Telematics and total system integration

Telematics and total system integration

While the sexy story is infotainment services—connecting the car to Twitter—there's a compelling safety story in networking the safety systems already in cars and the new ones being developed. Continental, for example, has introduced ContiGuard, a concept that will integrate active and passive safety systems, cameras, sensors, V2V and V2X communications, and the HMI. The goal of the technology, which continues to evolve, is to reduce accidents and damage.

Individual components of the system are already in use in the Volvo XC60. For example, the eCall function places an automatic emergency call that not only provides the location of the accident but also gives a time stamp and analysis of the damage.

"Most of the systems exist, but they are not communicating with each other," says Christian Schumacher, director, engineering system and technology, NAFTA for Continental. "Integration makes the car better. Connecting sensing to an actuator is where we see the future."

That is, networking the car's sensing systems with its chassis controls could improve safety without immediately wresting control from the driver. Connecting sensors in the front of the car with the brake control, for instance, allows a car to deliver stepped assistance to the driver, starting with an audible and/or haptic warning and progressing to automatic braking.

The more that's networked, the more safety options are available. In this scenario, if the car's sensors determine a crash is imminent, it could engage the power steering to attempt to steer away as well as ready the air bag for deployment.

Because the airbag is triggered only by crash sensors, this tactic could eliminate some of its lag in firing. "It’s a transition from active to passive safety, even if an accident is not avoided," Schumacher notes. In the full-blown ContiGuard approach, many more components would interact. As collision-warning systems engaged, they could turn off infotainment functions to reduce driver distraction.

Infotainment architecture

Nvidia is another company that wants to enable greater system integration within the car. As it works closely with tier 1s, Nvidia has found that there isn't a straightforward path.

"These are very sophisticated supercomputers going into the car now, pretty intricate systems," says Danny Shapiro, director, automotive division for Nvidia. The complexity necessitates automotive engineers working more closely than ever with engineers and programmers at their hardware and software suppliers.

But with that complexity comes opportunity, Shapiro points out: "These systems are all inter-related.” The Bluetooth-enabled phone, GPS, navigation system, dashboard and center software stack all could share information.

Nvidia is providing visual computing modules (VCM) that can act as the switchboard for information traveling among these systems and devices, regardless of whether it's shown on the display. A chip in the VCM could analyze information from a front-facing camera to determine whether the car is about to depart from its lane and then send an alert to the dashboard, the audio system, or a haptic motor in the seat or steering wheel.


Ford Motor Company uses automotive sensors to optimize driving, helping the car go in the direction the driver wants it to—even if his steering isn't optimal. The new Ford Escape’s intelligent all-wheel-drive system gathers data from 25 external signals—including wheel speed, accelerator pedal position, and steering wheel angle—to improve driving performance by readjusting the power split to give the driver the precise blend of handling and traction at all times.

(For more on V2X, see Q&A: For V2V Telematics, “Seeing is believing”, V2X telematics: Taking ADAS to the next level, Telematics and new V2V/V2X business models, Telematics and V2V: Costs versus benefits, Is there an aftermarket market for V2V telematics?, and Building a global market with V2X telematics.)

If, for example, the front of the vehicle is on ice and the rear is on pavement, the all-wheel-drive system can send all the torque the power train can produce to the rear, putting power where the driver needs it.

The all-wheel-drive system also integrates with the HMI, so the driver can see the power distribution displayed on a screen inside the dash. (For exclusive business insights on the future of the connected car, download TU’s Human Machine Interface Report 2012 Edition.)

Networked intelligence

In future, this same networked intelligence could be used to better optimize power use in hybrids, according to Jim Buczkowski, director of global electrical and electronics systems engineering for Ford. While today's systems typically use electricity when available and then switch to the gas engine when the charge runs out, this may not be the most efficient strategy, he points out.

"There may be a better combination, for example, a certain part of a particular drive should be electric rather than using all the electric charge up first and then relying on gas," Buczkowski says. Connecting the power train to an embedded navigation device and a real-time traffic service could allow the car to make the most efficient decision about when to use the internal combustion drive.

Eventually, the car's systems can also be integrated with external systems, such as intelligent charging stations for electric vehicles, Buczkowski says. The industry is exploring inductive charging as an alternative to the dedicated EV charging station, with pilot projects planned for Berlin and London. Ford's AutoPark system could be used to help accurately position the vehicle over an inductive charging pad.

Today, all these integrated communications are based on the CAN bus, and current CAN buses are able to handle the traffic. OEMs are moving toward multiple CAN buses in the auto, Continental's Schumacher says. Later on, he sees the FlexRay communications system, with its higher data transfer rate, becoming important, before the industry eventually moves to Ethernet.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

For more all the latest telematics trends, visit 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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