Navigant Research Blog

Maps Transform into Long-Range Sensors for Cars

— November 16, 2017

In My Day

When I was young, maps were printed on paper, either bound into atlases or large sheets that were a puzzle to refold. We plotted routes to get from where we were to where we wanted to be. In-car electronics were largely limited to the AM/FM radio and maybe a tape player.

Maps in the car now are a mass of bits and bytes. Increasingly, the car itself is reading that data directly to make control decisions without any direct input from us mere humans.

The Decline of Paper Maps

The transition from paper maps to in-vehicle digital navigation got rolling in the mid-1990s. Early attempts at dead-reckoning navigation systems were limited and error-prone. The opening of the military’s satellite global positioning system (GPS) to civilian use was the key to success. The advent of the consumer smartphone a decade ago with built-in GPS and access to cloud-based Google Maps made it seem for a time that those pricey built-in navigation systems with costly annual map updates might become consigned to obsolescence.

Exploring Embedded Digital Maps

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with several different production cars using increasingly detailed embedded maps to improve fuel efficiency and safety in ways that a smartphone-based system is not capable. The humble map has now become a crucial long-range sensor input in cars ranging from the $25,000 Hyundai Ioniq to the $150,000 Mercedes-Benz S560.

Mercedes-Benz debuted predictive navigation as a powertrain control input several years ago with the S-Class plug-in hybrid and the Ioniq and Kia Niro are now doing the same. These electrified models take advantage of topographic information in their maps to manage the blending of power delivery from their electric motors and internal combustion engines.

How Do Embedded Maps Work?

By looking down the road on the map, the vehicles can detect when they will crest the peak of a grade they are climbing to go downhill. In such a situation, hybrids would typically limit the depth of battery discharge to help maximize battery longevity. However, if the powertrain control knows a downhill is approaching where it can recover energy through regenerative braking, it can increase depth of discharge (run longer on electricity) while climbing. This displaces use of the gasoline or diesel-powered engine, resulting in improved overall efficiency.

What Do Map Capabilities Mean for Automakers?

As automakers deploy ever more automated driving capability, they are also leveraging those digital maps to provide smoother and safer control. For the 2018 Cadillac CT6 with hands-off, partially automated Super Cruise, GM uses high-definition maps to geofence use, limiting it to divided highways. Once in use, the maps are used to augment the camera and radar sensors by looking 2,500 meters down the road for curvature and banking. If Super Cruise determines that the current speed set by the driver is too fast to safely get through a curve, it will automatically reduce the speed going into the curve and then resume the previous speed.

On the 2018 S-Class with Intelligent Drive, Mercedes takes this a step further. The Mercedes system requires the driver to keep hands on the wheel but allows its use on all roads. When active, it looks ahead for features like curves and roundabouts and automatically reduces the speed to a safe level. Activating the turn signal will cause the car to slow down as it approaches the next intersection on the map, allowing the driver to go around the corner without touching the brake pedal.

The Evolution toward Self-Driving Vehicles Saved Embedded Navigation

Thanks to the increasing interest in drive automation, the embedded navigation systems that seemed like they would be killed off by the smartphone are set to become a standard feature on all new cars in the next several years.

 

V2V Communications Finally Arrives in America with Updated Cadillac CTS

— March 10, 2017

More than 2.5 years after General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra announced plans to launch vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications in the US market, the first of a new generation of connected cars is now on its way to dealers. GM has begun production of the updated 2017 Cadillac CTS sedan, the first of what is likely to be several models equipped with the technology within the next year.

At the time of Barra’s 2014 announcement, it was expected by most people in the industry that a mandate for V2V on new vehicles would be in place by now. That process was held up by efforts by the wireless industry to grab some of the 5.9 GHz spectrum that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had allocated for dedicated short-range communications. The final notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) was not published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) until December 2016. Under the new administration in Washington, it’s not clear if the NPRM will get final approval.

