Harsh Russian winds stoke flames of technological innovation

Before the recent drop in the Russian automobile industry, Russia was a leader in global car production. While they produced cars all over the world, some technologies remained unique to Russia.

Technologies such as ERA GLONASS, a system of emergency response that can be compared to the European eCall initiatives.  However it has different requirements because of Russia’s climate. The telematics control units are already being installed on all new vehicles starting from January 2015. This is the first stage of implementing the system and requires a certification process that first tests the telematics control unit (TCU) and then the entire vehicle at the central research and development automobile and engine institute, NAMI.

“The start of the programme wasn’t entirely smooth,” explains Alex Leonov, the marketing director of Luxoft. “A major bottleneck was created by the certification process that threatened to delay the introduction of new models produced by Ford, Hyundai, Renault, Jaguar Land Rover and a few Chinese carmakers.”

Until July 2015, there was only one lab running that was authorised to certify the ERA GLONASS TCUs. ERA by Svyaz Sertifikat, the first lab, has already been booked until the end of 2015. The new lab, NIIR will speed up the process and as many as 25 other labs were offered to provide the certification services. According to Leonov, expanding the testing facilities should alleviate the situation.

“The Association of European Businesses (AEB) in Russia has been trying to mediate with the Government on behalf of business,” explains Leonov. “Jeorg Schreiber of Mazda Motor Rus, chairman of AEB’s AMC, proposed a transitional period.”

This proposal includes a simplified certification procedure, as well as acceptance of existing foreign certifications for ERA GLONASS devices. The proposal keeps in mind that in 2016, all commercial vehicles transporting passengers and hazardous cargo will require the system. Then by 2017, all new vehicles sold will require the TCUs. AEB had also suggested excluding vehicles with a small production of fewer than 150 units, as well as armoured cars, from the requirements.

“Apparently, Volkswagen Group supports the proposal, because of its Porsche, Bentley and Lamborghini luxury brands. It would not be economically feasible to invest in their adaptation and certification,” says Leonov. He points out that another solution is to move the adoption deadline by one year, as was the case with the Euro 4 emission standards. The European Parliament voted on 28 April to equip all new cars with eCall technology starting April 2018.

Although ERA GLONASS and eCall are fully harmonised and interoperable, there are several differences between them. GLONASS is the required GNSS for the ERA GLONASS, while eCall requires GPS/GALILEO. To increase accuracy, the TCUs are probably going to use multi-standard GNSS modules allowing an ERA GLONASS-equipped car in Russia to use both GLONASS and GPS signals.

As a backup, the ERA GLONASS is using an SMS backup channel. So if a call with an emergency centre operator cannot be established, a text message is sent instead. ERA GLONASS also has tougher technical parameters in comparison to eCall, including echo cancellation, noise reduction requirements, crash acceleration profile record and transmissions.

Dash cams are another example. Almost every car in Russia has a dash cam, while in Europe and America they are quite rare. The purpose of dash cams in Russia is predominantly to help drivers in accidents prove that they are not guilty. There are many producers and sellers of dash cams including Alibaba.com, a leading platform for global wholesale trade

Mfine and CONQUEROR are two suppliers who sell their products on Alibaba.com. According to them, around 10% of dash cams are sold to Russian customers. The most popular models among Russian customers are rear-view mirror dash cams. While currently these supplies don’t produce dash cams designed specifically for Russian customers, they say that it has been planned.

“Along with dash cams, remote engine start is very popular because of cold weather,” says Innokenty Belotsky, chairman of Bright Box and Cloud4Auto Ventures. “Some models of Nissan, Infinity and KIA which are equipped by our Remoto product can be managed remotely via smartphone app.”

Remoto can remotely start/stop the engine, open/close doors and trunk, activate the horn and control lights on a car. As well as controlling the temperature of the car, Remoto can track the location and route of the car and displays a status on whether the car is locked, hit or being towed. Remoto is not unique to Russia but certain functions are more sought out in Russia owing to the extreme weather conditions and driving requirements. 

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