Issue: Feb 2017


Taking the automotive route at CES 2017



by Clinton Wright

CES 2017 gave car manufacturers a chance to prove that they are ahead of the technology curve.

Staged from January 5-8, CES 2017 hosted more than 3,800 exhibiting companies and attracted over 175,000 delegates from around the world.

Ford used the event to announce that Toyota would be using Ford software to connect smartphones to dashboards and join Ford in promoting the SmartDeviceLink system to other automakers. General Motors CEO Mary Barra used her keynote speech to introduce the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV, a fully electric vehicle that can travel over 200 miles on a single charge. It is due to go into production in 2017. “The Bolt EV is truly the first electric vehicle that cracks the code of long range and affordable price,” Barra said. With tech features like wide-angle rear cameras, quick-charge battery and navigation with EV-specific routing vehicles like the Bolt are no longer just cars – they are “an upgradable platform for new technologies,” she said.

The New Rules of the Road Super Session moderated by USA Today’s tech reporter, Mike Snider, discussed with top executives from Blackberry, Intel and Mobileye how a collaborative approach between automakers, hardware and software developers is driving the rapid pace of self-driving innovations. The panelists agreed that the industry needs to fully solve the convergence of Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) if it is to reach the goal of having self-driving cars on the road by 2020.

Nissan chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn shared the company's vision for a zero-emission, zero-fatality world. "The destructive triangle of autonomous drive technology, electric vehicles, connected cars and services means we will see more change in the next 10 years than we did in the last 50," said Ghosn. He announced that the next-generation Nissan Leaf electric vehicle will come with the semi-autonomous ProPilot system, along with the company's plans to launch its Seamless Autonomous Mobility (SAM) system. Developed from NASA technology, SAM enables a "human in the loop" approach to autonomous driving, which monitors a vehicle's path from a distance, providing peace of mind to drivers. However, Gill Pratt, CEO of the Toyota Research Institute, said the industry was "not even close" launching fully autonomous Level 5 cars. He added that it "will take decades to have a significant portion of US cars operate at Level 4 autonomy or higher."

Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America showcased its new generation of FLEXConnect.AI® In-Vehicle Infotainment systems which incorporate a multi-display Android user interface, LTE connectivity with over the air (OTA) update capability and ADAS integration on one platform. “As the automotive industry continues to evolve, innovative relationships are critical to delivering a safer, more connected driver experience,” said Doug Ray, director of Car Multimedia for Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America in a press statement. Built on the latest Android OS, FLEXConnect.AI gives original equipment manufacturers the power of the Android ecosystem and provides users access to a wide variety of choices. The processor powering the new platform is the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820Am.

Velodyne introduced the VLP-32 sensor platform, which improves performance and range for those seeking the best data for Level 2 through Level 5 self-driving programs. Velodyne sensors provide a 3D model of the world around the vehicle, including calibrated reflectivity data for precise localization, segmentation, and object tracking and classification within the environment. In December 2016, the company announced a ground-breaking design for a solid-state LiDAR sensor that can deliver a subsystem cost of under US$50 when sold in high-volume manufacturing scale. “Our new design approach creates a true solid-state LiDAR sensor, while significantly raising the bar as to what can be expected from LiDAR sensors as far as cost, size, and reliability,” said David Hall, founder and CEO, Velodyne LiDAR.

The technology is expected to speed up the use of LiDAR sensors in multiple industry sectors, including autonomous vehicles, ridesharing, 3D mapping, and drones. LiDAR sensors that leverage this new design will be less expensive, easier to integrate due to their smaller size, and more reliable as a result of fewer moving parts. The technology can also be integrated in Velodyne LiDAR’s existing Puck form factors. Each integrated circuit is less than 4mm square, which just covers George Washington’s nose on the U.S. quarter. According to Dr. Alex Lidow, CEO and co-founder of Efficient Power Conversion Corporation, "As LiDAR technology continues to gain widespread adoption, GaN technology brings higher performance resulting in higher image resolution, all while offering enhanced integration of key functions that ultimately lead to reduced overall cost for LiDAR-based system solutions." Clarion Corporation of America, a leader in automotive infotainment and advanced driver safety and assistance systems, was named a CES 2017 Innovation Awards Honoree for its Full Digital Sound (FDS) high-resolution automotive audio system. Products entered in this prestigious program are judged by a panel of independent industrial designers, engineers and members of the trade media to honor outstanding design and engineering in cutting-edge consumer electronics products across 28 product categories.

