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Autonomous driving technologies have been gaining traction over the past few years. Combined with this trend is the move away from traditional combustion engines to electric vehicles from renewable energy sources. Other changes that are emerging are the shifting user expectations and behaviours that are influencing next-gen vehicle design. Most agree that fully autonomous vehicles are a few years away, but the fact remains that technologies that increase connectivity are growing in importance.
This has been brought about for a number of reasons. For example, regulations in the European Union (EU), mandate that car makers must include a means for a vehicle to communicate in the event of an emergency – this is the eCall system. The directive, which has required cars and light commercial vehicles approved for manufacture after 31 March 2018 to have the eCall system installed, has equivalents in many other markets, notably the US and Russia.
Other applications for connected car technologies include those for basic infotainment to more complex data transmissions to enable predictive maintenance or over-the-air (OTA) software updates and new business models such as e-insurance and car sharing. These pay-as-you-use services are transforming car makers from being sellers of products to being providers of mobility services. Connectivity is the enabler of this move because such business models rely on accurate positioning, timing and robust, secure data transmission capability.
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) are starting to be adopted. Today, these systems help drivers perform some driving and parking functions. Through a safe human-machine interface, ADAS can increase car and road safety through utilizing automated technology, such as sensors and cameras, to detect nearby obstacles or driver errors, and respond accordingly. This is not autonomous driving yet but applications such as lane departure assist, adaptive cruise control and automated lighting have clear benefits.
ADAS have been categorized into levels extending from level 1, in which the driver does most of the decision-making, to level 5 in which the vehicle is fully autonomous. Levels 1 and 2 include the applications listed in the previous paragraph but applications such as a highway chauffeur require a Level 3 system while automatic valet parking is a Level 4 requirement. Neither Level 3 or 4 are in full commercial use yet.
Today, there is a growing and well-established market for classic telematics and in-car connectivity and automotive OEMs are now keen to extend connectivity across their ranges. This is because they have seen the value that connectivity provides in enabling them to become more knowledgeable about their customers. Initially, this was not widely understood but leading car makers, such as Tesla, Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA), have been quick to recognize how they can differentiate and provide better service thanks to connectivity-enabled data collection.
Quectel Wireless Solutions, a leader in IoT (Internet of Things) modules, has developed a comprehensive range of wireless modules for the automotive industry to meet the needs of the Internet of Vehicles and C-V2X applications as the industry transforms and harnesses the power of connectivity. Research firm, IHS Markit, predicts that more than 11.2 million light vehicles equipped with some form of V2X system will be produced globally in 2024, representing 12% of the world’s light vehicle fleet. It also predicts that production of light vehicles equipped with V2X systems will grow from 15,000 units in 2019 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 277.5% in the period 2019-2024. It remains relatively early days for C-V2X deployment and autonomous driving use cases are not yet reality.
Quectel’s portfolio of technologies has been painstakingly built on automotive industry best practice with respect to quality and durability in addition to adhering to quality standards such as relevant ISO certification. Typical automotive use cases expose electronics products to a much higher range of temperatures than consumer or industrial-grade products and therefore Quectel has focused on ensuring its solutions for the automotive market comfortably address requirements such as the interior operational temperature range of a car being between -40C and +115C.
For interior products, such as smart antenna products, detailed product planning and preparation to fulfil these requirements begins upfront. The requirements for automotive production are much more process-driven than for IoT products, for example, so production perimeters are heavily regulated and need to be permanently monitored.
Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) connectivity is part of the C-V2X concept which allows vehicles to communicate with one another, while vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) allows vehicles to communicate with external systems such as street lights, buildings and other road users. As the technology becomes more sophisticated in the future, what it is capable of will expand. C-V2X systems are mainly used to increase safety and prevent collisions. In a traditional vehicle, V2X systems can convey important information to the driver about weather, nearby accidents, road conditions, and the dangerous activities of nearby vehicles. In autonomous vehicles, V2X provides extra information to a vehicle’s existing navigation system.
Earlier phases of connected cars relied on relatively low bandwidth, high-latency communication via early LTE connections between connected cars and data ingestion platforms to enable applications such as roadside and vehicle hazard warnings and lane-level traffic assistance. Today, ADAS systems help drivers perform some driving and parking functions. Through a safe human-machine interface, ADAS can increase car and road safety through utilizing automated technology, such as sensors and cameras, to detect nearby obstacles or driver errors, and respond accordingly. This is not autonomous driving yet but applications such as lane departure assist, adaptive cruise control and automated lighting have clear benefits.
Automotive components are typically more complex that those in other industries and Quectel has adopted techniques such as underfilling to ensure durability. Chipsets have become larger and contain more technology and are often ball grid array (BGA) components that have solder balls on the bottom which are melted during the reflow soldering process when they are mounted on a printed circuit board (PCB). “The larger the chipsets become the more influence they have on bending of the PCB. They might still contact and deliver a positive end-of-life test but in the car, after thousands of kilometers with vibration and temperature shocks, those solder connections can break. To avoid this, Quectel adopts an underfill process which acts like glue to mechanically stabilize the chipset on the PCB and avoid mechanical influences on the solder connections,” explains a recently published company whitepaper, “From here to autonomy: How to fulfil the requirements of the next generation connected car”
This white paper concludes that the road ahead for connected cars relies on secure, low latency, high bandwidth connectivity to enable highly sensitive applications such as autonomous driving. The reality, however, is that other applications will lead uptake. These include the driver assistance systems detailed in the paper and the automotive OEM applications such as predictive maintenance and in-service OTA software updating. Traditional telematics applications currently form the core of the market. However, as this paper outlines, automotive OEMs need to play a long game because of the life of their products. They therefore need to specify wireless modules that not only meet the needs of today’s users but also address the requirements of future connected cars.
This will see greater levels of driver assistance and ultimately autonomy come to market. OEMs therefore need a partner with the scale to address a global market and the scope to understand the emerging trends while simultaneously addressing current market demands. Quectel with its heritage in the wireless module market has developed the first 5G wireless module and is fully committed to the global automotive industry. Its global resources in terms of research and development, certification expertise and support set it apart from the competition and make it an ideal partner to help OEMs navigate the new challenges in this rapidly changing market and to build a smarter world.
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