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Communication & Networking – History

Communication technologies for cars in the connected world

In future, progress in networking and communication will make a significant contribution to vehicle innovations. Networking in this context does not merely refer to interconnecting vehicle systems, but above all concerns linking the vehicle with the outside world (connected world).

This brings new opportunities as regards communication and information for vehicles and users alike as well as innovative vehicle and travel applications.

New navigation possibilities in the networked world of today and tomorrow come into their own on everyday journeys, bringing a new quality to traveling and planning a journey as the interaction between man and the vehicle becomes more intuitive and easier through intelligent new approaches to operating vehicles and displaying information.

“Networking in this context does not merely refer to interconnecting vehicle systems, but above all concerns linking the vehicle with the outside world (connected world).”

Connected World

Our “Connected World” research develops visions, strategies and innovation for people on the go and automobiles in the networked world of tomorrow.

The vehicle of the future is part of our connected world, a world where entertainment, communication, knowledge and personal contacts are accessible to anyone, anywhere, any time. In tomorrow’s world, everyday objects will be able to assimilate their surroundings through the “invisible” integration of microelectronics and sensor technology in order to communicate with other objects or the internet (“ubiquitous computing”), and new assistance systems will support people in every situation. Many of the necessary IT technologies and applications have already been developed by the communications, computer and consumer electronics industries and various initiatives, and others are certain to follow.

Today, information is already exchanged between the vehicle and mobile equipment (MP3 players, smart phones, intelligent clock solutions, vehicle keys, etc.). In future, communication will also be possible between the vehicle and the home or office; between vehicles and filling stations, shopping malls, car parks, roads and traffic infrastructure; between vehicles and customer service or even the automaker’s production environment; and finally, from vehicle to vehicle.

This creates the technological environment needed for networking the vehicle and its occupants with the world outside. But it is not yet sufficient to be accepted by our customers in the market. We will be creating enhanced or new customer benefit by using these technologies in our vehicles and developing the appropriate business models.

The challenge facing the automotive industry lies in the fact that other industries are already masterminding the development of technologies and standards with substantially larger resources and significantly shorter innovation cycles.

“The challenge facing the automotive industry lies in the fact that other industries are already masterminding the development of technologies and standards with substantially larger resources and significantly shorter innovation cycles.”

Car-to-Home

  1. A growing number of customers have wireless networks...

    ...such as WLANs in their homes. As the number of WLAN access points increases and networking intensifies, drivers could in future have wireless access to their parked cars. If WLAN access is then also integrated in the vehicle, networking between the home and the parked car becomes reality.

  2. A distinction is made between two different home environments:

    while the living room represents an environment for entertainment and relaxation, the study is generally used for intensive, work-related activities. As a result, a distinction is also made in car wireless access mode: the Easy Mode (e. g. entertainment with family and friends, transmission of music and audio content to the car) via the TV in the living room, and the Serious Mode (e. g. route planning, log book, route statistics on vehicle use, preparations for future journeys) via the PC in the study.

  3. The introduction of media centers presents...

    ...new possibilities for TV access in the living room. A lot of manufacturers offer media centers which connect the PC world with home entertainment products in the living room (TV, hi-fi, video, surround sound) and provide many of the entertainment functions offered by PCs such as internet access, MP3 libraries, digital photos, etc. adapted for home entertainment use.

MyCar application

MyCar is a home application that presents the car on a Car-to-home website. From the living room, the user has access to information on the status of the vehicle with direct configuration options (air conditioning, windows, doors, …) and infotainment options (music, videos, games).

Entertainment is a key element of MyCar. Information and setting options are presented to the user in an attractive form for processing via the TV, etc. from the comfort of the living room. Designed for integration in the Windows Media Center, the information is entertaining and has a strong visual appeal, always with an invitation for interactive action. For example, the Online Route service presents different routes for short trips or excursions (following the Romantic Road, beer and bratwurst route, etc.), while the Vehicle Status service notifies the vehicle’s owner when action is required (refueling, washing, servicing, etc.).

 

The following functions are useful for MyCar:

  • Audio: car wireless access to MP3, audio books, movies, photos from personal collections (no CDs or memory sticks)
  • Vehicle status: fuel status, oil level, lamp check, internal and external temperature
  • Evaluating routes: using statistical route data, the customer can determine the best time to commute to work on any day of the week
  • Navigation: planning the starting point and destination of a journey plus intermediate stops for transfer to the car navigation system
  • Log book: compilation of vehicle data needed to file tax claims for commuting expenses
  • Games: Entertainment for passengers on long journeys

 

Car-to-X

One communication system for many applications

Volkswagen Group Research is working on a system allowing numerous different applications via direct communication between vehicles or between vehicles and a permanently installed infrastructure: 

