Remember the car phone a decade ago and how it referred to a bulky mobile phone permanently installed in the car itself? Siemens VDO is bringing “car” and “phone” together again, but in a completely new way with its Communication Hub solution, which enables external infotainment systems using Bluetooth connections, USB and other standard hard-wired interfaces to link with the vehicle’s driver information and infotainment controls.
“Communication Hub provides the communication bridge between a mobile device, such as a smart phone, and the vehicle,” said Siemens VDO North American Manager of Product Strategy and Innovation Management Tarun Gupta. “Siemens VDO is working on integrating the mobile device’s external functions into the car’s Human Machine Interface (HMI), so drivers can safely, ergonomically and comfortably use both existing on-board controls.”
The company’s goal is to integrate the mobile infotainment applications into cockpit controls and instrumentation in a manner allowing mobile phone navigation or Internet downloads to be completely operated from the steering wheel and displayed on an instrument cluster or center console screens. For the first time this mobile device-to-vehicle interface solution can display electronic route directions, which already may be available in smart phones and personal digital assistants (PDA).
Directions and infotainment images and icons will be transmitted from the small mobile telephone display of a cell phone or handheld device to the vehicle’s available cockpit monitor or potentially a head-up display. This enables safe and comfortable system access and operation by the driver through the multifunction steering wheel buttons or center console turn-push knob.
The Siemens VDO Communication Hub concept was developed with a universal interface to establish connections between mobile device functionality and the vehicle’s more optimal HMI. Similar to a mobile phone’s Bluetooth hands-free headset, Communication Hub enables other handheld devices and applications to interact with a vehicle’s HMI. The company developed a special software structure on top of an existing Bluetooth interface, which enables the necessary operational protocols to be transmitted to the vehicle and then implemented.
“These utilities translate a mobile device’s data exchange language into the vehicle’s language to ensure a smooth flow of information and commands,” said Gupta. “When the Communication Hub and mobile telephone or navigation system have interfaced and are synchronized, the system can detect the devices at any time afterwards and immediately makes the corresponding connection when the vehicle is entered and started.”
Like Bluetooth and USB, other standard hard-wired interface links also can be networked with the vehicle control and instrument system. This development approach already has proven itself in telecommunications arena and the first music streaming solutions are just about to be launched. Siemens VDO also now is taking navigation from the mobile phone and putting it into the cockpit. Through Communication Hub, mobile route planning destination input also now can be directly done using steering wheel controls. The route directions are displayed in the driver’s field of vision and the routing commands are projected from the vehicle’s audio entertainment speaker system, while the radio automatically is muted.
“Similar integration also is conceivable for future applications,” said Gupta. “As soon as mobile telephones, which are able to actually receive TV broadcasts or MP3 players with video replay mature, this data could also be transmitted to the vehicle cockpit or rear-seat entertainment system in the same manner.”
The Communication Hub is a flexible development approach for which Siemens VDO envisions numerous application opportunities. Depending on the vehicle manufacturer, market and model, this individually configurable module can be integrated into both the future of infotainment solutions, as well as the cockpit display and control systems, along with a radio or CD tuner. The Communication Hub developments are already far advanced and all prototypes are completely functional, meaning a series launch may be feasible in just the next few years.