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Visteon's new Pheonix platform was designed from the ground up for wireless updates and security.

Connectivity advances dominate at CES 2017

If there’s any doubt that connectivity is the next wave for advanced features and functions, it should dissipate after CES 2017. A multitude of advances in over the air updates and security will be shown in Las Vegas in January, setting the stage for much of the auto industry’s technology rollouts throughout the year.

Automotive’s presence at the show, run by the Consumer Technology Association, continues to expand. A Self-Driving Technology Marketplace section is being added to highlight driverless mobility. Nine automakers and eleven Tier 1s will be among the 128 vehicle technology exhibitors, a slight increase over 121 exhibitors at the previous show. An unspecified number of auto industry suppliers will demonstrate their latest advances in back rooms.

The many technologies associated with connectivity will be the centerpiece in many of these demos. The third wave or third phase, loosely defined concepts for cloud connectivity and/or advanced driver assistance, will be mentioned in many booths.

Flight of the Phoenix

One of them is Visteon, which is using CES to roll out a new infotainment system designed with connectivity as a central feature. Dubbed Phoenix, it consolidates Visteon’s infotainment platforms with those gained in the 2014 acquisition of Johnson Controls’ electronic business. The focus on Internet connections brings many factors into account.

“When you talk connectivity, you need to look at over the air (OTA) updates,” said Tim Yerdon, Vice President of Design and Connected Services at Visteon. “When you talk about OTA, you need to talk about security. Security can’t be overlaid; we started by looking at silicon for a fresh platform that focuses on security going up to the cloud.”

Many different technologies must be considered to mesh with connectivity channels that will evolve over the vehicle’s lifetime. 3G and 4G cellular networks are the current standards, but 5G networks are expected to arrive around 2020.

System developers must also consider vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, which many say is needed for advanced safety and autonomous driving. But if governments don’t mandate V2V, rollouts of dedicated short range communications (DSRC) modems may be slow. Design teams are examining ways that cellular links can fill the gap and provide some safety benefits now touted for V2V.

“There are cases where you don’t need the low latency of DSRC,” said Alex Klotz, Director for Advanced R&D, Interior, at Continental. “It may be better to send some data to the cloud. A warning about black ice may come from a car that’s a mile away. That’s too far for V2X, but it’s still beneficial data because the black ice won’t disappear that quickly.”

"Fog computing" coming

Companies are also examining what’s called fog computing. It fits between the immediacy of V2X and slower cloud connections, using regional towers that have enough computing power to determine what data coming from vehicles is important enough to be transmitted to nearby vehicles. However, its role won’t be determined until towers are constructed.

Connected car architectures also push smart phones and apps to the forefront. Linking vehicles to an environment where year-long cycles are glacial requires an open platform, one that lets developers create apps that can ported to vehicles quickly and easily. Many design teams feel that’s best provided by using standards like HTML5, which is widely used on the Web.

“Our Phoenix platform is the first to be designed from the ground up using HTML5,” Yerdon said. “We feel that’s the right place to be for the future. With HTML5, you can create and test apps as the simulation level, you don’t need to have hardware built and ready.”

The infotainment evolution also highlights two trends driven in part by the growing role of consumer electronics in vehicle design—partnerships and industry consolidation. Both are intertwined in a recent partnership between Airbiquity and Harman International. Airbiquity is integrating Harman’s Intrusion Detection and Prevention System, which identifies hack attacks, with its cloud-based Choreo service delivery platform.

Harman is being acquired by Samsung Electronics, highlighting the growing interest consumer giants are showering on automotive. The Airbiquity-Harman link focuses on avoiding the security breaches that have plagued the consumer and business worlds.

“Vehicles have to have the strongest security possible. Part of that is to monitor and detect intrusions and take action when they occur,” said Scott Frank, Marketing Vice President at Airbiquity. “We’ve integrated Harman’s technology into our Choreo cloud services so intrusions can be reported to OEMs so they can start their mitigation process.”

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