Category Archives: Connected

Toyota INSECT Unveiled at Consumer Electronics Show

Toyota recently unveiled a new concept car at CEATEC 2012, Japan’s largest consumer electronics show.  The INSECT is a single passenger EV but might better be thought of as a very capable smartphone on wheels.  The concept car facilitates and integrates very practical applications such as the ability to recommend a restaurant or turn on your home air conditioning system in anticipation of your arrival.  By utilizing Microsoft’s Kinect technology, facial and body movements will prompt a greeting by flashing the front lights and opening the door as you approach.  Current battery technology limits this car from moving beyond a concept, but it certainly provides a great starting point for discussion about the future of consumer electronics in vehicles.

Traditionally, consumers compare power, carrying capacity and fuel efficiency within a given price range.  By creating this concept, Toyota may have recognized a consumer flashpoint.  As people spend more time in their cars, their need to be connected while in their vehicles will grow and the weight placed on a car’s integration of mobile devices may significantly increase.  In fact, the average British motorist now spends three full years of their life driving.   That is an astounding amount of time spent behind the wheel.

By 2016, it is predicted that roughly 50 percent of new vehicles sold globally will be connected to the internet.  There are of course a number of challenges to consider.

  • Currently there is no single industry standard system for integrating mobile devices into a vehicle.
  • Should manufacturers strive for internet in the car or car in the internet by integrating the car into the cloud?
  • How can consumer electronics be incorporated ergonomically and without compromising driver safety?

Learn about these and other issues at the 6th International Conference on Consumer Electronics 4 Vehicles, 28-30 January in Stuttgart, Germany.

For more information about Toyota’s INSECT click here


Will Hornick is the Managing Editor of Automotive IQ

Automotive Industry And The Social Media

Interesting blogpost found on

If the internet has shown the motor industry one thing, it’s this: once something has become a trend then it is already too late to take any useful advantage from it. To run a successful campaign on the web requires some of that famous blue-sky, left field, off-the-wall thinking much beloved of training consultants and media gurus everywhere. In short – you’ve got to come up with it first, and in the last year Mini have done just that by taking that which was online, offline. In October 2010 the Mini Getaway campaign took place in Stockholm, offering the opportunity to win a Mini Countryman. This was a unique social media game, like a treasure hunt, and Stockholmers could download an app to take part. Users could view the location of a virtual Mini on a map of the city, hurtle around town and once within 50 metres of the virtual prize, could claim the car for themselves and then run away from the other participants shown on the map who could try and steal it. At the end of a week, the person with the virtual Mini won a real one. The campaign was a huge success, with 11,413 people taking part in the game. Now that’s good local publicity which went viral as people in over 90 countries watched it all unfold. How great is that? A real Mini adventure. In December last year it was the turn of Tokyo where the gaming area was 32 times larger than the Swedish city.

Inevitably, Stockholm spawned similar events. Britain had it’s Citroen DS4 Seekers and there’s currently the ongoing Mercedes Benz ‘Escape the Map’ game where a beautiful girl is trapped in a Merc C63 and must escape from Streetview before it pixelates her face! Competitors who successfully answer some interactive challenges are entered into a draw to win a car. This has got to be great publicity and, to be honest, it’s probably the only chance of many of us getting our hands on a C350 Coupe. These events are fun and demonstrate that marketing doesn’t have to intrude on people’s lives, it can also integrate into them. There are some clever folk out there who understand that social media doesn’t have to be fully online to deliver real consumer experiences that challenge the norm.

Today’s car industry is fully aware of the possibilities of social media marketing and have, as above, started doing their own dedicated campaigns to aid sales or repackage their image. It’s also a great way to attract new fans to a brand. Over a period of time, the Internet has been playing a key role in influencing potential car buyers, particularly young people. In a bid to offer the best possible exposure to its products companies are seeking to create the buzz but the key here has got to be originality. Whoever is first with new and innovative ad campaigns will always be ahead of the game. Anything else is just playing catch-up.

Why we need to save the CD players in cars!

Interesting article by Mark Rechtin, West Coast editor of Automotive News.

You can have my compact disc player when you pry it out of my car’s cold, dead center console.