  • The driver is provided with early information on traffic holdups or possible hitches
  • Communication with traffic infrastructure
  • Communication with other road users
  • Improved navigation
  • Downloading of information processed to suit the driver  

The technological basis is IEEE Standard 802.11, commonly known as the wireless LAN standard for office and home use. The standard is currently being adapted to meet the requirements of the automotive industry. The communication system has the following characteristics:

  • Vehicles spontaneously create an ad-hoc network
  • Vehicles located at a greater distance can be accessed via multi-hop communication
  • Vehicles can be addressed via their geographical location using a position-based routing method
  • The information reaches users with a high level of reliability and low latency, even given very high vehicle density (e.g. traffic jams on highways) or very low density (e.g. at night on country roads)
  • Suitable algorithms provide the necessary security against unintentional or deliberate interference

Is wireless LAN actually suited to use in fast-moving vehicles? Volkswagen Group Research has conducted practical tests with encouraging results: depending on emitted power and frequency range, coverage in undisturbed radio conditions exceeds 1,000 m and short messages can be reliably transmitted at relative speeds of 200 km/h.

Volkswagen Group Research has equipped several test vehicles with a Car-to-X system. These prototypes have been used to test the following applications:

  • Information on the position of vehicles with activated hazard warning lights
  • Black ice warnings based on ESP, ABS or ASR activation
  • Simple distance information on vehicles driving ahead
  • Voice communication with another vehicle  

In addition, vehicle owners can authorize users to access the vehicle via a PDA, notebook or web browser by entering their username and password, for example to verify the status of the central locking system or the fuel level.

Examples of infrastructure communication include receiving information on traffic signal status, road signs or empty parking spaces. However, the necessary infrastructure still has to be established.

The prerequisite for all applications is standardized protocols valid for all makes of vehicle. In the field of car-to-car communication, Group Research cooperates closely with other automakers and suppliers. Group Research participates, for example, in the Car-to-Car Communication Consortium, NOW: Network on Wheels  – a research project supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, EU Initiative COMeSafety.

“In the field of car-to-car communication, Group Research cooperates closely with other automakers and suppliers. Group Research participates, for example, in the Car-to-Car Communication Consortium, NOW: Network on Wheels – a research project supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, EU Initiative COMeSafety.”

Biometric driver identification

Greater safety and comfort, better anti-theft protection

“Good morning, Anke. You are authorized to drive this vehicle, all systems are active.” This is the message which greets the owner once they are seated behind the wheel of their Golf. It might sound a bit like science fiction – but not for Volkswagen, where engineers are already well on the way to developing reliable automatic driver identification.

The constant evolution of driver assistance and information systems brings ever-increasing driving comfort and safety. To achieve this, cameras and sensors have so far concentrated on capturing what is happening both in the immediate vicinity of the vehicle and farther afield. Automatic driver identification works in a different way. Here, the “attention” of the cameras and sensors focuses on the interior of the vehicle and more particularly on the driver’s seat. The upshot is significant progress in safety, comfort and anti-theft protection.

What the system can do …

Driver identification optimizes the settings of the vehicle’s active driver assistance and accident prevention systems specifically to suit the identified person. For example, specific restrictions can be imposed for new drivers. With the help of the driver profiles, the on-board accident prevention and assistance systems can even cater for different driving styles.

The seat and the backrest are immediately adjusted to the exact position that has been stored for the identified person as soon as he or she settles into the driver’s seat. The headrest as well as the rear view mirror and the door mirrors are also automatically adjusted to seat position and body height. While such aids clearly focus on safety, the added comfort is definitely also a factor worth bearing in mind. Other standard features of the driver identification concept include personalized settings for the navigation system, driver information systems and multi-media devices.

The third main benefit is antitheft protection. The system sends a message to the owner’s mobile if it cannot identify the person in the driver’s seat. The owner then has several options: they can immobilize the vehicle via “remote control” or authorize use on a case-by-case basis. Alternatively, they can notify the police.

… and how it works

An infra-red camera performs a face scan of the person who has got into the vehicle and transmits the data to the “brain” of the driver identification system. It is even possible to factor in the person’s age, gender and – with the help of additional sensors – weight. It only takes a fraction of a second to compare the data from the scan with the information on all persons stored in the system. The start process commences if the identified person has authorization. If not …. see above.

The system is not yet mature enough for series production. The developers are currently working on live scan methods aimed at protecting the biometric system against attempts at impersonation, for example using photos, puppets or masks. After all, reliability is one of the outstanding features of the Volkswagen product range. Biometric driver identification will be no exception.

 

Driver identification optimizes the settings of the vehicle’s active driver assistance and accident prevention systems specifically to suit the identified person. For example, specific restrictions can be imposed for new drivers. With the help of the driver profiles, the on-board accident prevention and assistance systems can even cater for different driving styles.