The combination of the IVI with the mobile phone is actually not an expedient solution for the IoV.
"While foreign countries are still performing analysis and demonstration, we have already entered the unmanned driving zone."
If you’d like to learn about the latest industry directions & trends, then participation in exhibitions is the most direct way, because the public opinion may not be very sensitive to the latest industry hot topics, while the market’s response to new technologies is subject to certain delay, but the OEMs participating in the convention and exhibition are well aware of them.
Today, when car sales is cooling down and 5G is about to get popular, the IoV has changed from a somewhat fashionable new concept to one of the major battlefields of the automotive industry. IHF – a consulting organization from the USA predicts that by 2035, global intelligent vehicle (IV) sales will exceed 10 million units; McKinsey & Company forecasts that the IV market will reach up to $1.9 trillion in 2025; and Morgan Stanley estimates that 60% of the value of self-driving cars in the future will come from software.
On Sept. 7, 2019, IoV-related enterprises successively showcased technical products that are the aces up their sleeve, almost turning the World Internet of Things Exposition (WIOT) held in Wuxi into an IoV exposition.
During this highest-profile exposition in the field of the IoT, China Mobile opened a 5G-empowered autonomous driving experience zone on the roadside; Huawei demonstrated the chip for the vehicle-mounted T-Box 300 terminal that supports 4.5G, as well as the Balong 5000 chipset that supports 5G; PATEO, China’s leading IoV enterprise, drove the BAIC test vehicle equipped with the latest self-developed V2X system to the exposition site; and off the site, there was also the New Baojun RM-5 jointly developed by Shanghai PATEO and SGMW, and equipped with the latest IoV products, of which the selling point is the Qing Mobile IoV system with the mobile phone as the core.
In a sense, these two products of PATEO respectively represent the future and current attempts of the IoV industry: “New Baojun” represents the in-depth integration of the current IoV with the computing power of the mobile phone and the eco capabilities, while V2X stands for the fact that after the hotspot of the IoV industry shifts from autonomous driving to intelligent connectivity, the interactive objects are no longer limited to the mobile phone and the driver, and efforts are being made to truly realize the "Internet of Everything (IoE)".
Whether such technological attempts can be recognized by the market is a topic that all those engaged in the IoV are concerned about. When asked about "whether relevant foreign enterprises have similar products", a PATEO technician replied euphemistically, “They enjoy a profound technical reserve but are more prudent in terms of application, so they are still in the analysis and demonstration stage."
Or, to put it more directly, they are still wandering along the riverside, while PATEO has already stepped into the deep-water zone of the IoV.
Mobile Phone & IoV: A Decade of Entanglement
You may not believe it, but the IoV and the mobile phone were irrelevant to each other in the very beginning.
The earliest IoV dates back to 1996, when GM, Electronic Data Systems (EDS) and Hughes Electronics Corporation jointly developed the OnStar System that provides wireless services for vehicles, and was first installed on Cadillac. This telematics system (IVI that applies the wireless communication technology) can be said to be the rudiments of the subsequent IoV.
At that moment, Apple, Huawei and other players had not yet appeared on the scene. It were basically Motorola and Nokia that were competing neck and neck in the mobile phone market. Motorola invented the first flip phone in the world, which boasted a sales volume of over 60 million units, but at that time, very few people would think of any connection between the two. The automobile would still usher in a period of industrial expansion in the 20 years to come, while the mobile phone market would have to be shuffled several times. They did not interfere with each other, and each enjoyed bright prospects.
In 2007, Steve Jobs launched the epoch-making Apple iPhone, and the same year also witnessed Google releasing Android’s source code under an open source license and Ford launching the first SYNC in-vehicle infotainment system, which is considered to be the second-generation IoV product after OnStar.
This may be just a coincidence that the IoV and the mobile phone simultaneously entered a new era, but in the meantime, we couldn’t help but wonder: aren’t there any interconnections between the IVI and the mobile phone, given that both of them are mobile communication devices in our lives.