There has been a recent stretch of news about the pending demise of the CD player in vehicles. The Consumer Electronics Show was all about streaming audio and Internet radio. And General Motors has announced the 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS will not offer a CD player.

This fills me with fear.

I am not a Luddite. I love driving cars with MP3 hookups so I can plug in my iPod and listen to my own tunes. Even more, I love cars with Pandora, so I can have my own personal disc jockey in the car.

But therein lies a problem.

Streaming audio is low-fi. The fidelity of satellite radio is gruesome. The default setting for iPod downloads is grainy. You get to hear the music you want, but your ears don’t get the proper reproduction.

Conversely, CD audio provides the highest fidelity for listening to music available to the general public.

That makes keeping CD players in place a different argument from when automakers began phasing out in-dash cassette players — and before that eight-track players. Heck, there are black-and-white photos of cars that actually had turntables in the dashboard.

But all of those audio formats had degradation issues. Record albums skipped and scratched. Cassette and eight-track tape wore out and was of low-quality material.

CDs, on the other ear, provide shimmering sound, bright highs, defined bass and punchy midrange that doesn’t drown out conversation. With CDs, you have the audio clarity to tell what type of tea Andrea Bocelli drank before launching into “Nessun Dorma.”

With CDs, you can understand why Neil Peart is the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll drummer, and Ana Vidovic is the current queen of classical guitar.

But with the standard 128 kbps download of most digital audio players–and the even-lower resolution of streaming audio–the aural experience turns into a muddy, chalky mess. You can’t tell the brilliance of Nada Surf from the mediocrity of Nickelback, and that’s a bad thing.

It would be easy enough to say this development is the natural evolution in car audio. But unlike past evolutions, CDs are not being replaced by a higher-quality audio product. Just a more convenient one.

To people who appreciate music, this is a step back. It is a travesty for a vehicle to offer high-end speaker systems from suppliers such as Mark Levinson or Bowers & Wilkins, then to cripple them with low-grade music reproduction equipment.

Save the CD players!

What is your opinion? Is the demise of the CD player in vehicles a step back? Please feel free to share your thoughts here!

Dr. Peter Roessger / TES Electronic Solutions on Human Machine Interfaces

In an exclusive interview with IQPC, Dr. Peter Roessger, Business Development Director at TES Electronic Solutions tells about recent developments, benchmarks and no-gos with Human Machine Interfaces in the automotive industries.

Read an exclusive extract of this interview here:

: How do Human Automotive Machine Interfaces change future navigation? My name is Joanna Scheffel – Online Content Manager with IQPC – and I’m talking to Dr. Peter Rössger – Business Development Director at TES Electronic Solutions. Good Morning, Mr. Rössger.

Rössger: Good morning.

IQPC: Regarding the development of automotive HMIs, what is the state of the art today?

Rössger: Well I’ve been in this business for the past almost 20 years, and I’ve been working for a major automotive for the past 12 years, and in that time I’ve experienced a clear change in the way automotive HMIs are developed. There used to be a focus on the first tier in the past. During the time it changed more and more to be OEM issue, so particularly as far as head units are concerned, navigation systems, entertainment systems – the OEMs pull the HMI issues more and more to their side, recognizing that this a core differentiator with their competitors. Most of them do most of the work themselves. The first tiers move back into more of a supporting role – that is, more a process role, and not so much a fresh ‘creative’ role. On the process side, I see the growing support of digital tools. So when I design my first HMIs, we start with a paper and pencil and then move on to specifications, which in some parts of the automotive industry still is state of the art, but we see more and more digital tools coming up – things that help the developers to go into early prototyping that ease up discussions in cross-national and international teams. And this is another change, and this has in fact had results in the HMI market share. I mean, if you use digital tools at a very early stage, this will affect the outcome that they share at the very end of the day. So I still force my teams into all making a lot of paper and pencil work at the beginning to keep the ways straight and the very open creative flow alive.

IQPC: You would have to buy digital tools. Could you give us some examples of those?

