Now, that's interesting. Thanks for your quick response.
My understanding is that the eCall is a dormant system, only triggered when an accident occurs or by the driver pushing a button manually in the car.
The European Commission even said in a statement:
"It is not traceable and when there is no emergency (its normal operational status) it is not subject to any constant tracking. As it is not permanently connected to mobile networks, hackers cannot take control of it."
But now, thatt seems a tad too optimistic, doesn't it?
Yeah, this reminds me how I finally got a car with a CD player about the time music went to the MP3 generation. (My next car will have an iPhone dock!)
I underdstand reliability is a top concern for carmakers, there are few robust LTE chips on the market and not all areas have LTE servcies yet, but 2G? Holy crow, why not just release a carrier pidgeon from the trunk in the event of an accident ;-)
When consumer electroincs was my main beat at EE Times for a long time, I was always reminded that every penny counts. In other words, CE vendors will never go out of their way to add expensive chips inside their box, unless they are a real "game changer."
But now that I pursue the automotive beat, I am astounded to learn how these carmakers really ask for saving this penny here and that penny there. Wow, I had no idea!
Rick, you know what is really effective and unaffected by cellular reception issues? Rotary spark gap generators and as a bonus I am pretty sure Marconi's patents have expired. All we need is a hardened microcontroller to use the engines condenser to generate the requisit transmissions!
I don't necessarily see 2G as a problem. The built-in phone is intended to let the car make calls. The people in the car will likely have their own phones. Does the car need 3G for the sort of calls (like roadside assistance requests) that it may need to make?
And automakers aren't cheapskates - buyers are. The more expensive the components they put into cars, the higher the sticker price has to be, and price will be a factor in the purchase decision.
So for something like this, if lower end and therefore cheaper technology will meet the need, it's what will get used.
Er, which cars? Somehow, I doubt that will be for every GM model. I haven't looked, so I don't know what use cases GM foresees, or how they plan to market it, but I'm confident they will try to position it as a differentiator and a reason to buy a GM car over another brand.
I also suspect that inclusion in European cars was more a matter of government mandate than marketing choice, and it was a case of "The government says we have to do this. What's the cheapest way to comply?"
DMcCunney, this is what GM CEO said in June. (It's in the second page of this story)
Every brand we offer -- from Chevrolet to Cadillac -- and nearly every vehicle we sell around the world will soon offer 4G LTE, starting next year in the United States and Canada. It's a global rollout because that's what customers want -- and we have the scale to deliver.
I'll be curious to see how GM positions this, and what they will suggest buyers will be able to do with the capability.
And it brings up another question: what will that 4G LTE device connect to?
My existing cell phone connects to a carrier on a contract. If I buy a GM car with 4G LTE connectivity, it's certainly not going to connect to my existing carrier under my existing contract. To use it at all, I'm looking at getting a contract for it, with precisely what I can do with it determined by the contract I get. If I choose not to get a contract for it, it will be unused and unnecessary, because there will be nothing to connect to.
Though I suppose GM might get into the carrier business, cut a deal with a major provider to resell airtime, and offer connectivity and a contract as part of the purchase, with a monthly cost tacked onto my car payments.
At least I wouldn't worry about battery life... :-)
In the United States, GM will newly partner with AT&T (NYSE:T), which will provide LTE connectivity for the OnStar platform.
GM clearly doesn't see LTE-based OnStar to offer just the roadside services.
It hopes that it will enable faster data download speeds to support infotainment services such as streaming video to vehicles, dealer-to-car communication, usage-based insurance and in-vehicle advertising, etc.
In other words, the company expects to create more opportunities for revenue streams from their OnStar program. That, I must say, is pretty visionary -- it goes well beyond just meeting the eCall mandate. .
I think the EU mandate would read either that the safety system should be based on "at least 2G" cellular (assuming 2G is being retained in Europe for the forseeable future), or it could mandate that this safety system be stand-alone. However, it wouldn't make sense for a government to mandate fancy entertainment systems in cars, which might drive the minimum standard to LTE. Individuals can pay out of pocket for that, if they wish, rather than expecting the taxpayer to foot the bill.