In 2009, Ford took an important step forward by launching an open API named AppLink, which links up the SYNC system and Apps on the smart devices, allowing the consumer to bring the content they are using on the smartphone terminal to the in-vehicle platform. The first nine new applications that were seamlessly connected in China in 2013 were the popular mobile phone Apps, such as Baidu Maps and Sina Weibo.
Although China’s IoV industry didn’t make an early start, it quickly caught up with the pace of the industry, but the product was referred to as “Audio-Video-Navigation and Information System for Vehicle (AVNIS)” at that time. When the corporate resumes of China’s first batch of IoV companies, e.g., Foryou Corporation and (Shenzhen) RoadRover Technology (Co., Ltd.), are opened, such titles as "XXXX (Year) Top 10 AVNIS Products in China" will always appear, so it is inevitable that people would take them for audio system sellers. Of course, IoV companies like Harman did start as an audio manufacturer.
Such somewhat outdated names had been masking the development speed of China's IoV industry till 2010, when PATEO customized the Roewe 350 inkaNet for SAIC, the world's first IoV product based on the 3G communication network and the intelligent Android OS. Even today, when searching for the Roewe 350, there will still be tutorials on how to disassemble the navigator to insert the SIM card. In a certain sense, it may be said that a mobile phone is installed in the car.
The greatest truths are the simplest. Since both of them are of the same origin, naturally there is no insurmountable gap between them with regard to the software system. Roewe 350 broke the boundaries between the software systems of the IoV and the mobile phone, which aroused the ambitions of the players in the industry: BAT (Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent) wanted to dominate this newly explored market, mobile phone system enterprises such as Google and Apple wanted to set foot in to conquer the IoV market, while automakers wanted to defend this new space for imagination in the automotive industry.
In 2014, Google, Audi, GM, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA co-launched the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), with the aim of jointly developing an Android-based IVI system. In the same year, Alibaba chose OS as the breakthrough point for penetration into the IoV sector. In 2014, Alibaba and SAIC Motor jointly invested CNY 1 billion to establish Banma, focusing on building the first “Internet car” in the world. In 2016, the first Internet car equipped with YunOS for Car 1.0 system (Roewe RX5) was launched.
Baidu and Tencent worked on the basis of the Android system to develop the Android-based “super app”. Baidu DuerOS and Tencent TAI were both developed on the basis of such an idea. However, Baidu is more focused on the self-driving car project started in 2013, of which the R&D is led by the Baidu Research, and the core of the technology is called “Baidu AutoBrain”.
The automaker systems, such as the BYD DiLink and the Geely GKUI, are somewhere between the two, of which the application layer, framework layer and car service layer are customized according to their own needs, while the lower layer applies the tailored Android components. On the whole, it is similar to the various ROMs for mobile phones, which is the first choice for the automotive industry that doesn’t want to be kidnapped by Internet companies.
However, compared with the “Clash of the Titans” among the aforementioned IoV software systems, there is an approach that is simpler and rougher, i.e., mirroring the mobile phone features to the center console of the vehicle, or even simply installing a 9.9-yuan holder in the car and then replacing the navigation and communication features with mobile phone Apps. The former has always been considered by the insiders as an expedient solution for transition, but until today, we see that Baidu CarLife and Apple CarPlay are still active on the various original large screens.
However, the latter is simply a nightmare for automakers. While the auto enterprises and the Internet companies input manpower, money and ambition into the IoV, drivers would rather use the AMAP (Gaode Map / AutoNavi Map) for navigation, DiDi to look for customers, and the costly IVI system to print invoices, which is obviously a denial of the IoV strategy.
Zhang Zhiyu, General Manager of Greater China, TomTom, frankly told Caijing reporter that the user experience of mobile navigation is indeed much better than that of the previous IVI terminal, "the online navigation on the mobile phone allows for search and map update, so it’s more convenient for the user." GM technicians also expressed similar helplessness.