 Rössger: Well I mean the electronic guide is one of the tools. We at TES Electronic Solutions also have our own solution, and that is the GUIliani tool, which allows us to do all these steps I just described – get very quick into prototyping, very quick into testing, which is a positive thing at the end of the day. Don’t get me wrong on this one. But all in all, I prefer to have some paper and pencil work at the beginning to keep it analogue until a certain point in time just to keep the creativity flow alive.

IQPC: Could you give us some benchmarks and no go’s concerning human machine interfaces?

Rössger: I think that the automotive industry is in a very comfortable situation on the one side, and exactly the same things put them in a very uncomfortable situation. Cars are sold worldwide, and they have a huge user group. I mean, almost everybody is driving a car and those digital devices, the entertainment systems, they get into almost every dashboard as of today. And so, from our point of view, this is a great chance to move forward, to make good HMIs. On the other hand, this ends up every now and again in definite no go’s. One of the issues is for example the cross cultural thing. I mean, big car companies sell their cars worldwide. And so you may have a Chinese driver, you may have a North American driver, you may have a German driver. And whatever works for one of these persons, will not work for another one. You also may have a 20 year old Apple-addicted, high tech oriented young person, and you may also have a 85 year old lady from the Mid West of the US which is very critical about technology. So, very general things just like ‘this is the best system on the market’ and ‘this is definitely a no go’ is not easy to do, and again I will not do this. But what developers have to keep in mind is the enormous user group that they have. It’s almost everybody on the world, and you have various cultures that you have in there. Cultures, I mean, geographical cultures but also by meaning technological approaches, use of technology, the use cases that you have. And if you are on the wrong path, definitely you get a no go out of this.

If you are interested in reading the entire interview, and  more relevant content, please click here.

Apple iPhone 4S and Siri: Another nail in the coffin for in-dash car navigation?

The iPhone 4S and Siri: What is likely to happen with automakers? Here’s an interesting article written by   on October 4, 2011 about the likely outcome of the Apple iPhone 4S and Siri for car manufacturers.

“If you’re underwhelmed by an iPhone 4S that isn’t propped up by an unannounced big brother iPhone 5, automakers should feel differently: The Siri voice-activated assistant, which will arrive with the iPhone 4S on October 14, will put this $199 device head and shoulders above the $1,500-plus navigation systems in car dashes today. Only some in-car navigation has interactive voice response (IVR) and none have it with the sophistication of the iPhone. It raises the question again, “Why am I paying as much as two grand for navigation that’s harder to use than what’s in my iPhone or Droid”?

The iPhone 4S resembles the iPhone 4 but with a faster processor, better camera, more powerful antenna, and improved voice recognition, selling for $199 (16 GB) to $399 (64GB), on AT&T, Verizon, and now on Sprint. But a hoped-for iPhone 5 was not announced. The improved antenna should help users talk farther from cell sites and get better Pandora and Mog streaming music. That’s nice. It’s the voice recognition that should concern automakers.

With most cars, you tap in the destination on the LCD display or using a cockpit control wheel such as BMW iDrive or Audi MMI. Some cars have a limited form of voice input: “Say the State … say the City … say the Street … say the Number.” (That was so the overworked on-board processor could keep up.) A handful have one-shot destination entry where you can tap the navigation button and then the destination button, then say “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.” Success in parsing depends on how well the microphones captured, how well the nav system recognized your voice, and whether you used the right syntax. “Navigate to” might work while “directions to” or “take me to” might not.

Cars with integrated data cellphones (for mayday calling and now for other services) can do offboard voice processing. That’s what’s used by GM OnStar and others such as the promsing Blue Link service on cars such as the Hyundai Veloster. But it costs you $180 to $300 a year for the telematics service, on top of the cost of the navigation system. And none of it is as powerful as on the iPhone 4S and Siri, at least as shown in Apple’s demo. Lots of features, including interactive voice response, seem to work less amazingly out in the field.

Current navigation apps on both Droid phones and iPhones have some ability to handle spoken directions, meaning once you get to the navigation / destination part, you can speak the street name or POI (point of interest) name: “1600 Pennsylviania Avenue [or the White House], Washington, D.C.” It’s nice for getting to a restaurant without looking up the address.

