MADISON, Wis. -- It should surprise no one that your basic late-model car today is essentially morphing into a giant cellphone. Each new car to be sold in Europe starting in October 2015 must integrate a cellular modem. Driving the trend for "embedded cellular" on the automotive market is the European Union's e-call mandate.
The surprise, though, is that a majority of those "embedded cellular" modems designed for e-call aren't even 3G. They will be 2G, according to Luca De Ambroggi, senior analyst responsible for automotive component and device at IHS, a market research firm.
So, who in the world is going to to admit that their newest car features cellular network technology from the 1990s? Well, even though they're not bragging about it, the world's penny-pinching carmakers do. Carmakers ain't phone companies. "[Automotive] OEMs are concerned about the cost of a wireless module," explained De Ambroggi in a recent phone interview with EE Times.
But hang on.
Most drivers nowadays already carry has a smartphone. So, why would it matter if the "embedded cellular" inside the car is a 2G, 3G, or LTE?
Well, it actually doesn't -- as long as a driver uses the smartphone for in-car infotainment purposes. But what if you want to use the mobile phone as an e-call device? Not a chance, according to the EU.
European e-call requires cars to automatically ring for assistance during a vehicular accident. As you might expect, the criteria for an e-call box are stringent. They require all features to be "self-sustaining" -- even in a car crash -- and to come with a separate "backup" battery. IHS's De Ambroggi added that the box must consist of qualified automotive parts, and the functions inside the box including GPS must guarantee 15 years of life.
There are thousands of accident scenarios under which a driver's mobile phone just won't cut it as a real e-call device. "Telematics solutions based on a mobile device will not be compliant with basic e-call specifications," as De Ambroggi put it.
Class action suit against Ford
Then, there was a proposed class action lawsuit filed against Ford last week, alleging that the MyFord Touch and the Lincoln infotainment system are defective.
This doesn't exactly give me much confidence in the use of an in-car system paired with my own phone.
In the lawsuit filed against Ford, the most serious complaint is that the system freezes periodically and fails to respond to voice and touch commands. The complaint also details Ford's failed attempts at correcting the system through system updates and other fixes.