Clarion's Full Digital Sound audio system is the industry's first in-car audio system to maintain a digital audio signal from the source to the speaker voice coils, resulting in pristine sounding audio with zero loss in quality and no added noise from analog connections. "Clarion has been a leading innovator in the automotive audio and infotainment space for more than 75 years and has been the driving force behind several of the in-car technologies we find standard today," said Allen H. Gharapetian, Vice President of Marketing and Product Planning at Clarion. “We are honored to be a part of CES year after year and thrilled to be recognized by their world class team for our dedication to advancing the state-of-the-art in in-car entertainment technology."

Clarion has also been working on mass production of products using technologies that can help acceleration, steering and braking of autonomous vehicles. The company has been working in collaboration with Hitachi Automotive Systems to develop vehicle peripheral perception technologies based on in-vehicle cameras and image processing capabilities which Clarion has developed over the years. These advanced sensor fusion technologies combine cameras with other in-vehicle sensors to enable more accurate peripheral monitoring. Clarion is also developing an automatic parking function using its Overhead View Monitor and vehicle peripheral view monitoring technology. The size and layout of the parking space is determined using image recognition. If a pedestrian or an inanimate object is detected during automatic parking, automatic braking is employed to pause the vehicle’s movement. This system’s image recognition performance has been enhanced through the use of Clarion’s newly developed high-resolution cameras.

BlackBerry QNX outfitted a Lincoln MKZ to demonstrate a self-driving vehicle. The Lincoln MKZ is much more than a demonstration vehicle – it is an engineering prototype that allows BlackBerry QNX engineers to experiment with and develop new technologies for the autonomous vehicle market, according to the company. QNX Software Systems also launched acoustics software for hands-free communication in 2016. Nearly 20 leading automakers now use QNX acoustics software to enhance the user experience of their vehicles, in products such as Chrysler Uconnect®, Ford SYNC® 3, GM OnStar® and Honda BlueConnect®. On average, QNX® acoustics software is shipped in an automotive system every 2.5 seconds.

“Today’s drivers expect to hear — and to be heard — clearly when they call from their cars. Moreover, the smartphone is driving expectations for better call quality through support for Voice-over-IP calling and Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) technologies. To meet these expectations in the harsh acoustic environment of the car, automakers rely on QNX Acoustics for Voice, which provides patented algorithms for echo cancellation, noise reduction and other voice-enhancement technologies, and on the expert tuning, testing and software support provided by QNX Software Systems worldwide,” says the company.  “The 2017 Lincoln MKZ comes equipped, from the factory, with all the necessary drive-by-wire capabilities. All of the driving systems (throttle, gearbox, steering and braking) can be completely controlled electronically. By using this capability as a starting point, BlackBerry QNX and its partners are able to focus on adding other self-driving capabilities such as the sensors, route planning, and maneuvering,” says Kerry Johnson, Sr. Product Manager, BlackBerry QNX in his blog.

According to BlackBerry QNX, its goal was to build an autonomous vehicle using commercial embedded processors and safety certified embedded operating system (OS). At the core of the design was QNX’s safety certified OS, which powers all of the intelligent software modules. QNX’s middleware serves to integrate radar, LiDAR sensors, multiple camera inputs and vehicle networking. BlackBerry QNX provided a port of the OpenCV library to help with the vision processing functions delivered by Cogent.

