Connected Cars and C2X Should Improve Auto Safety and New Business Opportunities
By Ricky Abdoelrahman
A “Connected Car” controlled by an automotive communications system is not a concept for the distant future. A recent study estimated that, by 2020, 90 percent of cars will have the communications system, known as C2X, linked to systems like traffic lights, car breakdown alarms, roadwork warnings, and emergency services.
C2X, also known as telematics, already is producing revenue. A Pay-How-You-Drive plan in Europe rewarded drivers for safe driving behavior, and contributed to the growth of telematics-based insurance policies by 42 percent last year. In North America, the total number of insurance telematics policies is forecasted to increase from an estimated 4.2 million policies at the end of 2014 to 32.5 million policies by 2019, representing a compound annual growth rate of 50 percent.
While there are concerns about protecting personal driving-related data, a study among 900 drivers across Europe shows that nine out of ten drivers are eager use C2X features. The same study concludes that In-Vehicle Signage that informs drivers about speed limits, plus continuous In-Car Weather Warnings, would reduce fatalities and injuries. (The conclusions were based on more than 1.5 million kilometers of driving in Europe.)
Smart Cities also will benefit — from the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions because of efficient driving and, especially, less driving. Examples include C2X features that find available parking opportunities quickly, or notifying the driver before a trip that public transportation would be a faster option.
C2X Services are Becoming a Requirement
In 2016, it will be mandatory in Europe for new cars to have an onboard communications system that can contact emergency services in case of an accident and alert other cars in the vicinity. In addition to security regulations, one can think of many services related to the maintenance of the car and the comfort of the driver and passengers.
Here is one example of C2X: if there is a car malfunction, it can be detected in real time and perhaps be solved via software transferred from a service center. If the problem cannot be fixed in this way, the car can be directed to the nearest garage for physical repairs. (The system would automatically ask the driver’s approval to make an appointment.) Safety and maintenance functions can be developed and promoted only by car manufacturers since they have access to all data concerning the engine and other critical parts. That’s why the co-operation of governmental bodies and automotive industry standards committees are an absolute necessity.
A company like Google is researching the design and production of self-driving cars. But traditional car manufactures aren’t lagging behind. C2X functions are now an intrinsic part of the car itself; they’re no longer considered after-market products.
Huawei Technologies acknowledges the need to partner with car manufacturers. Although car manufacturers aren’t IT or telecom companies, they are Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) that possess a lot of knowledge about automation. As a global solutions provider, Huawei understands the needs and desires of the highly-skilled staff of the automotive industry.
Be assured, whenever you buy a new car from a top brand, it already has onboard telematics capabilities. The car manufacturer is keen to send their customers updates concerning C2X.
For example, if you bought a new 7-series BMW with a specific set of functions (like speech recognition that will start, select, and stop in-car multimedia features) you are a proud owner. If, one year later, a new, less expensive 5-series BMW comes on the market with even better speech interface capabilities, you normally might get frustrated. However, the car manufacturer already will have sent you an update for the 7-series, based on the contract you chose earlier. The automotive industry will follow the trend set by software companies. You won’t only buy just one software version, you will register for a subscription that ensures you have regular access to the latest features from cloud-based updates.
Some new Mercedes cars already have Huawei modules onboard for telematics and multimedia applications. Huawei is expanding its offerings with the creation of LiteOS and APIs that will enable third-party developers to easily write new applications for embedded processors. Third-party partnerships also can be developed that build on these components — including roadside assistance, navigation, and fleet management services — Huawei’s multimedia software, for instance, is programmed by Harman Kardon.
Inside the car
The market for Connected Cars, or C2X, is different from other Huawei markets. Right now, if you take a micro-level look inside the car, Huawei only has modules for semi-conductor solutions packages that provide communications functions using GSM and LTE-based technologies in combination with GPS.
But Huawei has invested heavily in innovation and has emerged as a global leader in 5G development. All stakeholders consider 5G to be essential for autonomous driving. Or, if you prefer manual steering but welcome real-time assistance, 5G also is essential for assisted driving.
Huawei estimates that its total investment in researching 5G will amount to USD $600 million by 2018. Huawei now employs a team of over 500 experts dedicated to 5G research, and has established partnerships with over 20 universities such as Harvard University, Stanford University, the Technical University of Munich, and Tsinghua University — at the national level, Huawei has partnerships with research institutes like Fraunhofer ESK in Munich, Germany where automotive innovation is one of the center’s key areas of research.
Outside the car
If you take a macro-level look outside the car, Huawei offers solutions for cloud services, communications carriers, data centers, media companies, and even hospitals. Nearly every C2X function needs a diverse back-end system outside the car — provided by a partner ecosystem — to fully process data and benefit drivers. Huawei partners provide strategic assistance that cannot easily be copied.
Strategic partnerships and stakeholders
Car manufactures need strong partners in the IT and carrier businesses to offer C2X services on a global scale. For example, a car in the U.S. is subject to a different environment than one in the Middle East. After a couple of years, the data retrieved from critical parts in the two cars will be quite different. To provide a unified driving experience in all possible conditions, the manufacturer needs the right partners, worldwide.
Because Huawei is a newcomer to the automotive industry, it has no legacy solutions to worry about, putting it in a favorable position. The company is equipped to break through the relatively new C2X market — recognized not only by Mercedes, but also by BMW and Volkswagen.
The company has carriers, multi-nationals, SMBs, and consumers as clients, and has a history of setting up dedicated businesses for different market segments. What’s more, Huawei’s existing areas of operation can be converged for the automotive industry.
For example, a car with a Huawei module can have direct access to all the critical data that can be monitored and transferred to a service center anywhere in the world via a secure protocol on advanced 5G and eLTE networks. Huawei also provides a cloud service with an open source connectivity platform for eCommerce, direct consumer-related media systems, and navigation. These converged services are handled by telematics enterprises operated by Huawei and partners of the car manufacturers. Huawei has global partnerships with more than 50 telecommunications companies such as Vodafone, and Big Data enablers like SAP.
The future of C2X definitely looks promising.
DISCLAIMER: This article reflects the author’s personal views and may not represent Huawei’s position on C2X.