Pressing Ahead

Nonetheless, GM has been a strong proponent of V2V and vehicle-to-external (V2X) communications for more than a decade, having conducted its first public demonstrations in 2007. Despite the fact that the CTS accounted for only 0.5% of GM’s more than 3 million US sales in 2016, the company is pressing ahead with the introduction, clearly hoping to start demonstrating the efficacy of the technology in real-world conditions.

There is also a strong likelihood that this is only the first of a number of GM vehicles that will add V2V in the near future. The launch of the Delphi-supplied V2V system coincides with the introduction of an all-new next-generation CUE infotainment system. The new version of CUE includes support for over-the-air software updates that can add new functionality. Initially, the CTS will provide drivers alerts when cars down the road have hazard lights on, activate stability control, or have a hard brake application.

“At launch, we are offering these three features. That doesn’t rule out additional alerts in the future, as we are always looking for ways to add additional safety features to our cars,” said GM spokesperson Chris Bonelli. “Coupled with the next-generation Cadillac user experience also launching on the 2017 interim model year CTS, we are able to provide over the air updates as needed for new features and safety.”

Cadillac has already announced that the ATS and XTS will get the new version of CUE when they begin 2018 model production later this year. These vehicles will likely get V2V as part of that package, with other models to follow in 2018 as they get the electronics updates.

Another factor that may be driving GM to push the technology forward even in the absence of a regulatory mandate is automated driving. It is moving forward aggressively with the development of an automated version of the Chevrolet Bolt EV for use with the Lyft ride-hailing service. GM is projected to begin pilot deployments of automated Bolts with Lyft as soon as 2018. V2V is expected to be an important component of automated driving, significantly expanding the situational awareness of the vehicle beyond the line of sight that is possible with sensors alone.

Growing Market

Navigant Research’s Connected Vehicles report projects that more than 70 million vehicles will be sold globally with V2V technology by 2025. Toyota launched V2V on several Japanese models in late 2015 while Honda has also been very active in the development and testing of V2X communications. Neither company has made product announcements for North America, but these two OEMs are likely to follow GM in the next year.

 

Road Tests to Provide Critical Vehicle Communications Data

— February 2, 2017

There are several projects launching in 2017 expected to generate data that will lead to a future where vehicles talk both to each other and to infrastructure. This shift would not only increase safety, but also ease traffic congestion within range. Leading chipmakers, automakers, and communications companies are teaming up in field trials and in co-development of vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technologies.

The US Department of Transportation paved the way for vehicle communications standards by developing the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard, No. 150, on vehicle-to-vehicle communications. Published in the Federal Register in January 2017, the proposed standard would require manufacturers to install dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) radios into new vehicles within the next 4-5 years.

January’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) was the launchpad for several announcements on V2X communications. AT&T, Delphi, and Ford are co-developing a platform to enable vehicles to communicate with each other as well as infrastructure to enhance vehicle safety and security and reduce traffic congestion. The platform will use AT&T’s LTE cellular network to expand communications beyond the shorter range DSRC communications, which are based on a variant of Wi-Fi.

Also at CES, Audi, Ericsson, Qualcomm, SWARCO Traffic Systems, and the University of Kaiserslautern announced they were collaborating on the Connected Vehicle to Everything of Tomorrow project. The project is also a V2X trial, this time using the 3rd Generation Partnership Project’s Release 14 standard. It will include 4G and 5G LTE communications between vehicles and with infrastructure and pedestrians.

Sales of light duty vehicles with built-in DSRC in North America are expected to surpass 20 million annually by 2023, while sales of vehicles with 5G communications are expected to top 1 million annually by 2025, according to Navigant Research’s recently published Connected Vehicles report.

Connected Light Duty Vehicle Sales by Communications Type, North America: 2020-2025

(Source: Navigant Research)

Communications Innovations

Chipmaker Intel is expanding its automotive profile with products for both in-vehicle and external communications. Also at CES, Intel announced the Intel GO automotive and 5G platforms. The 5G platform “allows automakers to develop and test a broad range of 5G use cases and applications.” Intel’s solution will enable environmental and traffic data to be brought into the vehicle to be processed by the company’s internal chips to enhance the safety and efficiency of automated vehicle driving functions.

