Issue: Mar 2003

Supply Side -- Finding the Shortest Route

Mitsubishi Electrics software program drives down the cost of developing navigation systems

by John Peter

Telematics still promises to add marketable content to the vehicle but all involved seem to be waiting for a breakthrough that will drive the cost of the systems down out of the lofty luxury segments and make it more applicable to the less-expensive high volume segments.

Mitsubishi Electric (MELCO) may just have come up with one solution.

MELCO has developed a software program that greatly reduces the time and cost of developing and customizing navigation systems. The program called Victoria (which stands for Vehicle Information and Communications Terminal using Object-oriented Implementation Architecture) was designed three years ago and is extensively used on MELCO equipped vehicles in Japan.

Victoria was used to program the unique pop-up navigation system on the Volvo S80.
Michael P. Antrim, Executive Account Manager for Audio/Video & Communications, Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America, says that Victoria can cut from six months to a year out of the development time that it takes to write a navigation system program.

Antrim says that a navigation software program can cost up to a million dollars because of the high volume of man hours required to program the system. If major revisions are needed, Victoria could easily save the customer a half a million dollars. Antrim says that the level of software required to program a navigation system is very complicated.

Theres a lot more user interface that goes on different menus and screens that have to be created. This is all above and beyond the algorithms that have to be written to decide how to calculate the route.

Antrim says that once you develop the algorithms, theyre done.

The problem is that every time you get a new customer, the HMI (Human Machine Interface) part of it has to be rewritten. Its a huge block of software.

Each customer wants the functions and cost of developing navigation design of the system to be unique.

Early on we realized that every time someone wanted a new system, we were going to have to spend thousands of man hours rewriting all of this software, Antrim says. In the past, simple things, like changing the color of directional arrows, required a complete rewriting of the software program.

When changes are made using Victoria, every part of the software thats affected is automatically updated. Antrim says that changes can be made in real time and some changes can be made in seconds.

For us it was a very powerful tool, Antrim adds, because instead of spending six months to a year writing software before the customer sees anything, we can be there the next day, or we can even be sitting there with them doing it.

What makes Victoria successful is the way the software is organized.

Victoria separates the existing navigation program into modules. The object-oriented programming sets parameters for specific parts of the program. From these parameters, the software is written. For instance, when programming is written for all streets, the street objects are rolled into the map objects. None of the modules are interrelated with the other layers of the software. If changes need to be made to the street objects, then only that module needs to be rewritten.

Victoria runs in Microsoft Windows on any ordinary personal computer and simulates the user interface on the screen allowing you make changes easily. Once all changes are made, Victoria writes usable programs.

When it comes out, Antrim says, its coded and can be directly used.

Victoria took two years to develop, but Antrim says that MELCO began utilizing the system even before it was done.

We were about a half to two-thirds done when we started using it.

The Volvo S80 was the first program to utilize Victoria. Volvos system is unique in that the screen pops up out of the center of the IP, neatly tucking away when not in use. It also has steering wheel controls for entering destinations into the computer.

Antrim says that the program has become important advantage when quoting projects because people with navigation experience know that the software is complicated and that their engineers are going to be responsible for it.

Theyre pleased to see this software and know that they can get what they want.

Engineers have also taken to this Windows based application. Antrim has noticed that engineers tend to make a lot more changes then they would have in the past.

Updates are easily made even after the system has been installed in the vehicle by anyone who has the software loaded to a disc.

Periodically, people need to update their maps, Antrim says. We can put the software updates on the same disc with the map updates. When the disc is installed, the system recognizes a new level and downloads it.

Antrim says that with other systems, changes would require many man hours.

Antrim points out that the Victoria system doesnt only apply to navigation.

Victoria can be used to program any kind infotainment (e-mail, internet, etc.), that requires some level of human machine interface.

We see the use of this tool growing.

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