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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

“Electric vehicles will be a force to reckon with by 2015”

The headline above is a statement of a report conducted by Frost and Sullivan, a global technology consulting major, in 2010 to determine what the state of affairs will be in a few years from now in the automobile industry. Now, that’s a bold statement. Although the incentives for developing technologies that bring EVs into the mainstream are many, the hurdles have always seemed simply too overwhelming to overcome.

Electric Vehicles Will Become Connected Vehicles

Now it appears as though someone has waved a magic wand powerful enough to turn the automobile industry, worth billions of dollars annually, on its head. We didn’t have to look too far to locate the wand. It is right there in the same report and is called ‘telematics’. Telematics is an application of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) to automobiles. Let’s have a look at how telematics is set to change the industry norms by reengineering electric vehicles into connected vehicles.

Connected Vehicles and the Fuel Crisis

The world is facing a fossil fuel crisis. The facts are obvious. These fuels take millions of years to replenish themselves. But since our demand for these fuels is increasing, we may run out of supply by the next century. As scarcity increases and wars are waged for the control of fuel, prices are skyrocketing and consumers are bearing the brunt.

The average man is finding their fossil fuel powered car increasingly expensive and longs for a more affordable solution. Moreover, burning fossil fuels is as bad for the environment as it is for the wallet. The pollution that such fuel causes is a big source of carbon emissions, which is responsible for the gaping hole in the ozone layer becoming even larger. There are both fiscal and environmental imperatives to coming up with a solution.

Electric vehicles were touted as a possible replacement for fossil fuel driven cars. But the first attempt to commercialize them failed miserably for the following reasons:

Range anxiety:
The customers were clueless with regard to how far they could go with their vehicles. These vehicles did have a limit to how far they could be driven. Based on their capacity, they were termed as neighborhood, city, all terrain or performance vehicles. Moreover, the driver was uncertain as to how long they could travel before the charge would be over and they would become immobile.

Charging difficulties and time:
The infrastructure for charging these vehicles was, and still is, abysmal. There was a lack of information about the location and availability of charging points. Moreover, the time taken for charging was too long. What to do if you were in a hurry? Even if you were at home, you had to ensure that you put the vehicle to charge and this could be a problem in case of unexpected trips or if you were not really disciplined or organized in your schedule.

There was an electrical battery on board and the driver had no information about how the engine was functioning. Since the technology was very new, people feared that they might be electrocuted in their vehicles.

Bulky batteries:
The size of these batteries was huge, further limiting their fuel efficiency and therefore their range. The size of these batteries has significantly reduced today and the problem is almost solved.

But if you consider the fact that adding more range to these vehicles still entails incremental costs, you will know why the development of telematics is so important. Since you cannot go very long on a single charge, the charging mechanism simply has to be made more efficient.

The Big Solution in Electronics

Telematics is capable of eliminating virtually all of these issues, which have crippled the successful commercial application of EVs. Let’s see how connected vehicles deliver cheap and environment friendly solutions to the world.

Find out more about Wireless Technology as an Antidote to Range Anxiety by downloading the pdf-document here.

Telemactics Services

Most of the Telematics services can be categorized into the following:

  1. Safety and Security
  2. Information and Navigation
  3. Entertainment
  4. Diagnostics

1. Safety and Security Services

The safety and security services include the automatic crash notification, emergency and medical assistance. These were the first set of services to be provided as part of the telematics and also the primary motivation for the conceptualization of automotive telematics.

As part of the Automatic Crash Notification service the TCU monitors the various crash sensors of the vehicle and in the event of a crash it sends the details of the crash intensity and location information to the TOC and also initiates a voice call to the telematics call center from where a service operator can initiate the dispatch of emergency services. Request for emergency services can also be manually initiated by the vehicle occupants incase of an emergency or as a good samaritan for someone else in need of help. Also the TCU may have a alternate power supply which may allow it to operate in the event of the vehicle battery or electrical circuit failure due to a crash.

Security services provided by the telematics service providers include Stolen Vehicle Tracking and Anti-Theft Alarm Notification and remote door services. The in-vehicle TCU can be triggered remotely to send periodic precise location update messages to the Telematics Operations Center or it can be triggered automatically by the anti-theft sensors in the vehicle. Once activated, the Telematics Operations Center can track the vehicle and work with the law enforcement agencies for recovering and securing the vehicle and its occupants. As part od remote door services the TCU can be instructed to perform the door lock and unlock operations remotely from the TNOS.

2. Information and Navigation
The information and navigation services provide access from the vehicle to a variety of seamlessly integrated conveniences where the vehicle occupant can get access to location sensitive information and content. Examples of services in this category would be point of interest download, turn by turn navigation assistance and on call technical support. The TCU can also provide a personal area network to wifi/bluetooth capable devices inside the vehicle and provide them internet connectivity over the telematics wireless data network connection.

This category also includes the set of services provided to commercial vehicles and vehicle fleets. Geofencing, vehicle maintenance monitoring and fleet tracking are some of the services utilized for improving the productivity and efficiency of commercial vehicles.

3. Entertainment
The entertainment services are an upcoming area of telematics that are getting a major boost due to the the increase in the bandwidth of emerging wireless technologies for exchanging data with the vehicles. On demand direct music/video downloading, internet radio, streaming content and synchronization with home entertainment library are some examples of the services in this category. Also improvements in the processing capabilities of the TCUs have lead to features such as interactive voice based command interface for accessing in-vehicle features by the vehicle occupants.

4. Diagnostics
Diagnostics is another upcoming area of telematics services. These include remote diagnostics, performance data collection, and remote DTC scanning service to name a few. The TCU in the vehicle is made capable of performing detailed diagnostic scans when triggered remotely or when certain key thresholds are crossed for e.g. distance travelled since last scan, time elapsed since last service etc.

Telematics is an important part of Automotive Connectivity. To read further details on this subject, download 7-page PDF document giving you further details here.

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