In January, the Volkswagen Group announced that it would be adding 5G capability to future I.D. electric vehicles to assist the company’s automated driving features. According to HybridCars.com, the faster communications will be used in vehicles beginning in 2020.

Collecting field data on how communications from infrastructure can enhance vehicle safety and performance is also the aim of a consortium in Singapore. The NTU-NXP Smart Mobility Consortium is developing a test bed using 50 vehicles and 35 data collection units along roadways that will capture video of vehicle activities on the campus of Nanyang Technological University. The project will relay information to the vehicles about driving conditions, traffic signals, and parking availability to enable drivers to make effective navigation decisions.

The Road Ahead

To approach full self-driving capability, automated vehicles will increasingly rely on data broadcast via DSRC and 5G from other vehicles and infrastructure to monitor traffic flow and alert the vehicles of potentially dangerous situations. The next few years will be spent analyzing the data from collaborations and road tests formed in 2017 to understand the efficiency and responsiveness of automated vehicles in a variety of real-world situations.

 

V2V Mandate Now Unlikely, Impact on Industry Unclear

— February 2, 2017

CodeThe latest in a rapid fire sequence of executive orders signed by the new president this week appears likely to kill the proposed mandate for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications in the United States. How this will affect the actual market for the technology remains unclear as of this writing, although it will almost certainly slow adoption.

Issued on January 30, 2017, the new order requires that before any federal agency may enact any new regulation, two existing regulations must be rescinded. In addition to the general ban on new rules, the order also requires that the net incremental cost of any regulations enacted and rescinded must be no greater than zero.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially published the notice of proposed rulemaking to mandate V2V to the federal register on January 12, 2012. While the proposed regulation is broadly (if not universally) supported in the automotive industry, it nonetheless appears to fall within the scope of the executive order. At this time, there are no clear candidates for regulations to be rescinded if NHTSA wants to proceed with the V2V rule, and it would take time to evaluate which rules to eliminate. That makes it unlikely that the mandate will be enacted under the current administration.

Not Dead Yet

However, even in the absence of a regulation, the industry is still likely to move forward with deployment of V2V and vehicle-to-external (V2X) technologies. General Motors is planning to launch V2V in the next few months on the Cadillac CTS, and supplier Delphi has already begun production of the hardware for this application. Many other automakers and suppliers also support the deployment of V2X communications to enhance drivers’ situational awareness for improved safety.

V2X also provides an important additional layer of real-time information to supplement the line-of-sight data provided by the sensors for automated driving. Most of the automakers and suppliers working on automated driving see the addition of V2X as critical to ensuring the robustness of these systems by providing a means for vehicles, pedestrians, and other participants in the transportation ecosystem to signal intent to each other.

Navigant Research’s Connected Vehicles report projects annual global sales of nearly 70 million light duty vehicles by 2025 with factory installed V2X capability based on dedicated short range communications (DSRC) technology. DSRC was projected to be the primary technology used for V2X in most markets, but in the absence of a US mandate, the adoption rate is now expected to be slower.

Cellular Technologies

There will be significant pressure from communications carriers to utilize cellular technologies in place of Wi-Fi-based DSRC. Currently, 4G LTE technologies are inadequate for the low latency required for V2V applications. New 5G systems are targeted to achieve the same sub-10 ms latency of DSRC but these are still in development with no finalized standards. Broad deployment is not expected until the early 2020s.

Achieving the maximum benefit of V2X communications requires a critical mass of vehicles in use to be equipped. Given the long development lead times in the auto industry and slow turnover of the fleet, these requirements will likely push out the benefits of V2X for several more years into the later 2020s.

If industry leaders in the use and development of DSRC technology (including but not limited to GM, Toyota, Honda, and Delphi) proceed with their deployment plans and see it as a competitive advantage for improving safety, projections of universal adoption on new vehicles may still be met by 2025. However, the only thing certain right now is that we are likely facing a period of much greater uncertainty over the next several years.

 

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