Publication Name: Electronics Maker
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Connected car is one big area that has been swept by the revolutionizing concept called Internet of Things (IoT). Tata Elxsi‘s embedded product engineering business cuts across the key segments like Automotive, Telecom and Consumer Electronics where the adoption of M2M / Internet of things promises to make a big difference to the automotive world.
By Ashish Khushu
The widespread adoption of hand held devices like Smartphone and tablets have been influencing the automotive industry to change the customer driving experience. Presently, the user can enter a car and pair his / her smart phone to the Head unit and do a whole set of functions like call, navigation, playing audio/video etc. Soon the expensive infotainment head units could get replaced with smart phones or tablets with numerous applications like cloud based navigation, fuel reminders, driver profile, locating parked vehicles, real-time traffic scenario, battery state of charge, emergency/service assist, remote vehicle interaction etc. which will be more ground-breaking.
As the electronics that goes into a car evolves at a rapid pace and the car progresses from an isolated unit to a networked/connected unit, cars are becoming increasingly vulnerable to malicious attacks. With the current advancements such as users being able to connect their personal devices like the tablet and the cell phone to the car, access to cloud computing, car to car and car to infrastructure communications, there is nothing to stop anyone with malicious intent and with some computer-programming skills to gain access to the vehicle ECUs and take control of the vehicle. Tata Elxsi is working on building security platforms like secured gateway modules which shall act as a central point for the wired and wireless networks and prevents unauthorized usage.
The Auto industry is giving plenty of attention to the advanced driver assistance systems (ADASs) that will one day be linked together to provide autonomous driving. ADAS is the next big wave where we at TE are also committed towards making the car become more safer by developing Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) like Lane departure warning that alerts the driver if he / she veers away from the lanes, drowsiness detection system to warn if the driver gets drowsy behind the wheel, blind spot monitoring that enables one to see areas around the car that you could never see with standard mirrors and so on.
With increasing fuel costs and pollution levels, the future of the industry depends mainly on alternative fuels and alternate mobility sources like fuel cells, solar powered etc. The challenge for companies will be to come up with newer engines and transmission systems which will be less polluting and at the same time highly fuel efficient and performance oriented.
Safety and security is a prime target of the industry
Even though, this is a young market still in its introductory stage, appearing in only high-end cars, it is an ever growing and competitive market with the customers demanding for better technology at lower prices. This along with the strict Regulations placed by various Governments on the CO2 emission levels and mandatory safety requirements such as Crash test standards on new cars, are hard pushing the OEMs to come up with better designs in a cost efficient way. India, being the 5th largest producer in the world of passenger cars recently placed a new regulation standard for crash tests – NCAP(New Car Assessment Program) to ensure better driver safety and bring down the fatalities during accidents which has been notorious in the nation.
Improving sales and marketing of Hybrid vehicles is a trend seen recently among automakers in a bid to meet up the emission regulations. Energy conservation is tackled by increasing the efficiency of the ECUs used in key areas like the management system in HEVs, by using multi-core microcontrollers, which takes additional roles by creating “Virtual ECUs” and provide services in safety and diagnostics.
Safety and security has become the primary focus of both the automakers and the customers with technology advancement. Although this sector started its story with the introduction of ABS technology by Bosch in 1978, it is still in its infancy, but has strong possibilities of growth. With higher adoption rates of ADAS technologies like Night vision and Pedestrian detection systems in growing markets like Asia region, with an overall expected business of about 30 billion by year 2020, according to Deloitte; it is one of the most thriving markets with promise. Also, new state regulations from European Union and the US government on installing mandatory safety features like Back-guide monitors as a standard equipment and ensuring eCall facilities in all passenger cars in Europe, points to the importance of Safety systems in automotive.
Telematics clubbed with semi-autonomous features like valet parking and lane – keeping assistance and even driver updates on the telematics data of the driver and cars are making its way into the mainstream. Even though the adoption rate of Connected car systems is still low (about 10 – 20%), the industry looks upon it with a lot of expectation. Also, this has sparked discussions on the importance of cybersecurity against possible “Car Hacks”,thus steering attention towards much needed data security in car infotainment systems and Internet of things industry. The urban driver is empowered with information and demands for more advanced features at lower prices which puts a lot of pressure on the OEMs and is pushing for strict competition. This ensures that better quality of service and elevated industrial standards can be expected.