With the conversational nature of Siri, a command such as “I want to get to Carnegie Hall,” should know you want to navigate to 881 Seventh Avenue in New York City. (On April Fool’s Day, an iPhone 4S with a sense of humor might respond with “Practice, Practice, Practice.” <rimshot>)

Here’s what likely to happen with automakers. It’s like a shortened version of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief before dying:

  • First, denial. Something so small and cheap can’t be that good.
  • Second, anger. Automakes will note how it’s hard to see a four-inch screen (still 3.5 inches with the iPhone, up to 4.3 inches with the largest Droids) and how often the suction cup cradle mount comes undone. Plus they don’t have to do all the safety testing the automakers say they do.
  • Bargaining. They’ll try to get hold of the same Siri voice recognition, or work with Nuance, the industry’s main player, to do the same thing.
  • Depression. Automakers will despair of ever getting their prices down, partly because they do so much safety and compatibility testing, and in part because they insist on using proprietary components that can’t be used industry-wide.
  • Acceptance. Some will figure out a way to make existing navigation systems work nearly as well.

The likely outcome: Automakers will feel more pressure to bring the price of in-car navigation down below $1,000. Some will do it. BMW, which had been charging as much as $2,100 for navigation, now offers it on some 2012 models for $1250. Many will embed telematics cellphones in cars to do offboard IVR and to get access to the most up-to-date maps. So the shift from embedded telematics (GM OnStar, BMW Assist) to telematics via your cellphone (Ford Sync) may shift back to embedded telematics on all but the cheapest cars.

Some automakers may decide the best solution is to sync the smartphone’s display to an integrated 7- or 8-inch LCD and give up entirely on trying to do their own navigation. Despondant as automakers should feel about the iPhone’s navigation capabilities, the real nail in the coffin may be struck at the makers of of portable navigation devices. It’s a tough time to be Garmin or TomTom.” (Source:

I talked to my car today – and tomorrow, it will talk WITH me

Really? Am I completely off my rocker?

How many people go out and talk to their car? If people don’t talk to them, then many others do give them names. If not that, at least out in the open, cars often are personified as “she” or “he”. Now, what if you came out into the garage or carport and talked to your car and it answered back, but, even more, asked if you wanted a ride or where you wanted to go? You say “sure”, get in, and ultimately arrive at your destination. Along the way, you strike up a conversation with the vehicle and get everything from the news to advice, just like talking with a cab driver. Is this so far-fetched? We read of robots being developed with humanoid qualities, and there is nothing to say that cars can’t be in the same category. Before we contemplate the reality of this and other discussions that might wander into topics of animistic philosophies, we need to backtrack a bit and look at how we may be getting there. It all starts with the human-machine interface, or HMI.

Some basics of HMI

Simply put, there is a way for a human to interact with a machine, and the interface is the device by which to do this. To be extremely basic, we talk of the several simple machines – “mechanical device that changes the direction or magnitude of a force [1].“ Most people commonly refer to the six simple machines as being the wheel and axle, inclined plane, lever, wedge, pulley, and screw. There is debate about some of these being offshoots of others, such as the wedge being two inclined planes placed back-to-back and the pulley as a variant of the wheel. Nevertheless people need to use these, and an example of an interface for wedge used as a wood splitter, for example might be a big “X” and instructions to strike with a hammer printed on the back face, or side.

In the 1950s, when computers started coming out, people began writing about how humans were to interact, or interface with them. The term “man-machine interface (MMI), in those times less enlightened about 51% of the worlds’ population being women, referred to a physical device that allowed humans to make the computer work. We sometime hear of a “human–computer interface” (HCI), but the letter “C” restricts usage more to actual computers than allowing us to use it generally to all machines.

