Shubh Yatra, safe journey! New technologies in the Connected Car

05th January 2015
Shubh Yatra, safe journey!  New technologies in the Connected Car

Cool  new tools  and apps   make driving pleasurable  -- and  worry-free-- for Indian motorists.  An IndiaTechOnline special focus
By Anand Parthasarathy 
Bangalore Januuary 5 2015: "Happiness is a journey, not a destination", runs a popular quote with many claimants. But is it true today?  At today's frantic pace,  getting there -- safely -- is as important as having a ball on the way.   A clutch of recent tools and devices  for the Connected Car  ensure that we can do both.
Car infotainment systems are not new.  But recent launches  in India,  have morphed navigation with communication and  entertainment into  an integrated console.  The  Pioneer AVIC - F60BT, offers  Audio, Video, Information and Communication channels. The Rs 49,990 system  uses   special  chips for GPS navigation and   a 13-band graphic equalizer while  partnering  with MapMyIndia for   the route maps.  You can also  connect your mobile phone via Bluetooth  for talking and browsing.  Another Japanese company, Clarion,  has gone down this route for its AX1 Android-fuelled Connected Car stereo system with built in voice navigation and full HD playback. The Rs   55,990 system harnesses the phone's rear camera  for shooting driver-view video.
DashCam: The biggest connected car trend in 2015,  will likely be centered around what is being called  a 'dash cam' -- a dashboard camera  or  car-mounted  digital video recorder, usually poking just above the dashboard or more commonly  fitted inconspicuously  on the rear view mirror.  It records the driver's view of road ahead,  as soon as the car moves on the storage you provide: typically an SD card of 64 GB or so.  A dash cam can be the biggest contributor to the driver's comfort factor  -- providing indisputable proof,  if the car is involved in a collision.    A sudden crash or stalling, triggers a  'G' sensor  which  ensures the record is   frozen and cannot be erased.  Any search on Indian online retail  sites  will throw up dozens of  dash cams  from Rs 1400 to Rs 10,000. To obtain usable  content, that  you can  submit to an insurance company  or the police, 720p HD is desirable; 1080p full HD is better. The Drive Pro 200  from Transcend seems to be a popular model worldwide  and is available online  for below Rs 10,000. It comes with a free 16 GB SD card, full HD recording  at 30 feet per second, replay on a 2.4 inch LCD screen or on your phone and  a 160 degree wide angle view from a 7-glass lens system that includes an infra red filter for low light.
It is useful if the car DVR  can  take a feed from the GPS system, since this will  tag every frame to a location. Experts emphasis that dash cams are not a fashion statement and should be discreetly   mounted on the windscreen.    So small -- and black-- is beautiful!
The Connected Car: India product options
The Electric Car: today, tomorrow:  IEEE view

Mobile phones have become so smart that it may no longer be necessary  to  invest in a stand- alone  music system or GPS navigation. Google Maps come with voice navigation;  most mobiles have  good audio and video playback  and the  phones  are so big these days that you don't need a  second screen.  .  I  can see why a respected car navigation player like Tom Tom is now offering not just GPS systems but a hands-free Car Kit for Android and iOS phones for as low as Rs 4990 ( Rs 2990 extra for charger and mount), with Bluetooth-fuelled    calling as well as  a voice menu.  Phone Video recording is currently not quite up to dash cam specs  -- but that may change as chips and  apps become more powerful.

  • ST Microelectronics offers  a slate of hardware solutions for safety, navigation and entertainment that can be found under the hood of makes like Audi, BMW and Daimler-Benz.  
  • Infineon has shrunk  two redundant safety-critical  sensors for power steering,   into  the size of a single chip: when one fails, the other kicks in. 
  • Telit  has harnessed its  acquisition of NFC's auto temematics business to  release a flagship ATOP 3.5 G  multiple car communication applications.
  • Car makers like Ford have sponsored  hackathons where  developers harness such hardware,  to come up with   connected car innovations  like a fuel-low signal that also locates the nearest pump;  personalised maps   and  car-to-car social media networking.

Now for our Make in India moment! A key mobile app  rolled out worldwide  was crafted by the Bangalore-based engineers of Robert Bosch:   Called Smart Emergency Crash Notification (sECN), it brings rapid assistance to motorists involved in a collision. On receiving the trigger initiated by an airbag, the app  logs  the location, of the accident and sends SMS alerts to personalized emergency contacts.
It is said the golden hour -- the first sixty minutes after an accident --  can make the difference between  survival and tragedy.   The best brains in India are  helping to make it truly golden even as technology makes the entire drive  a shubh yatra indeed!