Customizing global telematics HMIs for local markets

Customizing global telematics HMIs for local markets

Standardization of components gives OEMs economies of scale that, at least theoretically, can trickle down to consumers, making telematics and infotainment offerings more attractive. But a global supply chain must be flexible to let OEMs tune these offerings to the needs, regulations, and affinities of consumers in different regions.

Some promising strategies are Web-based personalization, digital HMIs, and more robust in-car processing. (For more on customization, see Why Telematics Needs Better Consumer Marketing.)

The portal approach

Continental's first implementation of its AutoLinq concept was with Shanghai General Motors, a joint venture between General Motors and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation that manufactures and sells Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, and Opel brand automobiles in mainland China. Development was led by a Continental team based in Shanghai.

Brian Droessler, vice president of strategy and portfolio, infotainment and connectivity for Continental Automotive Systems,says that acting as a tier 1 in this case, relying on existing partners while forging new partnerships, allowed the company to create a product tailored to the Chinese consumer at a cost of approximately $200 to the OEM.

Key to the kind of personalization Continental wants to provide was the creation of a portal that lets drivers set up what features and data they want to receive in the car. This approach reduces the complexity of the car's HMI.

"Web portal personalization eliminates the need for a lot of menus in the car and tailors information to what you want,” Droessler says. " You just do it once. A simple user interface is a key point for us, bringing data to the car in a meaningful and safe way."

He acknowledges a downside to the Shanghai Motors implementation: It uses the mobile phone as the modem:"If you forget the phone, you don't have the functionality."

Nissan is taking a similar approach for the Leaf electric vehicle, according to Leo McCloskey, vice president of marketing for Airbiquity, which, with Hitachi Automotive Systems, provides the connected services platform for the Leaf. In the case of the Leaf, an iPhone app will be available in local languages. As necessary, regions or countries will have local-language Web portals and deliver unique map data and regional news feeds.

"The Leaf has localization rather than personalization," McCloskey notes. "It has distinctions in both content and language for Japan, the United States and the European market. Also, the service stack is a bit different in each of the regions. We normalize all of that for Nissan and enable the Leaf to be a global vehicle customized to each market."

The digital display

Many automakers already are previewing digital HMIs, which, of course, allow for almost complete flexibility in the display. McCloskey sees the entire instrument cluster going digital by 2015. At that time, he sees personalization taking place on a Web portal and linked to an individual's smartphone as an identifier.

First, the driver will go through a registration process via a Web portal, providing the smartphone number as well as information such as insurance carrier, favorite navigation or other apps, what regions the car travels in. This could also extend to personalization of the look and feel of the display.

"When an individual gets into a car, regardless of where they are, because of the phone number, the vehicle recognizes you and your language," he explains. "You have a service profile of x, and no matter where you are, it loads that into the vehicle."

(For more on HMIs and smartphones, download TU’s Human Machine Interface Report 2012 Edition and In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report.)

QNX based its new QNX CAR 2 application platform on HTML5, which offers designers the ability to code one application that can be delivered to multiple form factors. (For more on HTML5, see Telematics and the next-generation Web.)

A digital, HTML5-based display would allow for visual customization of such things as icons, color schemes, and design motifs, but that's not all. OEMs also could customize the services themselves, according to Andrew Poliak, director of business development for QNX.

"You can adjust the service quite considerably based on different triggers, such as different distraction rules and different cognitive load capabilities in different countries," he says.

For example, South Korean taxi drivers are permitted to have digital television beamed into their cabs while they're driving. HTML5 allows the maker of the infotainment system to use the vehicle's movement to turn off a dash-mounted screen in most autos, while leaving it on for autos rolling in South Korea.

Processing power

The more customization for local markets, the bigger the drain can be on the in-car systems. QNX says its operating system can help address this by separating the global core functions from localized services and content. QNX already has shipped software systems for manufacturers including Audi and BMW with the same basic platform and operating system that is then modified for different markets.

QNX's Adaptive Partitioning will allow automakers to customize services for different markets without changing the system shipped by the tier 1. "QNX is a modular-based operating system that lets you build firewalled sections, so that you can enhance the software without modifying the core components," Poliak says.

One customer wanted to use a second tier 1 to localize the infotainment system created by its original tier 1 for Asia. However, the first tier 1 refused to give the second access to its source code.

As a result, the second tier 1 had trouble getting its software to run well because the first was using so much processing power. So, the second used Adaptive Partitioning to constrain the processing demands of software components that weren't useful for the Asian market. This freed up CPU cycles for the second tier 1’s software.

Nvidia says its high-powered Tegra chips will allow OEMs to produce digital displays that change on the fly, reacting to road conditions or driver behavior.

Nvidia recently announced that Audi will use its Tegra3 mobile processor to power in-vehicle infotainment systems and digital instrument clusters across its full line of vehicles beginning in 2013. Both will use Nvidia's Visual Computing Modules, computer subsystems equipped with processors, memory and IO controllers, designed specifically for automotive applications.

"They are essentially computers within the car that enable automakers to develop their own look and feel, but also customize as they see fit," says Danny Shapiro, director, automotive division for Nvidia.

OEMs will be able to change the look and feel of the display for different markets—and much more, according to Shapiro. The processing power can render 3D graphics on the fly, rather than having to store them in memory.

For example, if a car door is open, the display could generate a model of the car showing which door was open, instead of having to select from pre-stored models of every possible configuration of a door ajar. It could similarly generate other indicators or warnings to meet local regulations or cultural standards.

Drivers themselves could even make design decisions, perhaps personalizing the ‘skin’ of the display in the same way they do for some computer desktop applications. Or, the automaker could offer a selection of design themes.

"It could be a lot of fun and a good way for car companies to differentiate and attract a younger demographic," Shapiro says.

Even with these new tactics for so-called glocalization, McCloskey notes, "We see the future as being technically less complex, but the volume creating more complexity in management."

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more all the latest telematics trends, check out Content & Apps for Automotive 2012 on April 18-19 in Germany, Insurance Telematics Europe 2012 on May 9-10 in London, Telematics Detroit 2012 on June 6-7, and Insurance Telematics USA 2012 in September in Chicago.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports on In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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