GM's OnStar system is installed in all GM cars, however you aren't required to pay for the service. Plus, there's no government mandate here. So whatever future revenue streams GM plans to get from it are only GM's business. The taxpayer is not subsidizing any non-essential infotainment niceties.
Looking at how many drivers use GPS these days, its good to have the GPS inbuilt in the car. But the phone service may or may not be needed to built in. Afterall automotive is different from cellular. Many countries there is a law that you dont talk on phone while driving.
You misunderstand the purpose and use for the embedded cellular connection. This is NOT FOR THE CUSTOMER to use for normal telephone calls. In fact the EU E-call initiative forbids any use of the cellular connection for any other purpose. The connection serves 2 purposes: to provide voice communication between the occupants of a vehicle after a collision (and the collision severity has to exceed a certain threshhold of force/damage), AND most importantly, to provide data from the vehicle that indicates the exact location in GPS coordinates, vehicle occupancy information, and sensor information as to airbag deployment (which ones, how many), collision force, type of collision (e.g. front impact, side impact, rear impact, rollover, or any combinations), etc. This allows efficient dispatch of the proper emergency response units as soon as possible.
I don't think this 2G/LTE makes any difference, actually.
GM's OnStar system, as of the mid 2000s, uses the Verizon 3G network (Verizon adopted CDMA when it went to 2G, so that the 2G service could be carried on the 3G bands). Originally these OnStar systems used analog cellular. So now GM is saying they are migrating to the LTE standard. (My question will be, are they going to provide update kits for their 3G systems? Or just leave those cars high and dry, as they did with most of the previous analog OnStar cars?)
If the US Government wanted to meddle in this, they could easily mandate systems like OnStar from all manufacturers. No big deal. It doesn't matter what "G" they use, as long as that G standard is supported by cell carriers. I mean, it's not like you need huge bandwidth for these functions, right? The only thing the system has to do, to fulfill the govt mandate, would be to signal that an accident has occurred, give the location, and provide voice service from an operator. That can be done with ANY existing cell phone standard, as long as towers supporting that standard exist!
The E-call initative in EU started well over 10 years ago. The first try couldn't agree on standards after several years of meetings. The committees were disbanded, and new ones formed around 2007-8. At that time, even 3G coverage was spotty in much of EU (remember all of the "newbie" countries added in the late '90s and early in 21st century). Thus, 2G was the common choice to ensure good geographic coverage. Personally, I suspect by the time the 2015 mandate is supposed to be in effect, it'll be pushed out at least 2 additional years for many reasons (and there may be a lot of "2014" models still in production, as the smaller manufacturers are dragging their feet on implementation). That's one of the problems with the EU standards process (aside from the fact that the bureaucrats who create them are generally divorced from political realities).
I think E-call is a WONDERFUL service for consumers/drivers; however, there are good reasons why these have been available for over a decade in North America (and they are now in the THIRD generation), but haven't yet made an appearance in ANY form in EU. These are listed in my original post; that was the point I was trying to get across. You may be familiar with another excellent example: the old vehicle location/traffic monitor system in Japan. It's an incredibly complex and expensive system based on really old technology, and has been just recently phased out because GPS is so much better and widespread now. Government-dictated systems tend to be obsolete by the time they are fully implemented, very expensive (often because political reasons are used more than dispassionate technical analysis for determining the design), and have unforeseen consequences that can cause more problems than they solve.
mhrackin, thanks for your input here. Biut I am a little confused. When you said below:
I think E-call is a WONDERFUL service for consumers/drivers; however, there are good reasons why these have been available for over a decade in North America (and they are now in the THIRD generation), but haven't yet made an appearance in ANY form in EU.
The ones being available in the U.S., are you referring to GM's OnStar? What other eCall services are available in the U.S.?
