Autonomous Vehicle Engineering - April 2022 - 3

The Navigator
Vehicle connectivity moves to the next generation
It's been 35 years since moviegoers saw
Michael Douglas standing on a beach, holding what
looked like a brick to his ear, in the film Wall Street.
In 1987, wireless mobile communication was mostly
limited to affluent customers. The hardware, like
Douglas's phone, was large and clunky. Service
was limited to voice mode. Fast-forward to 2022
and it's not uncommon for people to carry multiple
devices with continuous high-speed data connectivity,
including a smartphone, tablet and watch.
And most new vehicles now come from the factory
with connectivity.
However, unlike consumer electronics that
tend to be replaced every few years,
vehicles can often last two decades or
more - and that can pose a problem
for connectivity.
The analog cellular network that
enabled Douglas to call his young
protege has long since been shut
down, as have the 2G digital networks.
Carriers now have started switching
off 3G to repurpose the radio
spectrum to expand 5G coverage.
When the analog network was turned
off in 2007, General Motors had no
upgrade path available for customers
with early OnStar telematics. Several years later,
when 2G started to fade, Nissan offered upgrades
to owners of first-generation Leaf EVs. At the
time, the number of affected customers was small
enough that most OEMs didn't find it economically
viable to engineer an upgrade.
With the number of connected vehicles
Designing
vehicles for
an easy data
modem swap
should be a
top priority for
every vehicle
engineering
team.
automakers this time have developed upgrade solutions
for at least higher-volume models.
For example, Subaru and Tesla are replacing
communication modules in their vehicles with those
that have a 4G LTE radio. Others, such as Audi, have
partnered with companies like Mojio for a system
that connects via the onboard diagnostics (OBD)
port and integrates with the in-vehicle software
to maintain the services previously provided. In
most cases, these upgrades are costing customers
several hundred dollars - and many are likely to
think twice before committing.
With many OEMs aiming to double revenues
in the next decade, mostly thanks
to connected services, it's more
important than ever to ensure a
vehicle can retain its connectivity for
most, if not all, of its useful life. Overthe-air
(OTA) software updates are
another key driver for connectivity
to enable both new features and
security fixes. Numerous vehicles in
China already are equipped with 5G
connectivity. In the next few months,
the new BMW iX will be the first to
have it in North America. And Audi
recently announcing it will launch 5G
on 2024 model-year vehicles.
With three generations of wireless commuincreasing
steadily and more customers now actually
subscribing to telematics services, the situation is
quite different. The growing number of plug-in
vehicles makes connectivity even more important
than in the past; it's critical for managing and monitoring
battery charging and preconditioning. Most
nications technology now obsolete, it's past time
for OEMs to make sure they design in an easy
upgrade path. Unfortunately, software-defined
radios haven't yet reached a level of maturity to
make them viable for vehicle connectivity. That
means hardware will need to be changed, probably
at least once in a vehicle's life.
5G is just arriving, but engineers are well along
in development of 6G. Designing vehicles for an
easy data-modem swap should be a top priority for
every vehicle engineering team going forward. ■
Sam Abuelsamid
Principal Analyst,
eMobility
Guidehouse Insights
sam.abuelsamid@
guidehouse.com
AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE ENGINEERING
April 2022 3

Autonomous Vehicle Engineering - April 2022

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