MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
Jan. 24, 2019

Contributed by Bob Chabot
Driving Vehicle Connectivity Forward

Integrated circuits reimagine connectivity

Go to any of the world’s biggest auto shows — whether it's Detroit, Frankfurt, Beijing or elsewhere — and it quickly becomes clear that automakers are going all in to develop vehicles that are smart, intuitive and connected. MOTOR recently visited with Texas Instruments, which shared how quickly connectivity is reshaping the makeup and capabilities of new vehicles.

"A lot of features available in today’s vehicles were in the realm of science fiction a few years ago," said Hannes Estl, Texas Instruments general manager and engineer. "The connected vehicles of today provide a glimpse into the future. Though talking on the phone while driving can be a distraction for current generations, future automobile communication will be seen as advancing, rather than discouraging. The difference is that the automobiles will be doing the communicating."

Connected vehicles that incorporate an array of communications technology will soon include features such as Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. (Images — Texas Instruments)

Connected Vehicles Enable Smarter Rides
By connecting to the cloud through high-speed cell networks, vehicle communication is now opening the door to dramatic improvements in comfort, safety and driveability. Technology is redefining the personal transportation experience, as digital connectivity quickly becomes the automotive industry norm.

"More and more, vehicles will connect to personal electronics, homes and the broad landscape of the Internet of Things," explained Hope Bovenzi, a systems engineer for automotive infotainment systems at Texas Instruments. "The typical car today is more computer than machine. There's so much that we're now able to put into or do to vehicles that can make them more entertaining and safe."

"Digital cockpits will continue to evolve as we move to autonomy," Hannes noted. "More and more, streaming entertainment content will be available and consumable as the vehicle interior changes. Imagine on long road trips parents being able to turn around the front seats to have dinner with their kids, or be able to dim the windshield glass so the family can watch a movie as they continue down the road."

What are connected highways? In the near future, connected intelligent transportation systems — commonly known as smart highways — will enable and ensure on-time, safe and connected journeys. (Video - Nokia Corp.)

Enhanced Autonomy
Features on connected vehicles will soon coincide with 5G mobile network deployment. This will dramatically increase connectivity speed, bandwidth and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

"Automakers will unlock the power of collective coordination between automobiles," Bovenzi shared. "For example, a vehicle making an emergency stop due to a fallen tree will simultaneously relay that information to other vehicles up to a mile away. And the group of connected automobiles will relay traffic patterns, deteriorating weather conditions and other details to others in the area, so they can reroute."

Watch how TI is accelerating the future of automotive systems. (Video — Texas Instruments)

Smart Systems Make Driving Seamless
Anybody who has been in the market for a new vehicle in the last few years is likely familiar with some of the smart systems available today that already assist drivers and help cars perceive the world around them. "Big changes are already happening today, but even bigger changes are less than a decade away," emphasized Bovenzi.

"Innovations in connectivity and advanced driver assistance systems will soon intersect," she added. "This will enable fully autonomous systems to start penetrating the automobile market, which will unlock new design paradigms that dramatically reconfigure how designers and engineers build automobiles, as well as how entertainment and information is received by drivers and other vehicle occupants."

Examples include:

  • Adaptive Cruise Control uses the vehicle’s onboard radar, LIDAR or cameras to sense vehicles ahead and automatically adjust its speed to maintain a safe distance.
  • Lane-Departure Warnings feed information from cameras to processors to alert a driver when the car is drifting out of its lane.
  • Lane-Keeping Systems make corrective actions to keep the vehicle between the lines.
  • Image Processing and Computer Vision Systems already let cars understand traffic signs on the road to automatically adjust speed to legal limits or brake if the driver doesn't see a stop sign.

“Though the exact timing is debated by experts, advanced driver-assistance systems will evolve within the next decade that will allow highly and fully autonomous driving, without the need for driver input," Estl concluded. "Automobiles will seamlessly operate within smart cities and drive on highways without the driver's foot on the pedals, hands on the wheel or even eyes on the road."

"In biology class, students talk about cells being the building blocks of life," he concluded. "In electronics, it’s integrated circuits that are the fundamental building blocks. They’re foundational and common to all of these exciting innovations and the reimagined future for automobiles. More and more of them are being put into vehicles now. So much is changing in the industry, which makes it such a fun and challenging time to be in the connected-vehicle world."

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