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Exploring the 'connected' car

What exactly are we connecting to?
Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 09:00
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Telematics, as it applies to the automotive industry and defined in Wikipedia, most often refers to the “convergence of telecommunications and information processing.” Beginning with hands-free calling and screen-based navigation systems, the field of telematics has grown rapidly.

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Today, it’s possible to turn your smart phone into a key fob, scan tool, and even use it to summon your car from its parking space (take a look at the video of Audi’s demonstration of this technology at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show if you don’t believe me. t’s posted in the AutoPro Workshop.). But is this technology helpful or is it a hindrance? What will the impact of this technology be on your business, besides understanding it well enough to fix it?

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Let’s start this discussion with one element we are all familiar with: navigation systems. When the military opened the Global Positioning System (GPS) to the public, the aftermarket and OEMs alike were quick to recognize the benefits of in-car navigational capability. Certainly, being able to plug in your starting point and destination and then following the onscreen prompts made finding one’s way around a strange town much easier than trying to read a paper map.

The Delphi Connected Car system evens the playing field between the OEM dealer and the independent shop owner.

It didn’t take long to expand the use of onboard GPS. GM’s OnStar is one example. General Motors established OnStar in 1995 with cooperation from Hughes Electronics and Electronic Data Systems, and the first OnStar units were made available in several Cadillac models for the 1997 model year. Each OnStar system that’s installed as original equipment is capable of gathering data from both the on-board diagnostics (OBDII) system and built-in GPS functionality. Add in the ability to transmit and receive voice and data communications over a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) cellular network, and now you have the capability to offer a suite of services to the subscribing owner. Some examples of the services available through the OnStar system include turn-by-turn navigation assistance, automatic crash response, and roadside assistance. And it’s all accessible with the press of a button (and a subscription).

Combining onboard diagnostics, GPS and the ability to connect that data to a cellular network has created a multitude of options for consumer and automaker alike. Just consider some of the benefits that have resulted from this union. If your car has been stolen, it can tell the monitoring service where it is. Some applications can transmit this information directly to your smart phone. Accident response modes have improved, with some OEM systems automatically initiating a 911 call, turning on the vehicle’s hazard lights and reporting your position if an air bag deployment is recorded.

The Delphi unit connects to the DLC and provides a secure “car to cloud, cloud to car” connection.

Are you a parent with teenaged drivers? Some manufacturers offer varying levels of parental controls that can be programmed by the vehicle owner. Limit the top speed of the car to prevent your young driver from going to fast, set volume limits on the audio system to keep them focused on the task at hand and not the latest Miley Cyrus hit, even set up “geo-fences,” or boundaries, that will send your smart phone an alert should your child stray to far.

Do you use your car or truck for business? Now it’s possible to have WiFi right in the front seat, allowing businesses of all types to conduct business on location. It can also keep the kids happy by allowing them to search the web on those long trips and opens up media options that not too long ago were only available at home. The big cellular providers, Verizon and AT&T, both have deals with automakers to supply the 4G connectivity. In addition, Verizon offers its customers Delphi Connect, a program that offers anyone with an OBDII-compliant vehicle all the bells and whistles we’ve talked about so far. Imagine turning your smartphone into your key fob, being able to check your vehicle’s health from your sofa, or knowing where your car is 24/7?

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