Viewpoint: Can wireless power relieve the looming telematics cable crunch?

Viewpoint: Can wireless power relieve the looming telematics cable crunch?

Cars are increasingly connected to the outside world, thanks to embedded modems, telematics devices and wireless connections. But inside the vehicle, it's a different story.

Everything from sensors to cameras to computing units is still wired together, which has OEMs in a quandary.

They want to load up their cars to make them smarter and more appealing, but connecting all these systems adds a different kind of load, in the form of heavy – and expensive – cabling.

Less cabling

In general, the devices, sensors and instruments around the vehicle each require two power cables and two data cables.

Using a wireless power system, all these power and data cables could be replaced by one single cable, carrying data and power, traveling throughout the vehicle and connecting wirelessly with all those devices, sensors and instruments.

Wireless power is already familiar, thanks to wireless charging pads for mobile devices. In the automotive sector, GM has said it will offer wireless charging for mobile devices inside its vehicles.

But advances in the wireless transmission of electrical energy now have the potential to do much more, replacing most of the electrical and data cables in the car. The result could be reductions in materials costs and assembly, as well as more efficient design.

Wireless power systems make use of resonant magnetic induction to deliver electrical power and data at levels ranging from 50mW to 1 kilowatt.

In a proof-of-concept project for an automotive tier 1, we will replace somewhere between ten and 30 meters of cabling. And, if this application is adopted and moved into production, several times this much cabling will be eliminated.

Flexible design

In addition to the sheer cost of materials and installation, this single-cable system would allow much more flexibility in the design of the car's electrical infrastructure and the body itself. For example, a car's door would not need to support the thick bundle of cables typical of modern vehicles.

Wireless power also could enable new features and functions within the vehicle, as well as removing some engineering challenges. For example, enabling wireless power for backseat screens would eliminate the need for hard wiring them into the dashboard. This would make it easier to swap out infotainment devices or to enable other kinds of devices.

Providing wireless power to locations that move, such as front seats or headrests, has another advantage in eliminating the stress caused by that movement.

A wireless power connection between a trailer and a car would eliminate the need to plug in cables for the turn signals, which are prone to damage and corrosion, while making the hitching process much easier.

The challenges

There certainly are challenges for any OEM or tier 1 that contemplates incorporating wireless power. Each supplier would need to modify its components and devices to accommodate wireless power. This shift could take several model years to accomplish.

The intermediate step between full wireless power and the current full load of cables is to enable one self-contained subsystem made by one supplier. For example, parking assistance systems, either factory-installed or retrofit, could be more easily integrated into other automotive systems via wireless power.

While we are at an early stage in the development of applications for wireless power in telematics, the time to start thinking about innovative ways to connect more devices inside the car is now.

Fady Mishriki is a co-founder and EVP at PowerbyProxi.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Consumer Telematics Show 2014 on Jan. 6 in Las Vegas, Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2014 on March 12-13 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Content and Apps for Automotive Europe 2014 on April 8-9 in Munich, Germany, Telematics Detroit 2014 on June 4-5 in Novi, Michigan, and V2X and Auto Safety USA 2014 on July 8-9 in Novi, Michigan.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: Telematics Connectivity Strategies Report 2013The Automotive HMI Report 2013Insurance Telematics Report 2013 and Fleet & Asset Management Report 2012.

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