The key to designing an interface is to present the user with an obvious way to interact with the machine. In an automobile, we can regard the steering wheel, gauges pedals, and ignition key as interfaces that allow us to drive. With the computers of the 1950s, all the user had as an interface often was a set of levers or switches, such as with the Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP 8. Today, the environment is a windows-based graphical user interface that enables us to use the operating system to run the computer. Now, we are combining the two types in a digital form to drive a vehicle – computers and gauges. In addition to actually driving it, there are auxiliary activities, such as getting information – news, directions, weather, etc., as well as outright entertainment. Enhanced functions come with a higher priced car, where a driver can navigate by the global positioning system (GPS), find a desired restaurant, or be warned of heavy traffic ahead and routed through less crowded conditions. Fancier cars have fancier systems, as in intelligent tires (tire condition warning and maintenance), automatic steering, and brake management. Vehicles can be equipped such that a driver can use mobile devices, such as an iPad or Blackberry to interact with the vehicle’s central control system to navigate or monitor various mechanical or environmental conditions.

2nd International Conference Automotive Cockpit HMI

How to Hook up Your iPod to a Car Stereo

Hooking an iPod (or other portable MP3-player) into a car stereo is simple. You have three basic options – use an RCA cable, go wireless with an FM transmitter, or connect via cassette tape. If you go with an FM transmitter, follow the instructions that come with it. This sometimes involves installing software on your PC, downloading the radio stations to your iPod, finding a station with no feedback at all, and matching the station on your stereo to the station on the iPod.

There are 10 steps to follow:

1. Buy a cassette adapter at your local Radio Shack or Best Buy store.

2. Check the manual first.

3. Buy a wireless transmitter – these devices usually attach to your iPod, and require you to tune your radio to a designated FM frequency.

4. Also, there is always some interference or static when transmitting and there are times you can’t find an open frequency, especially if there’s a powerful radio transmitter nearby.

5. Try using RCA cables for better sound quality.

6. Remove the stereo from your dash.

7. Be sure that your stereo has some type of input in the back

8. Decide where you will be putting your iPod and where you want the wire going.

9. Precautions – If its RCA then the RCA to 1/8th inch jack should be fine, get an extension for the 1/8th inch if you need it but don’t go splicing wires!

10. Check that everything works, which usually requires switching to an “input” mode or “auxiliary” mode on your stereo.

For more details, visit the website


Interested in learning more about the automotive cockpit and human machine interface? Visit the following website for free presentations, articles & podcasts.

Autonomous vehicle navigation – current status, issues, and prospects

Scope of autonomous vehicle navigation

There are three ways a car may be navigated: totally in autonomous mode – without any driver intervention, semi-autonomously with some driver intervention, and completely driver controlled.  A vehicle may be guided autonomously by the Global Positioning System (GPS), cameras, laser detectors, radar, wires in or lines on the road, or by transponders strategically located along a route.  While road sensors or wires provide a more accurate navigation there are practical limits to installing them, given the number of roads involved.  Navigational software includes pre-programmed routes, driving rules (such as stopping for red lights and lane changes), and user interfaces.  Mechanical control is done by servo motors, relays, sensors, automated steering and braking, throttle management, and so forth. 

With the improvement of automotive systems aided by computers and artificial intelligence, it should not be surprising to see the emergence of vehicles that drive themselves.  Various names have been given to autonomously driven vehicles: uninhabited autonomous vehicle (UAV), autopilot vehicle, driverless car, auto-drive car, or automated/autonomously guided vehicle (AGV).  An autonomously-driven vehicle is a true automobile, i.e., mobile on its own – self-propelled and navigated.    A semi-autonomous vehicle can use any navigational method, but the driver intervenes to determine the routing and otherwise control the car.  A person in a completely driver-controlled vehicle most often uses a map interfacing with GPS or a hand held device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA) that displays locations via GPS.  Routes ultimately are determined by the driver and may be charted by means such as on-board maps, web interface, or PDAs. Assisted navigation already is a reality.  Smart cars have the capability of detecting empty parking spaces, thus obviating having to drive a long time searching. Already, in many cities there are timed traffic lights, where by maintaining an optimal speed, a driver can “make” every light without stopping. With forward-looking traffic control (automatic positioning), a driver is warned via a human-machine interface (HMI) of accidents, congestion, and construction, and is given the choice of different routes.  A final step is intelligent and automated street or highway systems, where cars are integrated into an overall system and coordinated to result in a smooth and optimal traffic flow. High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are precursors to this.

