July 28, 2015

Automaker-Specific Apps Can Co-Exist With Those of Tech Giants
Integrated app that perfectly positions car in garage is just one example

By Brian Brackenbury
Senior Manager, Infotainment & Connectivity

There was a time – albeit brief – when businesses and consumers thought the Internet was just a fad. The same attitude existed regarding social media in its early days. When the iPad was introduced, many people just scratched their heads over why they needed one. Today, no one doubts the importance and potential impact of the latest tech revolution – IoT (Internet of Things). For the first time, developers and consumers are tying together not just virtual worlds but also real, physical things – allowing these objects to communicate and interact with each other.

The Internet of Things is making new connections inside cars and trucks – which is where Visteon innovations surrounding smartphone apps can be found. Today’s infotainment systems can replicate your smartphone’s content onto displays inside your vehicle. What they have not been able to do is combine information from your phone with data from your vehicle to make driving smarter and to provide real-time feedback based on where and how the car is operating. Now that’s all changing.

Visteon’s latest innovation allows automakers to offer their own specific apps that take advantage of vehicle data. Utilizing a new cloud-based app framework, jointly developed with OpenCar, Smartphone app developers can easily migrate their existing apps into OEM-specific vehicles, and take advantage of the wealth of data available to the typical connected infotainment system.

To illustrate the added capability that this type of connection can offer, Visteon worked with Chamberlain to integrate and enhance its MyQ™ smartphone app into a production Infotainment system. MyQ™ currently allows drivers who are away from their homes to determine if the garage door was left open and, if so, to close it remotely. Visteon has developed an app that can combine data from the garage door and vehicle, as well as OEM-specific graphics and HMI, resulting in the vehicle-integrated MyQ™ Garage app.

The MyQ™ Garage app has vehicle-unique features, such as Park Assist.  This feature allows a driver to perfectly position a car in the garage, forgoing the old fashioned tennis ball strung from the rafters. As the car enters the garage, the front tires cross the opener’s floor-level safety beam. Vehicle wheel sensors count the revolutions and relay data to the app showing a real-time graphic on the central display, simulating the car’s position and where to stop. As the system is used, it learns the preferred parking location.

Another example of this technology’s usefulness involves geo-fencing. Within an owner’s Web portal, a driver creates a virtual fence around his or her home. As the vehicle passes this virtual fence, the vehicle navigation system is triggered to check if the garage door is open. If it is, a message is automatically shown on the car’s display, asking if the driver wants to close the door.

Such detailed real-time feedback is not possible with standard smartphone apps, or their in-vehicle screen replication counterparts, such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink. While these are all proven ecosystems, that are an everyday convenience for most smartphone users—they do not offer the consumer the complete set of capabilities.

Visteon is committed to giving automakers and consumers the content and features they desire in their vehicles. OEM-specific app stores can co-exist with the current Tech Giants, providing connected apps that inject the hidden intelligence within the vehicle into apps for a new level of smart driving.

Demonstration of the Connected Services: Application Ecosystem

Brian Brackenbury is a senior manager in the Technology Office, leading new business pursuits for infotainment, connectivity and telematics. Prior to his current role, Brian led the global engineering activity to launch the MazdaConnect infotainment system, as well as leading core platform development for the connectivity domain. He received his BSEE from Michigan State University and his MSEE degree from the University of Michigan.

July 8, 2015

Anticipating Trends Today for Products Tomorrow

By Stephan Preussler 

Understanding consumer trends is an often overlooked, yet very critical, consideration for automakers and suppliers during the product development stage. Awareness of trends is essential to delivering products that meet the unknown but anticipated demands of existing and future consumers.

To fully grasp what future consumers may want, an analysis of change processes and trends (inside and outside the auto industry) is required. To predict the shape of the world for years to come, researchers consider the view through the lens of social, technological, economic, environmental and political grounds (“STEEP”). This allows them to anticipate what consumers will want before those desires reveal themselves.

The purpose of advanced trend analysis is to take advantage of what’s occurring in this fast-moving world and to capitalize on it — or at least avoid being caught unaware by it – thus adopting a mindset to better prepare for the future. Such analysis incorporates various tools that can interpret signals and visualize possible scenarios – always with the caveat that no tool can guarantee to predict the future accurately.

The automotive industry is transitioning into a new age of mobility. Previously, mobility mainly encompassed motorized individual transport, but today we can decide which means of mobility may be the better choice – mainly due to two developments:

  1. Digitalization – This has spawned the creation of traffic data universes to manage mobility. Systems assess participants, locations, speeds and mediums used. Localization, detection and real-time processing have transformed traffic into a spontaneous self-controlling system.
  2. Technology – This has created an increased awareness about alternative transport options never available before. This includes varying drivetrains (e.g. electric or fuel-cell vehicles) as well as the wider use of a variety of mobility services (e.g. ride sharing and Uber) that are transport medium neutral without being fixed to specific modes of mobility. Before, during and after transit, users receive real-time recommendations how to most efficiently reach their destinations.

As a result, lifestyles become more sustainable – and we know from research that consumers do not want to be less mobile, but more intelligently mobile. In the near future transportation options will be more attractive, because of technology and the variety of mobility services it offers. Consequential outcomes are new business models such as the transformation of the auto industry from a vehicle manufacturer to a mobility services provider.

The car no longer is an isolated function as it serves several purposes. Vehicles will be permanently online – sending and receiving data. Connectivity allows the implementation of new features – such as display styles, interactions and user recognition (personalization) – so the ever-more important rich user experience becomes possible.

Upgradeability is another current industry challenge driven by customer expectations – which in turn is defined by the constant stream of upgrades typical of the digital ecosystem (smartphones, for instance). Architectures and platforms are required to perform these updates, upgrades and enhancements. This explains the changing landscape of the auto industry, with collaborations springing up that involve non-traditional suppliers from other industries.

Gaining an early awareness of trends, and applying that insight in the product development process is necessary to meet constantly changing market and consumer demands. This understanding of future consumer desires – and the dynamics of the automotive market-- is a key driver to remaining competitive.

Stephan Preussler is responsible for advanced trends analysis at Visteon. He has held various positions in marketing, innovation and concept vehicle builds during his 15-year career in the automotive industry.

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.