The Corning booth included a breath-taking, glass-enabled concept car that showcased how the company is redefining the automotive experience through thin, tough, and optically advantaged Corning Gorilla Glass and other glass technologies – inside and out.

“We have an opportunity this year to share our evolving Glass Age vision, inspiring consumers, customers, and partners to engage with us and help build the ecosystems for innovative solutions enabled by precision glass that can redefine everyday activities,” said Dr. Jeffrey Evenson, senior vice president and chief strategy officer in a press release. “Simply put, we believe glass components can be as vital to the next 50 years as silicon components have been to the last 50 years”. By using Gorilla instead of conventional glass an automaker removed 12 pounds from the car and significantly lowered its center of gravity, says the company.

Microsoft, NXP Semiconductors, IAV, and auto mobility partners Cubic Telecom, Esri and Swiss Re showcased their collective vision of safe and secure end-to-end mobility through a highly automated driving demonstration and experience. Attendees got a chance to take a test drive in the vehicle to understand how the cloud and artificial intelligence can enable personalized in-car experiences, and how cars can securely “talk” to one another. NXP showcased improved road safety and traffic flow via secure communications between vehicles (V2V) and between vehicles and the surrounding infrastructure (V2I). Use cases included collision warnings, intelligent traffic lights and vulnerable road-user detection at intersections — all based on NXP’s automotive RoadLINK products. NXP cooperates with Delphi and Savari for the onboard and roadside units.

Chip maker ON Semiconductor showcased how effective the implementation of its USB Type-C applications has been. It is the rapidly-emerging default industry standard for wired smart and rapid charging and high-speed data transmission to support applications such as high definition video and augmented and virtual reality. The default USB 3.1 protocol is capable of achieving data rates of up to 10 Gbps, theoretically twice as fast as USB 3.0 – crucial to ensuring the viability of today’s always connected, feature packed, high use portable devices.

At the CES 2017, the company demonstrated how the USB Type-C super speed wireless audio can transfer data of a movie to a phone from a PC with wireless audio playback to a pair of battery powered speakers featuring ON Semiconductor’s PowerBank controller and the highest power density class D power amplifier currently available on the market. A mobile application processor will manage Bluetooth communications, time alignment between the two audio streams and the audio tuning functions.

Israeli firm otonomo is a leading cloud-based security platform which enables car manufacturers, drivers, services and application providers to be a part of a connected ecosystem. It recently raised US$12 million to help start trials with automotive companies, and has since started working with Daimler. “In order for cars to provide the best connected service for drivers, car manufacturers need a platform they trust to share and negotiate data between them and application providers while meeting different data and privacy regulations that respect and accommodate drivers’ privacy,” says Ben Volkow, CEO and Co- Founder of otonomo.

Delta ID, a leader in consumer-grade iris scanning technology, introduced its iris scanning technology for automotive. Delta ID and Gentex have entered into a strategic partnership in which Gentex's rearview mirrors will integrate Delta ID's Active IRIS® technology. The companies believe the iris scanner is the right modality for in-car biometric identification and authentication, and rearview mirrors are the right place to place the scanner. "Driver identification will play a critical role in car sharing, in-car payment and the autonomous driving space," said Steve Downing, Senior Vice President at Gentex Corporation.

In another security-related development Irdeto, a world leader in digital platform security, announced a partnership with Tata Elxsi, a key global player in the automotive ecosystem, to provide automakers with secure in-car display systems for automobiles. Irdeto has combined its Cloakware for Automotive security solution with Tata Elxsi’s award-winning design and engineering expertise to offer secure user interface and connected cockpit solutions to automotive clients around the world. The Tata Elxsi and Irdeto solution works with Vehicle-to-X (V2X), connected cars and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) technologies. Tata Elxsi and Irdeto are also addressing security issues related to mobile companion applications. The partnership secures the application, any data generated by the app and the communication between the vehicle and mobile phone using the Remote Vehicle Interaction (RVI) specification.

CES 2018 will be hosted in Las Vegas from January 9-12.



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