SAN FRANCISCO--Even as we bring the cloud into the car and vice
versa, unresolved technological, safety and business-model issues
are creating an uncertain environment for automotive electronics
That was my take-away from an automotive panel discussion here
recently that involved representatives from companies as diverse as
Volvo, BMW, Pandora and Verizon. While these may seem like glory
days for automotive electronics design, many battle lines are just
forming and many skirmishes still need to be fought.
Case in point is bringing the "car into the cloud" and the "cloud
into the car," as Volvo Vice President of Electrical Systems Thomas
Muller put it. As the smart phone becomes a more crucial piece of
consumer electronics technology, the opportunity arises for
automotive OEMs to use that device as their de facto communications
and infotainment system. It allows OEMs to take some cost out,
leverage a global ecosystem of electronics and apps developers and
re-channel those infotainment/communications R&D dollars
Then again the infotainment-communications system is becoming a
differentiator for carmakers. It started with OnStar and has evolved
into offerings such as
iDrive system, to General Motors' MyLink, to Ford's Sync
But there will surely be some contention.
"If you put an iPad in your car and have all those features at your
fingertips, you're going to have a lot more driver distraction," said
George Lynch, vice president of automotive for Internet-based music
Take a look at the 2013 Motor Trend car of the year if you want to see the best Silicon Valley can do in infotainment, comms, diagnostics and car configuration. Nobody's done anything like Tesla''s 17" console in a production vehicle.
Well, some of these supposed new ideas have actually come, and occasionally gone too! For instance, we used to have a combined Verizon Wireless account for our 3G cell phones and for OnStar, but someone, either OnStar or Verizon, decided to quit that plan. Separate bills now.
By the way, I'm not sure what people assume when they hear about OnStar, but it's more than just getting an operator in an emergency. Aside from telephone, emergency, and directions to a destination, it also monitors multiple onboard systems and provides you with a status report every so often. Certainly, such functionality can only increase over time, yes? More on-board sensors, for ever more remote diagnostics. This can already be done in real time, if they choose to do so. Whether it continues to be called "OnStar," or some other fancy moniker.
Also, 3G and even 2G networks can also "allow for multiple data streams to happen at the same time," as far as that goes.
Moving targets are great for systems engineers or any other kind of engineer. Keeps you on your toes, and never a dull moment.