Enrico Salvatori, senior vice president and president of Qualcomm Europe, discusses how consumer demand for mobile technology is shaping the connected cars of 2018.
From the early days of developing bigger and better engines that up a car’s top speed, to the more modern concepts of in-car comfort, safety, driver-assistance and infotainment, the automotive sector has spent decades pushing technology innovation forward. Now, as more smart devices have come to market, a new benchmark for the pace of innovation has been created. Current generation cars are expected to be as much connected devices as they are modes of transport.
Just as with the mobile industry, Qualcomm’s first contributions to the auto industry were focused on enabling, enhancing and extending connectivity. Over the past decade, and working closely with key players in the automotive sector, we at Qualcomm have developed a number of new technologies that enhance the in-car experience through wireless connectivity. The GM OnStar telematics system is present in over 10 million cars on the road today, and the first cars with embedded LTE, the Audi, Cadillac, BMW are already on the market. The demand for connectivity is already there, and only set to expand. Bringing much of our expertise and success from mobile, we are focused on transforming automotive communication as it’s known today to improve driver safety, deliver more personalised in-car experiences and enable in-vehicle entertainment.
The connected car of the future has become the new platform for the development of mobile technology. ABI Research reports 60% of new cars purchased will be connected through mobile technology by 2017. One in five cars on the road will be ‘aware’ by 2018, according to Gartner.
The connectivity demand is an important issue in automotive design, one that is spurring increasing collaboration between technology companies and car manufacturers. What the consumer is demanding, whether they realise it or not, is hardware that both lasts for years and can be updated with future features that run on a standard system. At the same time, engineers need to grapple with creating more aesthetically pleasing designs, developing more efficient engines and alternative fuels, and improving safety.
All the tech under one bonnet
Mobile technology has slowly crept into cars, both on the dashboard and under the bonnet. Not so long ago, the pinnacle of in-car tech was having a powerful sound system and perhaps a small screen with an early sat-nav system. Now, full colour and 3D sat-navs are the norm, decent sound systems are a given, and background technologies have snuck in to tie everything together; Bluetooth connectivity, multimedia screens, front and rear displays, 3G and 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi hotspots and more. As these existing technologies get replaced, what’s in a car’s dash quickly becomes outdated. Automotive manufacturers and engineers need to build-in systems that can be updated incrementally so drivers aren’t left with outmoded technology.
At CES, the international technology trade show, this year Qualcomm debuted two concept technology cars to show how designs are changing in response to consumer demand for increased connectivity and entertainment. A ‘mashup’ of a Maserati Quattroporte GTS modified with a host of connected technologies, including both the QNX CAR platform and the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform, alongside an Android based Cadillac XTS, were present.
The Maserati is equipped with advanced infotainment, digital instrument clusters, and driver assistance systems, all aimed at improving the overall driving experience. Such systems all feature the latest multi-touch high-resolution displays and user interfaces (UIs), 3D graphics for navigation, and LIDAR-based obstacle detection. Even the standard wing mirrors were upgraded with smart displays that both provide colour-coded information for improved driver safety and remove the usual blind spots from regular glass mirrors. Despite being a concept car the possibilities for improving the overall passenger experience through improved connectivity and upgraded technology are clear to see.
A future-proof system
What sets both cars apart is the technology found deep inside, and how it seamlessly improves the overall driving experience The Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform works to manage all the infotainment features, process vehicle safety data and information from a number of camera, proximity and LIDAR sensors, and reports all the relevant information back to the driver in real-time.
How is this different from other cars on the road today? To answer that it’s important to understand what the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform actually is; a highly integrated, thermal-efficient automotive-grade platform that combines a number of components in a single system; CPU, GPU, 4G LTE modem, GPS/GNSS, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. As well as enhancing the driver (and passenger) experience through modern infotainment systems you’d expect to see in current-generation cars, the system also provides a glimpse of the car for next-generation features – whether they’re on the drawing board or at concept stage now, or are still to be dreamt up by automotive designers and engineers.
Three areas where the Snapdragon Automotive Solutions platform makes the biggest impact include: the instrument panel, the connected infotainment system, and the driver information assistance system. While some of these features can be seen as a polished version of what’s on the market today, it’s important to note they are built on a system that supports both today’s features and the next-generation of developments that will appear in years to come.
The digital, reconfigurable instrument panel
The instrument panel is not a static display, and can be adjusted to a number of different views to provide a range of information to the driver; the view from a rear park assist camera, the current audio track, sat-nav information and routes, and vehicle data, to name a few.
The connected infotainment system
Alongside the digital instruments is a second, larger touchscreen. Built on the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment, which in turn runs on the powerful Snapdragon processor, the system’s UI supports voice recognition, has a touch screen with the ‘tap’, ‘swipe’, and ‘pinch/zoom’ functions you’d expect to find on your smartphone, and allows rear-seat control of navigation, audio selection and temperature by passengers. 4G LTE embedded SAS platform enables drivers to seamlessly switch to digital streaming radio feeds delivered by popular streaming radio applications.
Driver information assistance system
Using LIDAR and proximity sensors, the system detects obstacles near the car and provides the driver with warning information through either the instrument panel, side-view displays or a set of dashboard LEDs.
Although the Maserati Quattroporte GTS and the Cadillac XTS have been designed purely as concept cars, they embody Qualcomm’s vision of advanced in-car experiences delivered through wireless and computing technology. Most importantly, with the pace of innovation and customer demand, current and future connected technologies must be built on integrated systems to ensure infotainment technologies can be upgraded for the lifetime of a car. With the evolution in the connected car space set to intensify, automotive manufacturers will begin to look at ways their designs can differentiate themselves in terms of connectivity, infotainment systems, performance and aesthetics. The safety, servicing and entertainment benefits delivered by a connected car with integrated platforms will increasingly influence the decision making process of car purchasers.
As automotive manufacturers and engineers approach the design stage for new cars, connectivity and infotainment features should be front and centre of new designs. Consumer demand for the latest technology in their car will become a prerequisite, rather than a nice extra, by 2018.