Vehicular Tech: Leveraging Silicon

How various OEMs are deploying tech for communications, entertainment and navigation.

Jaguar
Although the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE crossover is known for such things as its aluminum architecture, a supercharged 380-hp V6 that facilitates 0 to 60 mph in 5.1 seconds and more than 250,000 miles of testing in Dubai (122°F) and Sweden (-40°F), the vehicle also has an impressive suite of telematics tech under the moniker “InControl.” There is the base system, InControl Touch, an infotainment system with an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen interface that allows smartphone-like swipes and pinches to maneuver on the screen. Navigation data is stored on an SD card, which helps improve response time.

But then there’s the upgrade system. The interface for the InControl Touch Pro system is a 10.2-inch high-resolution, touchscreen display. This screen doesn’t have buttons; like a tablet the controls are shown on the screen. There is Wi-Fi connectivity that supports up to eight devices.

Notably, the infotainment system is developed with a quad-core processor, a high-speed 60-GB solid-state drive (which is used to store the navigation data, further enhancing responsiveness, as well as other information, such as Gracenote images), and an Ethernet network, which is said to be up to five times faster than traditional networking schemes—up to 1 GB/second.

One interesting aspect of the navigation system is that in the event that the GPS signal is lost, data from the vehicle’s sensors are used to help determine where the F-PACE is likely to be until the GPS connection is restored.

Another is that if a destination is entered into the navi and the system determines that there is an insufficient amount of fuel in the crossover to get there, gas stations along the route will be indicated.

While on the subject of navigation, odds are that most people pretty much go to the same place (work, home) on a daily basis. Which is where Commute Mode comes into play. The system “learns” the daily drive without the need to program the destination. Here’s what is rather clever: the system uses live traffic data so that it can provide information on the optimum route. So should there be, say, congestion on your typical drive home, it will provide information about how to get around it. In addition to which, it has a function that allows you to send an update to someone regarding where you are and when you are likely to get home for dinner (or to the office for the meeting, although the first example is probably more appealing than the latter).

And there is “door-to-door” routing that is almost literal. When the vehicle is within 656 feet away from the destination (it’s that distance because in meters it is an even 200), there is a 360 degree view of the destination next to the map view. Parking spots are also indicated in the vicinity. Given that it may be necessary to walk from one’s parked F-PACE to the final destination, there is a smartphone app (iOS and Android) that provides the necessary walking directions.

Then there is the “Activity Key.” The Activity Key resembles a Fitbit more than it does a key or even keyfob. It is literally worn on one’s wrist. The Activity Key allows the keyfob to be left in the vehicle.

The wristband is held up to the “J” on the “Jaguar” badge on the back of the vehicle and through RFID locks (and unlocks) the vehicle, and deactivates the keys left in the vehicle. Because they anticipate that the driver of the F-PACE may be adventurous (or the drivers of the Land Rover Discovery may be channeling their inner Bear Grylls, as sister company Land Rover is using the tech, too), the Activity Key can be submerged to a depth of 98.4 feet and can handle temperatures ranging from -58 to +257°F.

Cadillac
The Cadillac CT6 provides a comprehensive suite of technology encompasses functions ranging from entertainment to navigation to protection. The last first. There is Pedestrian Collision Mitigation built into the vehicle, which uses a front camera module to detect pedestrians in the vicinity of the moving vehicle, then provides alerts to the driver and then initiates automatic braking.

However, there is another sense of detection that the vehicle offers, which is what is said to be an industry first: a triggered video recording system, which uses four of the vehicle’s seven exterior cameras, those mounted in each of the sideview mirrors, the front grille and the trunk lid. The cameras are activated in the event that the security system is deployed, thereby providing a 360 degree video recording of the event; the images are stored on an SD card that is located in the trunk of the vehicle. (There is also a recreational aspect to the system, which allows the driver to capture video from the front and rear cameras as part of an interesting drive. And it should also be noted that the CT6 utilizes camera technology to supplement the rear view mirror; when activated, the mirror changes from being a reflective device to a screen that provides a real-time image of what is behind the car, an image that is said to improve rear visibility by “more than 200%” because there is no obstruction from things like headrests or body structure.)

The CT6 is equipped with OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows connectivity for up to seven devices. Notably, there are HDMI and USB ports that are located on the front of the rear center seat or in the rear seat center armrest that work with the 4G LTE Wi-Fi network such that the rear seat passengers can plug in a Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Apple TV device to obtain entertainment from the Internet (yes, Netflix in the rear seat). The displays are 10-inch-diagonal HD screens that retract into the front seat backs when not in use and tilt as set when in use. There is, of course, the possibility of viewing Blu-ray DVDs or media stored on a USB. Front occupants also have the possibility of seeing the DVDs or USB entertainment on the 10.2-inch-diagonal 1280 x 720 HD capacitive-touch CUE interface screen—when the CT6 is in Park. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also accessible through CUE.

FCA
The move to 4G LTE network connectivity is being undertaken in vehicles rolling out of FCA US, starting with the model 2017 Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger and Chrysler 300 equipped with the fourth-generation Uconnect 8.4 and 8.4 NAV systems.

In announcing it, Tricia Hecker, Global Head of Connected Services, said, “The advancement from 3G Network to 4G LTE network capability gives our customers a great opportunity to expand upon and explore the efficiency and convenience that our built-in connected services have to offer. As our Uconnect systems continue to develop new services and features, this increase of network connectivity allows our systems to evolve and progress as technology changes.”

Uconnect was introduced in 2003. It offers various functions including hands-free calling and texting, navigation, and a variety of audio options. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are available in vehicles with the 8.4 system.

In addition to which, there are real-time services, such as a monthly vehicle status report and a vehicle status alert. A smartphone app permits remote lock/unlock and vehicle starting.

Audi
Let’s say it is the 2017 Audi R8 V10 and not the V10 plus. That means a 540-hp, 398 lb-ft engine that propels the vehicle 0 to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. (The plus has 70 more horsepower and shaves 0.3 seconds off the time, so we’ll just go with the “standard” version.) Chances are, the driver isn’t going to spend a whole lot of time looking at any interface other than the tach and possibly the speedo.

But if the driver does, then know that there is what’s called the “Audi virtual cockpit.” In lieu of the traditional gauge cluster there is a 12.3-inch display powered by a NVIDIA quad-core processor that refreshes the screen at a rate of 60 times per second, providing high-fidelity color images including Google Earth for navigational purposes.

Navigation input is performed by literally writing on a touchpad surface; the system runs handwriting recognition.

The car also features what’s called “Audi connect,” which provides an array of infotainment features, such as voice control, Internet radio, and a Wi-Fi hotspot for passenger use.

Oh, and the top speed of the car is 199 mph. (The R8 V10 plus? That would be 205 mph, but...)