Cars are in the process of transforming from being more than just a means for transport into connected devices at the heart of the Internet of Things (IoT), according to Spanish tech major Ficosa.
Speaking at the 2016 Mobile World Congress (MCW), Ficosa’s CEO Javier Pujol said: “(The) connected car will become the most powerful multiplatform source of communication in which the interconnection between people, objects and infrastructures have no limits.”
Ficosa and Panasonic showcased their jointly-developed products and solutions at MCW. In September 2015 the companies announced that they would accelerate the fusion and further evolution of the “comfort” and “safety’ areas of new-generation cockpit systems. The first result of the Ficosa-Panasonic alliance was the launch of an electronic mirror systems business. Also on show was the Smart Connectivity Module, which allows all passengers to connect independently through the vehicle’s own mobile system.
Ficosa has been working on connectivity systems for the automotive industry for more than nine years. The company focuses on connectivity platforms with integrated antennas (SCM), Telematics Control Units (TCU) and vehicle-infrastructure technology (V2X), which allows vehicles to connect to communication networks, other vehicles and infrastructure.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Pujol to share his vision of the future automobile.
Pujol: It will be much safer, more connected and more sustainable. We estimate there will be a quarter of a billion connected vehicles on the road by 2020, and that will enable and boost new in-vehicle services and more automated driving capabilities. The share of new vehicles equipped with this capability will increase dramatically, making connected car a major element of the Internet of Things.
Regarding sustainability, it will be a continued evolution and breakthrough in technologies with increased penetration of alternative energies. I forecast that the automotive sector may go through a phenomenon similar to what happened with the Internet and online business bubble in the 2000s. At the beginning, the expectations were not met, but since the bubble burst we have seen a steady increase in Internet-related business. In the same way we will see some initial niche markets help to develop the necessary technology to overcome the current obstacles, such as range anxiety, price affordability and infrastructure development.
AI: How has Ficosa’s alliance with Panasonic helped further your vision for your company?
Pujol: Panasonic is the best partner we could have to maximize synergies and reach the critical mass to lead the amazing technological transformation of the automotive industry. During the last years, Ficosa has taken important steps towards developing high-tech products that have been essential in making this alliance possible. Our partnership with Panasonic represents Ficosa’s consolidation in the new technologies market and strengthens the capital and technological capabilities of the company, giving us new horizons full of possibilities for growth and increasing our capacity to respond to the new needs of automakers worldwide. Ficosa and Panasonic have been working on integrating our know-how and complementary technologies in the areas of connectivity, safety and efficiency, which will be the basis of the automobile of the future. In that sense, we have already identified some key technological products.
Electronic mirrors CMS (Camera Monitor System) and IRMS (Intelligent Rear-view Monitor System), which combine Ficosa’s expertise in vision systems with Panasonic’s image technology, will lead the car transformation in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems). Regarding shift-by-wire automatic shifters, Panasonic’s experience in user interfaces will expand the possibilities of Ficosa’s technology in this field. In e-mobility, the integration of Panasonic’s know-how in battery development with the electronic battery management systems developed by Ficosa will be essential. In connectivity, the combination of Ficosa’s solutions with the infotainment systems of Panasonic will give rise to a wide range of new services with high added value. Furthermore, this alliance will boost Ficosa presence in Asia thanks to Panasonic’s firmly established presence on the continent, as well as drive regional synergies through cross sales, which bring extraordinary value to our business development.
AI: Please tell us about the evolution of the car mirror.
Pujol: The technology that has been incorporated to provide additional safety features has been increasing over the past decade. Current mirror systems include many lighting systems (blinker, courtesy light, day light running…), electromechanical actuators, blind spot detection, lane change assistant, antennas, electro chromic technology, defrosting – and there is much more to come. We will see a higher level of integration of different safety systems. Viewing technologies, mirrors and new digital technologies that will get more and more integrated with ADAS systems and connectivity as one of the bases towards a more assisted and more autonomous driving.
AI: What do you mean when you say the car will be the heart of IoT?
Pujol: The car is the second largest investment after the house, and it is the place where we spend most of our time, apart from the house and the office. Vehicles are evolving into mobile computing centers, which include connectivity to the Internet and other vehicles. It is estimated that by 2020 75% of cars shipped will be delivered with integrated connectivity. This will connect around 70 million vehicles in the world. In this sense, the roadmap of all OEMs already includes solutions such as e-Call, autonomous driving, the Car-to-X communication, mobility and telematics services. Moreover, consumers are increasingly demanding connectivity services such as Wi-Fi for passengers and external Internet connections for streaming music, navigation and other applications.
There are a range of new services in this sector, including pay-as-you-drive insurance, location- or context-related services, pay-per-use for additional functions, and customized driver features. In the same way that some years ago no one could have predicted the amount of apps that we have today in our mobile phones, the number of connected car applications that we will use will surpass any prediction we could make today. All those services use universal communication channels that require scalable security solutions to cover the entirety of the system’s end points.
The increased consumption and creation of digital content within the vehicle will drive the need for more sophisticated infotainment systems, creating opportunities for application processors, graphics accelerators, displays and human-machine interface technologies.
AI: What are some of the breakthrough features of the SCM Ficosa and Panasonic showcased at the Mobile Congress?
Pujol: The Smart Connectivity Module redefines the new vehicle connectivity architecture that will enable the growth in mobile connectivity. The SCM creates a digital network in the vehicle, providing independent Internet connection to all passengers.
AI: What ADAS technologies do you plan to launch in the near future?
Pujol: Ficosa has been very active in ADAS technologies, having a market presence in two main areas: a vision camera portfolio, where we will see an increased level of intelligence with new integrated functions; and the seamless fusion of digital viewing and assistance systems. Evolution towards a more autonomous driving will require more integrated and connected systems. Even though in Ficosa we have many of the critical technologies in ADAS and connectivity, the Panasonic alliance is highly increasing our capabilities to integrate more complex systems.
AI: How have automotive OEMs and companies like Ficosa collaborated to create new technologies?
Pujol: Ficosa collaborates by creating new technologies, developing basic proprietary technology, co-developing with automotive OEMs and fine-tuning technology to customer needs – and, finally, execute seamless roll-out.