There is a famous saying by Wang Jian, Chairman of the Technical Committee of Alibaba Group, which has cofounded the Banma Network Technology (Co., Ltd.) with SAIC Motor: "It is a shame for those involved in the auto industry that the passengers still use their mobile phones after getting in the car!”
This became a pithy remark on the IoV industry in 2017, of which the combativeness and feeling shown between the lines intimidated the drivers into hastening to Taobao.com to buy a 9.9-yuan car phone holder, in a bid to get over the shock.
New Baojun: The IoV and the Mobile Phone Has Finally Reconciled
Apparently, it is not a realistic goal to expel the mobile phone from the vehicle at the current stage, which is determined by the manufacturing characteristics of these two industrial products: Generally, the R&D cycle of a mobile phone is nine months to one year, usually with a service life of no more than three years, while a vehicle requires three years to develop, and is able to run for ten years, which determines that the configuration of a cell phone is much higher than that of an IVI.
The problem with this is that after the new car is purchased, the hardware is just enough, but the system requires more and higher-level hardware resources along with version updates; that is to say, the user who buys a car on the Internet is able to update the system in the first year or two, but subsequent updates will be particularly difficult due to insufficient hardware.
Can this problem be solved? Certainly, that is to equip the vehicle hardware system with an updatable configuration, but this poses great challenges to the R&D of complete vehicles. At least, we haven’t seen such automotive R&D cases so far. Some people may ask, whether it is possible to put the hardware configuration in place once and for all to meet the needs in the next decade. Obviously, this is also impossible.
Besides, when compared with that of the mobile phone, the software market of the IoV is still relatively small. Take PATEO as an example, so far, PATEO has sold a total of 2 million sets of IoV systems. Although this is a large number for auto companies, it is rather negligible for an Internet company whose annual installation capacity could easily reach up to 10 million units. In addition, while the service life of a mobile phone is 2 years, that of a car is 10 years. With such a slow update cycle, it is very difficult to attract third parties to participate in development.
On the other hand, direct mirroring of the content from mobile phone to vehicle display has also proven to be inconsistent with the user's needs, because though the Android is “carried over” from the phone to the car, it is not optimized for the IVI usage scenarios and environments, hence a poor user experience. This is a common problem with the self-developed IVIs of many automakers, which is also true for smartphone screen mirroring.
In traditional HMI design, the most important consideration is the distraction and the workload of the driver. When the driver is distracted to touch and control the mobile phone or car screen, it takes at least 1-3 seconds; if the average vehicle speed is 60km/h, then the distraction of the driver’s attention from the road for 3 seconds will be nothing less than driving for 50 meters with eyes closed. This is obviously very embarrassing.
The logic of the touchscreen interaction determines that the IoV technology is always adding something for the driver. However, no matter how good the features are, it can't change the fact that they cause the driver to be more and more tired. So, there is a saying that the most valueless thing in the car is the screen.
On Sept. 6, 2019, the day before the WIOT - Wuxi, the PATEO-empowered New Baojun vehicle model was officially priced and launched. A PATEO technician said: “Heqizheng is gone in the clash between Wong Lo Kat (Wanglaoji) and JDB (Jiaduobao), and the car key is gone in the clash between the automotive head unit (HU) and the cell phone."
This is one of the features of the PATEO IoV system for New Baojun. Since under the current technical conditions, the computing power of the automotive HU can never be a match for that of the mobile phone, then why not joining with it if unable to defeat it, by simply cancelling the HU in design, then using the mobile phone as the source of computing power of the IoV system, and then integrating the IoV Apps into the smartphone, with only some basic features retained.
Generally speaking, the user changes their mobile phone once every 1-2 years. Therefore, compared with other mainstream IoV systems, this design not only lowers the cost, but also keeps the hardware always up-to-date, while at the same time, the mobile phone, as a personal belonging, has completely replaced the car key.