Feasibility of autonomously-driven vehicles

Pilotless vehicles are not new.  Hydrogen balloons were guided by spark transmitters towards the end of the 19th century, and the British flew a monoplane called the Larynx [1] in the 1920s.  During World War Two, radio controlled planes came more into vogue.  Today we see remotely operated tractors tilling and seeding fields using the GPS, or even a cell phone.

Tractor driven by student in India using a cell phone [2]

We have remotely monitored and controlled systems such as OnStar for Chevrolet cars and Qualcomm for semi-trucks.  Mostly everyone has heard of the Predator drones used by the U.S. military as “state-of-the-art”, although there are numerous problems of errors in targeting [3].  Especially since 1977, when Tsukuba Mechanical engineering lab built the first self-driving vehicle, development and sophistication has continued for autonomous ground vehicles.  Another example of autonomous vehicle development was Carsense a project sponsored from 2000-20002 by the European Commission consisting of twelve European car manufacturing companies to illustrate the efficacy of autonomous vehicles. Long and short radar, cameras, and various sensors were used to pilot the vehicle. 

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency (DARPA) of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), sponsored three DARPA challenges to build autonomously driven vehicles in March 2004, October 2005, and November 2007.  The 2004 and 2005 ones involved vehicles running overland in off-road desert environments up to 240 km and up to 80 km per hour.  In the first, only five vehicles traveled more than a couple of kilometers.  Three vehicles completed more than 212 km in the second.  The third challenge was in an urban environment and six vehicles traveled 60 miles.

Stanford Autonomous Vehicle Project [8]

From 26 July to 28 October 2010 four vehicles drove themselves 15,000 km from Parma Italy to Shanghai, China [4]. In the same year Google had seven driven for a total of 140,000 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco with humans intervening only occasionally [5]. Routes were reprogrammed, along with essential data like speed limits.  Google has gone so far as to ask Nevada to allow autonomous vehicles and texting in them [6].  As late as the middle of June 2011 Nevada approved the use of autonomous vehicles on its roads [7].  Volkswagen is testing vehicles in Europe, as the following video displays so graphically:

Stanford University, one of the winners of the U.S. Defense Research Projects Agency (DARPA) urban challenge in 2007, is carrying forth research on LIght Detection And Ranging, or Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDER) to create maps of a car’s environment and use that to navigate. Maps with locations of people and objects are continuously generated from this with centimeter accuracy and the data are used to determine an actual path.

Want to learn more about future automotive navigation systems? Check out the following website for free presentations & articles.

References (Subject is indicated by URL – accessed 31 July 2011)









What are the biggest challenges for the automotive industry regarding Euro 6 emission legislation?

Michael Fischer, Group Leader Powertrain Research in the Advanced Technology Research at Honda R&D Europe, talked exclusively to IQPC about the challenges facing the automotive industry, as well worldwide standards for NOx aftertreatment of diesel passenger cars.


You can listen and download the interview as a podcast here.

HMI, green driving and electro-mobility – New design and operation concepts for driver safety and comfort

The ultimate challenge for HMI experts is to create an automotive interface that is engaging, functional and easy to use. From 28 – 30 September 2011 in Darmstadt, Germany, experts in the automotive and electronics fields will come together to discuss the latest developments in HMI as well as design and operation concepts in the cockpit.

One highlight of conference day one will be a presentation by Dr. Andreas Keinath, Head of Concept Quality at BMW AG, who will present lessons learnt from the MINI E field studies inGermany, US and UK. Another highlight will be a keynote presentation by Dr. Xavier Chalandon from Renault S.A.S. on ergonomics and hedonomics in HMI and cockpit design.

Further topics of discussion at the event will include:

  • Trends and consumer expectations in different automotive market segments
  • Potentials and limits of user centred design HMI
  • Adaption of future HMI concepts to electro mobility and automated driving
  • Seamless integration of mobile devices and services
  • Acceleration of time to market through optimising the HMI development process

Delegates can also take part in interactive workshops:

  • Millions of users – One solution? Designthinking?
  • Future HMIs – An outlook on strategic and technology issues
  • HMI for autonomous vehicles
  • Meet the driver – Designing for “invisible” and the elderly

For further information, including articles, interviews and the full conference program visit the website.

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