrin noted. “Our research program is instructed to make sure we have all of our standards, all the policies in place, the human-factors issues addressed, and in 2013, NHTSA will be making the decision on whether to regulate vehicle-to-vehicle safety,” he said.