In the meantime, as the core of the IoV system, the mobile phone does not simply mirror its Apps onto the car screen, but also realizes the interactive voice control through the PATEO Qing Mobile IoV system. The interactive entrance has thus been upgraded since then: the driver does not have to stop the car to call the network service by pressing the button or touching the screen, but is able to directly perform the voice, visual and sensory interactions with the vehicle. In the actual experience of 36Kr Jiangsu, it is basically possible to realize most of the daily operations, such as selection of navigation destination, chat on WeChat and song skipping, under the premise of complete voice control.
Moreover, it is worth mentioning that compared to the launch event held in Jun., this version of the PATEO IoV has several features updated, which is taken for granted for mobile phone Apps, but for the IoV system with a long R&D cycle, it represents a groundbreaking rapid feature iteration.
In a certain sense, the PATEO Qing Mobile IoV can be said to be a product of the “reconciliation” between the IoV and the mobile phone, which combines the advantages of both of them, and boasts great advantages in flexibility and low cost compared with the IoV products on the market. As the OEM, SAIC also places high expectations on it. From the way it is named alone, we can tell that it is not a new model of Baojun, but a "New Baojun."
However, the application of the IoV technology is not just limited to navigation and music. With the widespread popularity of the Mobile Internet, cloud computing and big data technologies, and in the context of the empowerment of 5G technology as well as the continuous advances by leaps and bounds in such forward-looking technologies as embedded chips, IoT (Internet of Things) and big data, the new development phase of the IoV (intelligent and connected vehicles (ICVs)) industry is ushering in new opportunities, and IVs will become one of the important gateways to the Internet.
At the WIOT - Wuxi, the PATEO test vehicle equipped with the V2X terminal system features the BeiDou sub-meter level high-accuracy positioning capability, together with high-precision gyroscope-based inertial navigation, high-precision A-GPS, lane-level high-precision driver assistance applications and other technologies. What is needed to carry such features is not a high-performance mobile phone, but the Huawei 4.5G communication module, ME959.
Intelligent V2X Connectivity: Midfield Story of the IoV
Although the mobile phone is updated faster, the vehicle also has unique advantages: Compared to the mobile phone that is rejected if exceeding 200g, vehicles have almost an unlimited space to accommodate a wide variety of devices, chips, and sensors. In addition to the traditional navigation capability, more features such as mobile office, vehicle control and driver assistance can also be integrated.
Statistics show that a vehicle may need 8,000 chips at the current stage. According to the forecast of the consulting firm Gartner Group, the profit growth rate of the automotive semiconductor business segment will be twice that of the global chip market by 2020. It is impossible for a mobile phone to accommodate such a large number of chips, then naturally it will not be possible for the phone to continue functioning as a substitute for the IoV in the subsequent upgrades of intelligent connectivity.
In terms of industrial upgrading of the IoV, Baidu is the furthest down the road in China. It has put a great deal of energy into the field of autonomous intelligent driving. Its Apollo autonomous driving platform is already in the lead in China, but autonomous driving will not arrive anytime soon in the short run. The Apollo and Google’s self-driving cars are still in the demo stage. What’s more mature at present is the C-V2X (Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything) standard defined on the basis of 3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project).
C-V2X is a vehicle wireless communication technology on the basis of the evolution of cellular communication, including short range communication such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V), vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) and vehicle-to-pedestrian (V2P) communications, as well as the vehicle-to-network (V2N) communication that enables exchange of data between a vehicle and an application server, while the LTE-V2X is the mainstream technology solution for C-V2X. Since LTE-V2X is able to better leverage the advantages of the existing cellular networks and provide a wider range of business services, it has become the main solution for C-V2X at the current stage, and attracted wide attention from domestic & foreign governments, companies on the industry chain, the academia and various other industries, while being generally supported by worldwide operators and auto manufacturers.
