HAMBURG, Germany; Chip maker NXP sees multiple opportunities to create new automotive applications through the combination of diverging communications technologies. These applications center on telematics and comfort electronics. Not in all cases, however, they will help to increase the driver's comfort.
In order to secure its position in a thrusting market for intra-car networking, telematics and increasingly consumer electronic devices which embed the entire car into a complex data infrastructure, NXP has brought various applications near market maturity. The applications were presented a week ago the OEMs and tier-one vendors in an event in the company's headquarters in Eindhoven (Netherlands); now the company unveiled them also to the public.
For the future, NXP expects multiple entertainment and information devices ranging from MP3 player over mobile handset through video players and mobile navigation systems to populate a car's interior. In order to connect and integrate them all, the company bets on Wireless USB which it expects to be ready for mass market by end of 2007. Kurt Sievers, Vice President Strategy and Business Development expects the variety of such devices to further increase rapidly. "The trend to mobile devices to be used in cars will increase", Sievers said.
The automotive industry, however, already now has difficulties to connect all these devices to the existing in-car entertainment environment. BMW, for instance, has proposed a 'terminal mode' for all mobile devices intended to be used in cars. This terminal mode would users allow to separate user interface and output of these device and control them via the in-car HMI. Thus, auto makers discuss solutions that accommodate as many mobile devices as possible.
"I do not expect that future cars simply will offer a huge bay at the dash board where one simply can click his mobile devices into the system." At least, Sievers believes, displays, amplifiers and loudspeakers will remain fixed in the car. Mobile tuners, navigation portables and add-on devices could be connected much better via Wireless USB than with standard wired USB. The wireless technology will enable up to 70 wireless devices to form an in-car network with data rates of up to 480 MBit/s, Sievers said.
An exponent of a group of novel applications that spans several technology sectors is a development NXP made together with car maker BMW and tier one vendor Siemens VDO is the 'connected key': The trio equipped a standard car key which already contained the circuitry for the immobilizer system with a flash memory and an NFC interface. When the user leaves the car, a set of data is transferred to the key, including location data from the in-car navigation system, and several data relevant for service stations and user - such as the status of doors and windows. In order to display the data, they are transferred to a mobile phone or a PDA that equally is equipped with an NFC interface.
These data can be used to find the vehicle - be it the car has been parked in a huge, obscure parking lot, or in the crooked alleys of an old European town. If the car user needs to be guided back to his vehicle, the cellphone, however, has to be equipped with a navigation receiver as well as the car.
In addition, the car driver can see when his car needs to be serviced, and he can easily prove the mileage of his car in the case of a sale. Service stations can use the key to read out the defect code memory without even opening the hood.
In the project with BMW and Siemens VDO, the data from the key are displayed on an NFC-equipped mobile handset. "It would be possible to include the display in the key", explained Dirk Reimer, Regional Manager Automotive for NXP. "But for several reasons, OEMs prefer to keep their car keys relatively small." Other reasons why the display in most cases probably won't be integrated into the key are requirements for ruggedness and scratch resistance.