Creating consistency in the European telematics market

Creating consistency in the European telematics market

Consistency across the European market—with all its different countries and languages and, in some cases, currencies—makes the region perhaps one of the more difficult for telematics. Two of the biggest challenges are the cost of introducing infrastructure and back office payments and creating consistent technologies and systems across the European Union (EU). “It is essential [that] any telematics solution is pan-European and works across all [or at least] most EU member states and, of course, cost is always an issue,” says Dominique Bonte, director of Telematics and Navigation Research at ABI Research. In regard to costs, “Unless we can utilize the mobile network, the costs of implementing nationwide schemes are proving cost prohibitive to both the supplier and end user,” adds Alan Williams, director/consultant in the UK office of AutoGlobal Business Network Ltd, an automotive/ITS R&D consultancy.

Introducing consistent technologies and systems across the EU would have a huge impact on interoperability. “If you take the congestion charging debate, the biggest issues have been around having a suitable system that will be cost effective and use a single in-vehicle device to collect the fares,” says Giovanni Balli, director/consultant in the Brussels office of AutoGlobal Business Network Ltd. “While the actual roadside infrastructure can be different and use different suppliers and even technologies, it must interface with a common architecture in the vehicle,” adds Nick Clare, a UK-based consultant with telematics experience.

Standards are potentially the solution for both the cost issue and the issue of technological consistency. The Next Generation Telematics Protocols (NGTP), supported by BMW, Connexis, and WirelessCar, is one approach to standards. NGTP’s developers have established six objectives to impact both cost and consistency: Provide a technology-neutral protocol and consistent user interface for telematics services; reduce barriers to collaboration and implementation; enable adoption of new technologies as they come online; support legacy systems for connectivity throughout the service life of a vehicle; gain wide acceptance and encourage innovation through an open approach; and increase the value proposition for vehicle manufacturers, service providers, content providers, and motorists.

Setting up standards is one thing; getting everyone to agree to them is another. “While in theory, standards address both issues, history has shown that obtaining official agreement on standards is very difficult and causes huge delays,” observes ABI’s Bonte. “It is rare that voluntary consensus is reached within the industry as there are always too many conflicting interests.” Bonte suggests that one or more major players pushing ahead with a proprietary solution, which then evolves into a de facto standard, often make the most progress. Based on the support of BMW and others, this is what could potentially happen with NGTP. “The main benefit of NGTP is its open nature allowing OEMs to source telematics systems from different suppliers while still maintaining compatibility,” Bonte continues. “This will increase competition and lower prices, essential conditions for telematics to reach mass market adoption.” NGTP is, however, not the only standard that could address the cost and consistency issues.

The GENIVI Alliance is an open source standardization initiative currently targeting in-vehicle infotainment (IVI). The California-based alliance consists of global carmakers and tier one suppliers, as well as semiconductor, software and mobile phone companies. The alliance is pursuing the broad adoption of an IVI reference platform to reduce development cycles, time-to-market and costs. Another standard being developed specifically by European stakeholders is eCall, part of the European Commission’s eSafety Initiative to improve emergency notification when an accident occurs. Bonte notes that the EU has proposed standards for the eCall project in terms of the communication protocol and transmitted data formats backed my major standardization organizations.

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