2021 Technology Trends in the Automotive Industry

Embitel Technologies
Automotive, Smart Transportation, IoT
Illustration: © IoT For All

The automotive industry has witnessed a technological revolution of late. Today’s average car is technologically sophisticated, buzzing with multiple microprocessors and millions of lines of software code!

The Internet of Things (IoT) is quickly leading us to autonomous vehicles that were once considered the vision of the future. IoT in the automotive industry has also facilitated improved transportation efficiency, superior driving experience, and advanced vehicle management capabilities.

In this article, we take a look at the most disruptive IoT use cases in the automotive industry in 2021 and trends that are prevalent in the automobile supply chain.

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is essentially a technique of gathering data through tools to “predict” possible defects in a device/equipment before it fails. Predictive maintenance is fueled by artificial intelligence (AI).

Machine learning models are “trained” with real-time and historical data associated with the device’s operation. This training enables the underlying algorithm to predict an anomaly that might happen in the future accurately. Maintenance activities can then be scheduled for the device to prevent its failure.

The most striking examples of predictive maintenance in the auto industry can be found in vehicle manufacturing and car maintenance.

Vehicle Manufacturing is the use of artificial intelligence in vehicle manufacturing facilitates the reduction of manufacturing costs.

Machine learning also empowers a vehicle to provide timely maintenance recommendations to owners. For example, the vehicle sensors collect data on various events such as friction, noise, or gradual overheating of parts. These are the kind of issues that may gradually lead to the complete breakdown of the vehicle part. The machine learning algorithm efficiently records these events and analyzes the frequency of their occurrence. Subsequently, it predicts when the vehicle part needs to be upgraded/serviced to avoid a complete breakdown in the future.

Driver Monitoring System

A driver monitoring system can offer a myriad of data points to analyze the driver’s actions and send alerts in case he/she is drowsy. Through low-power in-vehicle cameras and advanced vision technologies, the system enables real-time monitoring of driver actions and sends messages to avert disasters.

The benefits offered by a comprehensive AI-based driver monitoring system include driver behavior analysis, in-cabin occupancy, and drive position monitoring.

With Driver Behavior Analysis, the driver monitoring system software can detect rash driving, distracted driving, driver drowsiness, and even driver emotions. If the driver is drowsy or even if he/she is texting while driving, the system sends a notification (either through SMS, visuals, sounds, or vibrations). This enables the driver to stay alert while on the road. The driver monitoring system can also be customized to send reports of a driver’s behavior on the road and discourages rash driving.

With in-cabin occupancy, a driver monitoring system can also detect the cabin occupancy and if any passengers are left out from a journey.

Thanks to driver position monitoring, the driver monitoring system can assess whether the driver is wearing a seatbelt or not. It can also be customized to detect whether he/she is seated in the right position to avoid hazards when airbags are deployed.

Firmware Over the Air (FOTA) Update

FOTA is a remote software management technology that enables wireless firmware update on embedded systems. The automotive industry is extensively used to update vehicle ECU software with new features, facilitate bug fixes, and replace older versions of firmware.

A firmware server located in an IoT Cloud Infrastructure sends new firmware for the vehicle’s ECU through a wireless channel such as BLE, WiFi, or GPRS.

During the FOTA update process, either the existing firmware in the vehicle ECU is replaced with a new firmware image, or a patch is added. The desired changes are hence, updated in the ECU through remote connectivity.

Road Condition Analytics and Navigation

One of the most exciting use cases of IoT in the automotive domain is road condition analysis and navigation assistance. Smartphone applications, powered by AI, can detect the condition of roads in real-time. This enables the driver to be updated on accidents, road closures, speed limits, construction work, etc., on his/her route. Empowered with this data, the driver can choose to take an alternate route to reach the destination.

The smartphone apps are also integrated with a navigation facility. This helps guide the driver to his/her destination while also providing the most optimum path based on real-time road conditions and traffic. This information can be precious to drivers who are traveling through an unfamiliar route!

Digital Cockpit Solutions

A digital cockpit in a car offers a luxurious and personalized experience to the driver and passengers. It also facilitates seamless connectivity between the car and external devices. Driver safety and assistance are considered to be of the highest priority in a digital cockpit solution.

In a nutshell, a digital cockpit is the coming together of a high-end In-Vehicle Infotainment system, digital instrument cluster, Heads-Up Display Unit (HUD), ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System), and HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system.

Here’s an overview of each of these key components:

In-Vehicle Infotainment System

The modern car infotainment system is equipped with functionalities that extend beyond the realm of entertainment. A high-end IVI system is usually integrated with:

  • Attractive UI displaying infotainment modules
  • Bluetooth connectivity with smartphones
  • Driver and passenger seat temperature control system
  • Media player
  • Radio – AM/FM/HD radio
  • Event manager that manages the priority of tasks

Connected Digital Instrument Cluster

A connected cluster is so-called as it supports features like IoT Cloud connectivity, Location Tracking through GPS, attractive digital UI that displays vehicle data, Safety features like an accident or tow-away alert, Geofencing facility, Turn-by-Turn Navigation system, etc.

Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS)

A digital cockpit solution supports ADAS functions that ensure the safety of the driver and passengers alike. AI capabilities and driver monitoring systems are integrated with the digital cockpit to offer personalized experiences. This is achieved through dash camera integration and deep vehicle sensors.

Heads-Up Display (HUD)

The HUD unit offers a projection of real-time data on a combiner glass screen or a portion of the car’s windshield. The projection is right below the driver’s eye level so that he/she can easily view it while also focusing on the road ahead. This information is critical to the driving conditions and navigation. The car HUD also enables the driver to control devices through touchless commands such as hand gestures or voice.

HVAC – Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning help in maintaining a pleasant climate inside the cabin. An HVAC unit works on conduction and convection principles and is an integral part of all modern automobiles.

Benefits of Car Digital Cockpit Solutions

ECU Consolidation

In a vehicle, the Instrument cluster, HVAC, HUD, ADAS, infotainment system, etc., are usually powered by multiple control units, different software modules, and operating systems. The digital cockpit solution introduced automotive ECU consolidation in vehicles. This implies that integrating a digital cockpit in a car ensures that a single microcontroller platform can power all the above interfaces! This effectively minimizes the complexity of automotive electronics.

Safety Critical Features

A digital cockpit in a car is usually fortified with safety-critical features per ISO 26262 and other standards. The individual components of the cockpit also deliver a highly relevant representation of real-time data.

Vehicle Telematics

The digital cockpit is integrated with telematics capabilities through Cloud Connectivity. This facilitates data collection related to car location, performance, usage patterns, maintenance needs, and much more.

Conclusion

IoT applications are currently redefining the status quo in the automotive industry. As the Internet of Things technology matures further, it is certain that there will be a complete transformation in the way we use our vehicles. This encompasses activities like car inspection, maintenance scheduling, In-vehicle entertainment, navigation, and almost all other aspects of our interaction with the vehicle.

Automakers may also face various challenges as the technology evolves in the future. However, with the support of a niche network of embedded software and hardware engineering service providers, analytics system vendors and infrastructure stakeholders, auto OEMs can reinforce their value propositions in the market.

Author
Embitel Technologies
Embitel Technologies
Embitel Technologies is part of the Volkswagen Group of Companies and specializes in providing innovative Automotive & IoT product engineering solutions and Digital Commerce services to its global customer base.
Embitel Technologies is part of the Volkswagen Group of Companies and specializes in providing innovative Automotive & IoT product engineering solutions and Digital Commerce services to its global customer base.