Tag Archive for IntelliDrive

Auto Tech

The self-interests of the auto industry and the electronics industry have aligned. The automobile has become the ultimate mobile computing platform. The car makers and OEMs have begun competing to add better Internet-computing applications. These are some of the most interesting tome.

Ford Seeks to Make Cars That Talk to Each Other

Ford Xconomy Detroit reports that Ford Motor Company (F) based in Dearborn, MI is designing vehicle-to-vehicle communication systems designed to prevent accidents. Ford’s “intelligent” vehicles can wirelessly transmit data between each other, such as location, speed, proximity, and brake status. Guided by sensors and cameras, the system can alert drivers to nearby accidents, or signal if they risk colliding with another vehicle at an intersection. “It’s like having a 360 degree pair of eyes,” says Mike Shulman, technical leader for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.

Ford’s goal is to have intelligent cars on the road by 2016. “We kind of like to get it out as soon as we can,” Mr. Shulman says. CBS News reports that Ford’s demonstration vehicles will hit the road this spring, starting at major technology hubs across the country.

Ford’s work is part of an effort spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Transportation called IntelliDrive (Which I first wrote about in 2009). IntelliDrive’s goal is to develop a common communications platform for all vehicles to talk to each other, using 3G and 4G broadband technologies. IntelliDrive also envisions building infrastructure across the country that allows cars to “communicate” with roads, highways, and bridges, exchanging information on traffic patterns, road conditions, and weather. “IntelliDrive will help drivers bypass congestion, and it will reduce crashes by providing advanced safety warnings,” according to a report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), a research group based in Ann Arbor, MI. “It will even be able to take over the vehicle when there is not enough time for the driver to react.”

Eventually, the technology could lead to cars that drive themselves, Mr. Shulman says. Google (GOOG) is already testing such a car.

Microsoft Wants to Be in Your Car

Microsoft Logo Ron Miller at Internet Evolution recently posted an article that shows how Microsoft‘s (MSFT) reputation in the Auto industry has changed. Several years ago, there was a joke being emailed around about would happen if Microsoft built cars the way it built Windows. At the 2011 CeBIT technology fair, there were a number of examples of Microsoft in cars according to Mr. Miller.

The author points out that MSFT was showing off a Microsoft-centric, fully electric Smart Car with its control center as an app on your Windows 7 phone and not on the dash. The WP7 devices would display metrics such as the amount of power left in your battery, the expected distance you can travel for the amount of power on your battery, even the distances based on current battery life that are safe to reach, possible to reach, and questionable — all color coded on a Bing map. Since it’s a phone the car can be monitored from anywhere there is a cell signal.

The Internet Evolution article points out a second example of bringing Microsoft to the car. At CeBIT, Ford (F) CEO Alan Mulally was touting Ford SYNC, powered by Microsoft, the communications solution now being installed in Ford cars. Mr. Mulally wants to see the Ford automobiles be the “ultimate mobile device” according to the article.

Mr. Mulally described a system based on Microsoft’s next-gen unified communications product Lync using Nuance (NAUN) voice recognition to enable users to interact with the car and the mobile telephone sitting in the car’s cradle via voice commands, letting drivers keep both hands on the wheel while accessing features. It will also eventually offer direct access to emergency services, not a call center as with GM’s (GM) OnStar service.

Mr. Mulally says Ford made a conscious decision not to embed the Microsoft Lync system with the car’s other systems. He was careful to point out that the systems that run the car are separated from Lync by a firewall. The author says that most of us who have used Microsoft software appreciate that separation and continues I don’t think we are ready to go there just yet.

Automakers Want Vehicles Talk to Each Other

The Detroit Bureau reports that a consortium of eight manufacturers has set up shop in Farmington Hills, MI to work on car-to-car “Intelligent Vehicle” communications systems that would help stave off accidents. “If every car had it, it would be like another pair of eyes,” Ford Motor Co.’s (F) Mike Shulman, a technical research leader, stated.

The technology consortium would work to supplement, not replace, other high-tech safety systems. While Ford and others have worked on car-to-car communications systems for a number of years, the consortium reflects the fact that vehicles from different brands must be able to speak the same digital language. “We need to get messages from Hondas, Hyundais, Kias and send them all messages,” said Mr. Shulman.

Each of the eight makers will build eight new vehicles each equipped with the latest technology. Another 2,000 vehicles on the road will be retrofitted with the gear as part of a test program partially funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Transportation experts suggest Intelligent Vehicle systems could also move cars closer to an era of autonomous driving, where motorists would simply plug-in a destination and settle back texting or cellphoning or reading the paper, for that matter, since the vehicle itself would handle the driving duties.

Autonomous Road Trains

Traffic Technology Today, reported in January 2011 that the EUfinanced SARTRE project has carried out the first successful demonstration of its vehicle platooning technology at the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden. Vehicle platooning is a convoy of vehicles, where a driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles.

Sartre Roadtrain video

SARTRE will use a forward-looking camera and 76 GHz radar. Each vehicle must also be equipped with a local control system. To achieve global control over the platoon, a communication system, probably using the 5.9 GHz radio channel would interconnect the vehicles.

Project backers say that  platooning is designed to improve and cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions while it reduces traffic congestion.

The technology development is under way but public acceptance of the system and legislation by 25 EU governments will likely hinder acceptance for a while.

