Motoring toward a connected world
With 14 billion minutes of driving time every day in Europe, getting connected in the car is a priority for consumers and businesses. We look at some of the automotive communications issues that are driving the industry.
Communications is a hot topic for the automotive sector. It can improve driver safety, reduce accidents and traffic congestion and even allow tech-hungry consumers to stay in touch on the move. Drivers spend up to three hours a day in their cars in America and want to remain connected, with access to their familiar applications and content.
How can drivers stay connected? One solution is to embed connectivity modules in the car so that it essentially acts as the user’s phone. However, the automotive development cycle is up to 10 times longer than the IT industry’s, and the average age of passenger cars in the EU has actually lengthened recently to 7.5 years. Alternative solutions might be easier to retrofit. These include tethering the driver’s own phone as a modem for vehicle applications, or integrating the user’s smartphone and apps into the car.
For example, BMW offers smartphone integration with stripped down versions of Facebook and Twitter so drivers can stay in touch with friends and followers. This includes updated travel-specific information, such as time to destination, and what music they are listening to in the car. The use of text-to-speech (TTS) and speech recognition is crucial in bringing a safer smartphone interface to the car.
connected by 2025
The GSMA believes that in the long-run all cars will have their own dedicated network connection, but acknowledges that there are still considerable barriers. “Consumers are reluctant to pay the additional cost associated with embedded connectivity and instead view their smartphones as the solution to many of their in-car connectivity needs,” it says in the GSMA 2025 Every Car Connected report.
However, it says that the market will move toward embedded connectivity, driven by increasing government mandates for safety, more attractive network pricing (such as shared data plans) and decoupling of apps from the phone into the cloud.
In-car telematics can also help keep cars running smoothly. Sensors are able to relay information back to manufacturers or other service centers to alert them that the car has a problem that could lead to a breakdown. They can then get the car fixed before the problem escalates.
One of the biggest safety-related pushes for automotive connectivity is eCall, which uses in-car communications to initiate an emergency call either manually or on a trigger, such as airbag release. It uses GPS to geo-locate the call and sends this information to a contact center. The agent tries to speak to the vehicle occupants and sends emergency services if required or if there is no answer. Because emergency services has the exact location and nature of the incident, they are able to reach the scene more quickly and more prepared.
The EU wants to make eCall mandatory on all new cars by 2015 and estimates that it would save 2,500 lives a year. Advocates of embedded connectivity say that in the event of an accident, victims should not have to rely on their own phones to provide this connectivity. The phone could be damaged or off, for example, whereas an embedded solution is designed to withstand a crash.
looking toward accident prevention
While much driver safety work has been done around reducing the impact of an accident, the next push in the automotive industry has been around accident prevention. In France, Orange is using anonymized location information from cell phones to spot traffic problems.
“By monitoring mobile phone movements, we can see if devices are slowing down and alert oncoming drivers that a jam is ahead,” says Samuel Loyson, Head of Connected Cars, Orange Business Services. In addition to providing advance warning of stationary traffic, the system can help route cars around traffic problems. Orange is also working on a direct car-to-car telecommunication system that can warn a driver about a car braking in front of them.
Cell phone data can help prevent traffic jams. Research from MIT suggests that canceling the trips of some very specific drivers in certain neighborhoods could have a significant impact on traffic flow. It claims that just one percent of these drivers could reduce overall travel time for all other drivers by 18 percent.
Improving information about parking can also cut unnecessary traffic congestion because drivers go around in circles looking for spaces. “We provide smart parking solutions that can help cut traffic congestion significantly,” explains Loyson. “We give drivers the ability to locate available parking spots and pay with their smartphones. This can cover both underground and on-street parking where we can use street sensors to show them where there is likely to be parking spaces.”
Communications can help improve the whole traveling experience. Orange is a member of ERTICO, which looks at Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) that improve overall multimodal transport.
“The considerable evolution of the network technology and also mobile devices over last decade has allowed us to build on top of the connectivity, new data services like pedestrian navigation, traffic information or public transportation information for smarter mobility,” explains Dr Stéphane Petti, Business Development Manager, Orange Business Services.
For example, a driver could identify a traffic jam on their route, divert to a train station, park, catch a train across town, and then use a shared car at the destination. All the ticketing, parking and booking could be handled by the application, with the details all sent to the driver’s smartphone.
Although this vision of a future where connectivity powers intelligent transport systems is still some way off, communications networks are already well on their way to transforming the automotive industry.
Orange and automotive
Orange is involved across the automotive value chain and is already helping realize many of these visions. Notable areas, projects and capabilities include:
- embedded connectivity solutions with major European automotive manufacturers
- M2M infrastructure, devices and connectivity to power automotive applications
- fleet management to help companies manage their fleets more effectively by optimizing routes and vehicle usage
- eco-driving applications to help drivers save fuel by changing driving habits, such as minimizing braking and acceleration
- real-time traffic information that uses anonymized mobile phone data to identify traffic congestion
- infotainment with application partners such as Deezer and Dailymotion to deliver content into drivers’ cars
- smart parking applications to help drivers identify parking spaces and pay with their smartphones
- cloud computing infrastructure to support connected car data processing