Just for starters: I work for Verizon Telematics (formerly Hughes Telematics, Inc.) We are the telematics provider for Mercedes-Benz (MBRACE2 is the latest offering) in North America, and are now rolling out services for Volkswagen globally. Other OEM customers are in work. We also have a subsidiary NetworkFleet that uses our telematics expertise for fleet management. Check out Verizon Telematics web site and Mercedes MBRACE for details about services we provide. There are many competitors globally (including in EU, but because of the lack of E-call infrastructure, there is no E-call service there), mostly smaller or region-specific.
With or without eCall mandate, cellular modules appear to be creeping into cars already.
According to the analyst,
"...overall cellular enabled modules are expected in 2013 to still have 2G technology at about 80% attach rate. By 2015 (ecall/eraGlonass), modules with 2G and 3G technologies are instead forecast to have equal share in volume at about 45% of the overall wireless module shipment. LTE is expected to cover the missing part of the market."
De Ambroggi added, "In 2016, 3G goes to 50% share though."
He cautioned: "This is overall picture...not just for ecall boxes."
So, obviously, the primary driver to put a cellular modem inside a car might have been triggered by eCall, but the idea of integrating an in-car cellular modem is also coming along to do "other things" -- like infotainment.
Junko, we do have OnStar in our car, which we use both for the safety feature and for hands-free telephone (which in our case might add up to literally a couple of minutes per month, absolute max). So sure, it's useful.
However if the safety aspect has to become a mandate, then the mandate can only reasonably cover the "lowest common denominator," so to speak. It cannot become in effect a tax on everyone, to subsidize luxury features that some people might want.
The lowest common denominator for the safety feature only requires very low bit rate, say around 14 Kb/s max, even 9.6 Kb/s should be plenty actually, but it does require ubiquitous coverage. So, the smallest "G" still in existence is perfectly adequate, but the ubiquitous coverage aspect is far more important than some kind of bragging rights that it can support LTE. Who needs LTE to transfer GPS data and a short voice conversation with the operator?
I'd be more interested in seeing how GM and others plan to migrate. It was obvious in the last system upgrade, from the analog AMPS system to 2G or 3G, that the auto companies couldn't care less. They essentially told their customers, "If you want to retain this service, please feel free to come to our showrooms and select a new car." When instead, they could have offered a really simple module upgrade, to provide at least the previously available features over the 2G or 3G networks. (AMPS service in the US was shut down in 2008.)
Bert: I agree. Who's talking about taxing consumers anyway? Right now any mobile phone in the US -- even without a service account -- can be used to call 911 for emergencies. Seems like automotive systems should work the same way. Right?
I'm also concerned about the potential for eavesdropping. In the past, police with court-issued warrants have listened into automotive systems. In these days when the NSA seems to be monitoring just about everyone on phones and online, I suspect they're also listening into car conversations ... why wouldn't they?
"Right now any mobile phone in the US -- even without a service account -- can be used to call 911 for emergencies. Seems like automotive systems should work the same way. Right?"
In brief, the answer is NO. There are way too many areas where the nearest cell tower isn't in the right jurisdiction, so the call will have to be transferred (maybe several times) to get to the right call center. The delays involved are significant and unacceptable. That is why GPS location is used; the system can use that to determine EXACTLY which 911 center should get the call (it takes only milliseconds). 911 centers get that location (and all the other data from the vehicle) simultaneously with the voice call transferred to them. It takes a "middle man" to do this. The vehicle device is programmed to route crash calls to the middle man.
Mhrackin: Isn't that issue of the exact location a problem for wireless phones as well? And besides, I was talking about the cost. That shouldn't cost a nickel if the motorist isn't even subscribing to the service.
Re cost: it's up to the car manufacturer to determine whether or not subscription status is required. Many provide an initial "free" trial subscription, and som extend that to unlimited only for crash calls. Regardless, there is NO CHARGE for the cellular messages, calls, etc. The cellular account belongs to the service provider, not the car owner.
Don't forget, ALL cellphones also have to have GPS location sharing enabled for a 911 call to send that information! It is NOT automatically enabled. Privacy laws! BTW, these are generally much stronger in EU than US. However, I don't think the network will use the GPS location data for voice call routing; if it does, then the celphone owner would have to have enabled sharing.