Car Technology

GM Ventures Invests in Powermat

General Motors Xconomy – Detroit reports that GM Ventures, the Detroit automaker’s venture capital arm has invested $5 million in Powermat the Commerce Township, MI start-up. A multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal with Powermat gives General Motors (GM) exclusive rights to place the company’s portable-device charging technology in its cars for a year. according to Micky Bly, the company’s director of hybrid vehicles. The Chevy Volt and certain Cadillac models will be the first GM cars to the Powermat accessories. The New York Times reports that at this years CES GM demonstrated four wireless charging positions in the Chevy Volt.

GM Ventures has also invested in Indiana-based electric car startup Bright Automotive and Ann Arbor-based battery developer Sakti3. Also see this earlier post.

Car Theft by Antenna

Car keyless entry MIT’s Technology Review reports that researchers at ETH Zurich in Switzerland have successfully attacked eight car manufacturers’ passive keyless entry and start systems. The researchers examined 10 car models from eight manufacturers. They were able to take all 10 by intercepting and relaying signals from the cars to their wireless keys because the key transmits its signals up to around 100 meters. The attack works no matter what cryptography and protocols the key and car use to communicate with each other.

The researchers tested a few scenarios. An attacker could watch a parking lot and have an accomplice watch as car owners as entered a nearby store. The accomplice would only need to be within eight meters of the targeted owner’s key fob, making it easy to avoid arousing suspicion. In another scenario, a car owner might leave a car key on a table near a window. An antenna placed outside the house was able to communicate with the key, allowing the researchers then to start the car parked out front and drive away.

The researchers concluded that manufacturers will need to add secure technology that allows the car to confirm that the key is in fact nearby.

New Standard for Automotive-Grade Wireless Modules

New Standard for Automotive-Grade Wireless ModulesSierra Wireless (SWIR) recently introduced what the firm calls, the industry’s first suite of embedded wireless technology modules designed specifically for automotive manufacturers. The Canadian firm is banking on the emerging trend to include telematics, infotainment, navigation assistance and remote diagnostics in new cars within the next few years according to an article on ITNewsLink.com. The firm believes these applications will need reliable built-in connections to cellular networks. The new Sierra Wireless modules will uses 2G and 3G network technologies and frequency bands used worldwide to provide the connectivity customers are demanding.

The manufacturer says these units are the first wireless modules developed from the ground up to achieve compliance with automotive specifications.  ITNewsLink.com says the Sierra Wireless AirPrime AR Series design encompasses:

  • Tolerance for up to 1,000 thermal shock cycles
  • Full certification with ISO 9001:2000 quality standards and ISO/TS 16949:2002 manufacturing processes
  • Extended operating temperature range from -40 to 85 degrees Celsius
  • Compliance with multiple automotive manufacturing and quality processes including AQPQ, PPAP, PCN, and 8D
  • Solder-down form factor and optional Embedded SIM to create a more reliable and less expensive solution
  • An open platform for customer application development, including dedicated APIs for telematics applications.

Wireless Car Sensors Vulnerable to Hackers

Wireless Car Sensors Vulnerable to Hackers MIT’s Technology Review reports that hackers could “hijack” the wireless pressure sensors built into many cars’ tires, researchers have found. Criminals might then track a vehicle or force its electronic control system to malfunction, the University of South Carolina and Rutgers University researchers say. The team successfully hijacked two popular tire-pressure-monitoring systems (TPMS).

As automakers add more technology and computers to cars, and connect those computers to critical components, in-car systems will need to be secured against hackers, experts warn.

The systems tested by the South Carolina-Rutgers team had very little security in place–they mainly relied on the fact that the communications protocol is not widely published. “In doing TPMS this way, [automakers] have left the door open to wireless attackers,” says Travis Taylor, one of the researchers. The team could eavesdrop on communications and, in some circumstances, alter messages in-transit. That let the team give false readings to a car’s dashboard. They could also track a vehicle’s movements using the unique IDs of the pressure sensors, and even cause a car’s ECU to fail completely.

“Normally, these [attacks would] result in small problems,” Mr. Taylor says. “But I see practical danger and damage that can happen from TPMS exploitation.” “The security and privacy problems that the researchers identify in TPMS systems are likely just one among many that will challenge the automotive industry in the years to come,” says Stefan Savage, a UC San Diego professor of computer science and engineering.

Ford Installs Sync Software via Wi-Fi

Ford Installs Sync Software via Wi-Fi The Detroit Bureau reports that Ford is the first automaker to use Wi-Fi to send software to vehicles along an assembly line. The automaker is sending infotainment software to Wi-Fi enabled MYFord Touch-equipped vehicles like the Edge.

Ford installed  Wi-Fi technology at its Oakville, Ontario, plant where it builds the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. Next up for Wi-Fi updates will be the upcoming Ford Explorer, built in Chicago, and then plants that build the Focus around the world.

Wi-Fi capability eliminates the need for building, stocking multiple SYNC hardware modules, thus reducing manufacturing complexity and saving cost.  “Using wireless software installation via Wi-Fi, we can stock just one type of SYNC module powering MyFord Touch and loaded with a basic software package,” explained Sukhwinder Wadhwa, SYNC global platform manager. “We eliminate around 90 unique part numbers, each of which would have to be updated every time a change is made – this system really boosts quality control.”

“Turning an assembly plant – with steel beams everywhere and high-voltage cabling throughout; everything you could imagine that would interfere with a radio signal – into an access point that would achieve 100 percent success was a huge challenge,” Mr. Wadhwa said.

Ralph Bach has been in IT for fifteen years and has blogged from his Bach Seat about IT, careers and anything else that catches his attention since 2005. You can follow me at Facebook and Twitter. Email the Bach Seat here.