On Aug. 8, 2019, Huawei released the Global Industry Vision (GIV@2025) white paper, predicting that by 2025, 58% of the world's population will have access to 5G networks, and the C-V2X technology will be embedded into 15% of worldwide vehicles. This C-V2X driver assistance terminal was independently developed by PATEO, and is integrated into the complete vehicle. The automotive-grade application development for it is based on Huawei communication module, and this is also the first time that its features were unveiled to the outside.
It is particularly noteworthy that this is the first time that Huawei outputs a vehicle communication module, which responds to what Eric (Zhijun) Xu, Rotating Chairman of Huawei, has said: “Huawei will not produce cars, but will become a supplier of ICT components for IVs.”
A long-term problem facing Huawei in brand publicity is how to let the public know that it is not a company that purely sells mobile phones; its main business is still communication device. What fewer people know is that the IoV business also plays an equally important role in Huawei. From the establishment of the Huawei Smart Car Solutions Business Unit (BU), we can see that its status is equivalent to that of the Enterprise Business Group (BG), the Consumer BG, and the Cloud BU, which are all the first-level business units of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Huawei has been involved in the field of automotive parts since 2013 when it launched the automotive module ME909T and established the “Connected Car Business Unit”. In Oct. 2018, it released the computing platform MDC600, which is able to support L4 autonomous driving. At the end of this May, its Smart Car Solutions BU was officially established, while the Huawei “Harmony” OS was even intended to be applied to autonomous driving at the beginning of its design. This time, Huawei commences another round of in-depth cooperation with PATEO after the two signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) based on the Huawei OceanConnect Platform in Oct. 2018, marking an important step in Huawei's IoV strategy.
The C-V2X terminal demonstrated this time is able to realize the following features: sub-meter positioning capability, high-precision A-GPS technology; lane-level high-precision driver assistance system; multi-model interaction platform; supporting dozens of V2V / V2I / V2P applications, e.g., driving safety, driving efficiency and information service; supporting the international ITS security protocol stack, and the national standards for information encryption and decryption, as well as BLE-based car key, remote vehicle control and more. Besides, this terminal is also able to be upgraded to and compatible with the 5G-based C-V2X.
To turn the obscure terminology into everyday language, it means that the demonstration vehicle is able to not only offer the regular features like Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Intersection Collision Warning (ICW), Left Turn Assist (LTA), Hazardous Location Warning (HLW), Speed Limit Warning (SLW), Red Light Violation Warning (RLVW), Traffic Jam Warning (TJW) and so on, but also handle the more complicated driving scenarios, such as Blind Spot Warning (BSW) / Lane Change Warning (LCW), Electronic Emergency Brake Light (EEBL), Traffic Light Optimal Speed Advisory (TLOSA), In-Vehicle Signage / IVS (road sign & signage in vehicle), and Emergency Vehicle Priority (EVP).
However, the reason that the demonstration vehicle is able to perform so many features lies in the advanced infrastructure construction of Wuxi, in addition to its own technologies. Before the WIOT, Huawei had deployed a city-level C-V2X network in Wuxi, using the RSU (Road Side Unit) and T-Box based on its self-developed chips, to build an IoV platform that covers 211 intersections and 5 viaducts scattered around Wuxi’s urban area, Taihu New Town, high-speed railway stations, the airport and a testing site in Xuelang, and serves 100,000 unauthorized vehicles. It is the world's first large-scale deployment of an end-to-end commercial solution.
Although the PATEO V2X device and the automated driving environment in Wuxi are just a newborn, such an infrastructure level can only be achieved in a few regions across the globe, such as Phoenix, Arizona, United States, the Self-Driving Capital. Due to its advanced nature, it obviously cannot be regarded as a universal standard for popularization.
With the emergence of V2X terminals, we can say that the first half of the IoV has drawn to an end. Although the giants have already got through the period of directionless and aimless exploration, selected the tech camp they would like to join, and chosen their respective development direction, we are still far away from the V2X era.
But, with the goal ahead of us, there will always be roads beneath our feet.