Security concerns for next generation automotive electronics
Contrary to traditional concept, a car has grown into a statement of luxury and comfort. And, this makes it a complex system packed with electronics in every possible area. With the advent of connected cars technology and Internet of things in cars, the role of software and networking has increased exponentially. Thus Cyber threats which has been making its rounds in the IT sector has finally made its presence felt in the world of automotive. With internet connectivity introduced in passenger cars, the security of the data transferred is vulnerable to “Hacks”. The recent “wireless-carjacking” stunt in a Fiat Chrysler, by software experts Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek has been an eye-opener to automakers, bringing the spotlight to a relatively untapped and neglected territory.A proper cyber security standard should be in place for data security and OEMs are seriously considering a unified solution for it. Though a solution for Energy conservation, use of multi – core processors increases the risk of ECU fails. In this case, if a single ECU stops working, the Virtual ECUs created by it also stops, which could be seriously affecting the vehicle and risking the driver. Another point of concern is the increased risk to drivers due to software crashes, since the industry is getting more into autonomous technology by relying on software. This means a few lines of erroneous code can mean life or death. Considering such safety threats, some of the governments have regulated the usage of autonomous cars on roads. But since this is the only way forward, we need to re-think and find our way.
Autonomous cars will be the next biggest technical innovation in the auto world. Entry of non-traditional players like Google into this sector gives enough credibility on how much expectation is being placed in this technology.
Driverless cars can facilitate vehicle sharing, with a few “shared” vehicles always available in the network, to which a passenger can connect to and arrange a passage at any convenient time. Such a system can save huge amount of energy resources thereby tackling the matter of traffic congestion, which is one of the major reasons why the OEMs are investing more on R & D for autonomous cars. The sector that the traditional players can tap into is “personalised” driverless cars with more scope for entertainment and personalised features, since the driver will be freed from their traditional duty of “driving”.
Though the driverless car is a prerequisite to attaining the ultimate driver safety and comfort, it will take some time before we actually achieve it. Currently only semi-autonomous systems are being tested and gearing up to be rolled out in 2017-2019 models.
Privacy would become a distant dream since more data about the driver’s coming – and – goings can be accessed by insurance companies and law enforcers. This can also lead to a serious blow to Data Security since driver details can be misused by hackers and law breakers. System failures are another concern for safe driving. There is also the problem, of how the algorithm will behave on-road, when it faces an imminent crash with a pedestrian or an obstacle. In such cases, the security of the passengers as well as pedestrians on road will be at stake. There is also the moral question of accountability, on who should take the responsibility in such an event, which can put the insurance companies in a tough spot.
Auto electronics may be one of the most competitive industries today, but it is one of the most happening one as well, powered by a combination of innovation, brilliance and sheer creativity which is exactly what Tata Elxsi has to offer. We have expertise in providing solutions in every major segment in auto electronics such as Power train, Body electronics, Chassis, Safety, security. State-of-the-art facilities for ECU testing, which can bring down testing costs significantly for the OEMs, make our services unique. We have dedicated teams for Hardware design as well, with lab facilities and design teams, supporting major engagements for tier-1 suppliers. Autosar compliant Basic software development requires special mention since Tata Elxsi has been entertaining long standing relationships with major OEMs and Suppliers with considerable services. We are making use of our strong software team to spearhead innovation in fields like Test automation solutions, which guarantees faster results for the customers. We are committed towards making the car safer by complying with standards like the Automotive Spice Level – 5, which promises software quality, especially in safety critical functionalities. Also internally we have been investing in building solutions for impending issues of Data Security in ECU systems, by putting forward new concepts and proposals to customers, which could make considerable impact in the industry. Cutting edge innovations and ingenious HMIs for car infotainment and critical functionalities for Driver assistance are also our significant contributions. Since Tata Elxsi has an assorted group of engineers from Electronics, Automotive, Electrical and Computer science trades, it is easier for us to provide multilevel solutions for the same client – be it software or hardware. We are also active partners in consortiums like AUTOSAR, GENIVI, CAR CONNECTIVITY, ARTOP and COMASSO thus making strategic investments that helps us to ensure that we are in-tune with the latest industry trends. Creativity is also not lost upon us, since we have a competent unit for Industrial Design Engineering, which comes up with futuristic aesthetics for car interiors and body designs. Tata Elxsi’s tag line is “Engineering Creativity” and we mean to stand by it.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ashish Khushu is the Vice President and Head of Transportation Business Unit at Tata Elxsi.