June 18, 2015

Building a Bridge for a Mobility Power Trip 

By Christopher Andrews, Leader, Emerging Technologies

Today’s cars and trucks are on a power trip – with an increasing need for more features and functions.

Driver assistance systems … automated modes … convenience features … and connectivity to personal devices, the outside world and the cloud – all consume energy. Inside automobiles, this hunger for power takes the form of electronic control units (ECUs). Traditionally, every electronic function—such as infotainment, navigation, instrument displays or driver assist systems—has required a separate ECU with increasing processing power to direct its operation.

Until recently, microprocessors weren’t capable of handling multiple functions. Now, with consumers demanding more electronic features in their rides, new cars have been devouring ECUs as rapidly as they can be installed. It’s not unusual for new vehicles to house 100 microprocessors – and that number is expected to reach 200 by 2020.

Modern mobility vehicles are one of the most complex products on the globe, integrating up to 100 million lines of software code; that figure will likely double in the next 10 years. In view of this increasing complexity, it is imperative that progress take place intelligently.  The industry must effectively manage the cognitive load, and work within the situational awareness limitations of the vehicle and its environment.

So how does the auto industry address the power tripping issues noted above, and ensure development times keep pace with the consumer electronics industry? It’s a daunting task, but not insurmountable.  Since consumer devices last two to three years and the mobility/vehicle lifecycle is currently 11-12 years, the industry is looking at over-the-air software updates and hardware upgrades to keep pace with the consumer electronics industry.  

These solutions also need to reuse software assets and create products that do not need to be redesigned in order to implement the latest consumer wants and needs. Visteon has developed technology that consolidates the functions of two, four, eight or more ECUs by taking advantage of the tremendous increase in computing power of today’s microprocessors.

The SmartCore™ system uses Visteon-developed virtualization that allows a multicore SOC (system on chip) microprocessor to run many functions by splitting up the processor’s power for use by a variety of devices. At the nucleus of this virtualization technology is security, which is achieved by keeping the virtualization software code to a minimum and running multiple operating systems unmodified. This isolates safety-critical elements from non-critical elements and from the outside world.

SmartCore also uses a component modeling software architecture that is written in modules, like LEGO® blocks. This allows the same basic code elements to be used for all levels of vehicle design, with additional blocks of code inserted for luxury vehicles. Previously, entirely separate and unique code—100 million+ lines— needed to be written for low-, mid- and high-end cars.

Visteon SmartCore™

This challenging path for mobility provides the inspiration to innovate new and creative solutions. Domain controller architecture solutions such as SmartCore will serve as a foundation for exciting vehicle experiences that enable drivers to be more productive and relaxed in connected and autonomous vehicles.

Christopher Andrews is leader of emerging technologies at Visteon Corporation. Since joining Visteon in 2000, he has served in various roles, from engineering, program management and business development to his present position. His responsibilities include identifying and developing the next generation of connected vehicles, fusion and mobility solutions. Key to these solutions is the seamless mobility experience that customers will expect in future vehicle environments.

March 12, 2015

How to Refresh Your Car While You Sleep
By Upton Bowden

Considering the speed, savings and ease that digital communications have brought to consumers and businesses, it’s frustrating that the task of updating software in vehicles has been a slow, expensive and often difficult process for both the auto industry and drivers:
  1. Manufacturers mail notices to tens of thousands of vehicle owners.
  2. Owners schedule an appointment with dealers.
  3. Owners drive the vehicles to the dealership, leaving them for new software to be installed.
  4. A technician physically connects a server to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port to download the update.
  5. The auto manufacturer receives a warranty bill from its dealers.

For a few fixes, such as a navigation system map update, automakers have been able to provide USB drives containing software, but that’s typically only for infotainment systems, and owners have to install these software updates themselves.

Fixing and upgrading software would be simplified if those steps could be reduced to two:
  1. Vehicle updates are pushed from the vehicle manufacturer’s server and downloaded to appropriate vehicles.
  2. The vehicle owner selects a few on-screen buttons including “accepting the software update” and identifies a good time to perform the update.

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) can do exactly that with LTE Multicast, a newly implemented feature of 4G wireless communications that uses Visteon’s Connected Vehicle Hub and Verizon LTE Multicast technology for automotive over-the-air software updates. LTE Multicast was initially intended to enable wireless carriers to broadcast video programming to millions of devices simultaneously over cellular networks.

Visteon looked at LTE Multicast with a different eye. We realized that LTE Multicast is an ideal distribution mechanism for vehicle software updates – critical for making the connected car a success. Each car or truck is essentially a listening device and LTE Multicast allows automakers to deliver over-the-air software updates, bug fixes and feature enhancements to all connected vehicles or a selection of vehicles concurrently. The simultaneous nature of Multicast means that network utilization is not impacted and the data cost is equivalent to a single data file.  Further, Multicast is uniquely suited for the automotive market since hardware activation is not a requirement to receive broadcast content.  A typical telematics control unit (TCU) requires wireless account activation before it can be utilized; such activation occurs when the consumer takes ownership of a vehicle.

