Optimization & Electronics & Safety & Security

Broad-based global standards are going to become all the more important vis-à-vis how vehicles are setup to keep the bad guys out.

“The more I know about the world around me, the more I can do with a vehicle to optimize its energy efficiency,” Glen De Vos, vice president, engineering, Electronics and Safety, Delphi (delphi.com), told me.

Which is, in effect, a slightly different spin on “knowledge is power.”  Well, at least knowledge is a means by which less energy will be required for vehicles.

Here’s information, something with absolutely no mass, which can help reduce fuel use in vehicles.  Which is sort of amusing when you think about how OEMs and suppliers are chasing grams in their efforts to make vehicles lighter and consequently more fuel-efficient.

De Vos explains that by having information about the road ahead—turns, elevation changes, traffic congestion—it is possible to change the shift points and throttle mapping of a car.  To make adjustments so that the vehicle is operating in an optimal state.

When it comes to on-board electronics nowadays, it seems as though all of the attention is on infotainment and whether you’re going to be able to update your Facebook status while behind the wheel.

I recently had the opportunity to drive a 2016 Chevrolet Camaro with not only a 4G LTE setup but Apple CarPlay.  And while I was driving along, I was suddenly advised that I had a text message, and I had said message “read” to me by Siri or her sister or whomever.

This was easy to setup and use.  And while it was most remarkable that I could set a navigation destination via voice command (in some cases having to work on my elocution, however), it is easy to overlook some of the more important features that on-board electronics and connectivity to the cloud can provide to drivers and passengers.

That is, as I was in a GM product, there was the blue OnStar button in the mirror, along with the red “SOS” button.  The safety and security functionality that these represent—and know that this type of capability is found in a multitude of other brands nowadays (e.g., Lexus Enform with Safety Connect)—is something that is perhaps now taken for granted or not deemed to be as “exciting” as, oh, Stitcher or the like, yet can make a tremendous difference.

Yes, De Vos acknowledges, there is a need for OEMs and third-party providers to provide the means by which drivers and passengers can have a “more rich and interesting experience” while in their vehicles.  But, he points out, that as we move toward more advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) there is a need for more enhanced safety.

Of course, this is going to mean that there is going to have to be changes in the underlying architecture.  “This doesn’t mean,” De Vos points out, however, “that CAN or other existing buses are going to go away.”  But, he goes on to say that when you’re going to be moving massive amounts of data around, you’re going to be using things like Ethernet and optical MOST data buses to a greater extent.

And there is one thing that is on everyone’s mind—almost as much as whether there will the aforementioned Facebook capability—which is hacking.  “With connectivity comes the issue of security,” De Vos says, and suggests that broad-based, global standards are going to become all the more important vis-à-vis how vehicles are setup to keep the bad guys out.

He also makes a point that is sometimes overlooked, which is that while people are keen on their phones and all of the apps and suchlike that they have on them, the operating systems on those phones are not automotive grade, that they’re not as robust and reliable as is expected (and required) of those required for motor vehicles.

Although companies like Delphi have been working in this space for a decade or more, De Vos says, “We’re still very early in the whole process.”  There is still a long way to go.

Let’s face it: it wasn’t all that long ago when putting satellite radio into vehicles seemed startling (the first satellites were launched in 2001).

And let’s think about another thing: while we all have various “smart” devices on our desks, in our homes and in our hands, how many times have you found it necessary to reboot or restart a device in order to get it back in proper working order?  It’s not a big deal when you’re sitting in an office chair that’s going 0 mph; it is a whole other thing when that chair is being moved at 70 mph and is surrounded by a whole bunch of other two-ton objects that are traveling at the same speed.

As De Vos aptly puts it, “At the end of the day, it’s still a car.”