Visteon invented the back end of this system—the Connected Vehicle Hub—which works in much the same way as iTunes for mobile phones. The Hub is a Web portal tool where an OEM representative manages the download for distribution. The OEM can decide when to send them and to which vehicles—by model year, trim level or even by VIN.

Until now, there has been no way to do this with the telematics control modules or wireless gateway modules in most vehicles. Updates through TCUs had to be performed one car at a time, and each of those downloads was an independent transaction on the OEM's wireless bill. Imagine sending a one-gigabyte update to 10,000 cars and being charged for every byte, 10,000 times! LTE Multicast sends that one-gigabyte of data to all the cars instantaneously, with a one-time charge by the carrier based on the actual broadcast file size.

LTE Multicast updates often will be delivered over the air while vehicle owners sleep. They’ll install automatically or at a convenient time, indicated by the driver. LTE Multicast is equally useful before a new vehicle even is delivered to the buyer. As each car rolls off the assembly line, its telematics module will receive an electronic program guide, similar to the scheduled-recordings menu on your home DVR. The guide can tell the car:  Every Thursday at 4 a.m. for the next three months, wake up and listen for a broadcast. If you hear it, accept the download. If it’s not there, go back to sleep.

For vehicles on the assembly plant’s or dealer’s lot that must be updated to fix a newly discovered issue, this simple, simultaneous updating replaces the current practice of going to each car and manually installing the software—a huge undertaking with thousands of hours for a large “Yard Campaign”. 

LTE Multicast also can reduce complexity. Instead of manufacturing multiple versions of a vehicle, each with different infotainment or powertrain calibrations, assembly plants can build them with the same hardware and then simply broadcast different software to each model segment. The same goes for emissions software. Using GPS, LTE Multicast can pick out the vehicles that require software to meet California’s emissions regulations and separately find and download different software for the high-altitude conditions in Colorado.

LTE Multicast can deliver substantial cost savings to manufacturers, increase brand loyalty for dealers and enable consumers to keep their vehicles current. It’s a prime example of finally bringing the best of digital communications to a process that until now has been stuck in the slow lane. 

This video shows how Visteon adapted LTE Multicast to demonstrate the benefits of sending software updates to an entire set of vehicles simultaneously.

Upton Bowden is an electronics marketing and portfolio planning manager at Visteon, responsible for identifying innovative concepts and developing compelling automotive applications.

February 20, 2015

Technology at Mobile World Congress Will Energize the Next-Generation Connected Car

By Martin Green

Now that most of us are comfortable with 4G LTE communications, which is no more than five years old, it’s time to start preparing for 5G – the fifth generation of wireless technology. It’s about to change our lives significantly, because it will allow us to interconnect nearly every electronic device we use, especially the technologies in our cars.

The capabilities of 5G will be a particularly exciting focal point of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona during the first week of March. This new generation of powerful wireless systems is designed to facilitate the Internet of Things (IoT) by furnishing multiple connections to distribute data, instead of relying on just the one connection at a time.

Innovations like connected cars will rely on 5G functionality, which is why we’ll be showcasing both Visteon’s traditional telematics interfaces and our vision for connectivity gateway solutions in Barcelona. Within that vision, we’re looking at innovations like Verizon’s LTE Multicast (applied in the automotive industry for the first time with the Visteon Connected Vehicle Hub), which lets mobile broadcasters send video, messages, software, firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates, telematics content and other information to multiple vehicles or other receivers simultaneously.

At MWC we’ll be eager to move beyond traditional telematics control units to demonstrate the Visteon Wireless Gateway, which is designed to manage and connect with multiple external wireless carriers such as cellular, Wi-Fi, global positioning systems (GPS) and dedicated short-range communications (DSRC).  It does so while providing a high-integrity connection to the car and services to its occupants as the vehicle drives through an ever-changing external wireless environment.

The Wireless Gateway is designed to function as an integral part of the map to the IoT and is crucial to supporting the multiple interfaces that 5G enables – including the distribution of data from vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) and within vehicles.

One of the interesting connected car dilemmas emerging from multi-path data distribution involves basic account management for consumers. With the neighbor’s kids in the back seat sharing data with your spouse in the front, and with passing cars using bandwidth to communicate with your vehicle, how do we determine who pays for which data? We’re likely to see more industry alliances forming to lay out easier-to-manage billing plans.

MWC participants will also be debating how more spectrums for wireless can best be obtained from the “digital dividend” provided by channels once dedicated to analogue television and the use of white space between TV and radio channels. Any way you look at it, the demand for data on the move is insatiable, and we’ll need to provide more room for it.

Automakers and Tier 1 suppliers will be challenged in the years ahead to collaborate ever more closely with the mobile network industry for solutions that are both backward and forward compatible. This will help ensure that next generation of connected vehicles will remain capable and current as the wireless environment evolves. 

During his 22- year career in the automotive industry, Martin Green has held a number of positions including roles in advanced systems engineering with a focus on hybrid and fuel economy technologies and marketing manager for Visteon electronics. In his current role as a technology planning manager, Martin is responsible for analyzing global technology trends and customer needs to identify and bring to market next-generation connectivity solutions.