Car Electronics 2012

The Year of The EV article tells that We can dub 2011 the year of the EV (electric vehicles) and gives a timeline what happened 2011. The end result is that today there are enough Volts on the road (along with competitors like Nissan’s Leaf, various hybrids, and an electric Ford Focus) that it might be safe to suggest that the electric car is here to stay.

There has been many different car charging connectors in use on electronic vehicles. Electric Car Charging Standards Split article tells that many car manufacturers have agreed on a single EV charging port connector standard that has been in development by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) for several years. European car companies have been divided on standards for both AC and DC charging. The new single connector will support fast DC charging as well as be backward compatible with the J1772 AC charger that is standard on many plug-in electric vehicles today. I think that use of that standard will rise in 2012, and common charging standard will speed up the EV deployment.


Automotive electronics: What’s hot in 2012 article tells that in automotive electronics, 2012 looks to be a year of consolidation as technologies introduced previously become more widespread across model lines. In particular, voice recognition, with different features and interfaces, is seen as a way of distinguishing one brand from another, while electrified power trains in the form of hybrids and pure electric drives will be available in more models. In keep costs down driven auto industry the more mature the technology that goes into a car, the less risk of failure and costly warranty claims.

Cars and smartphones start to communicate using MirrorLink technology to allow new features. MirrorLink™ has been developed with the objective to provide a technology, offering seamless (extremely simple from the consumer perspective) connectivity between a smart phone and the in-vehicle infotainment system. It uses IP technologies in order to be independent of the physical transport mechanism and supports many car connectivity solutions (Bluetooth, WLAN, USB etc.). Whereas MirrorLink™ does allow any legacy application on the mobile device to show-up on the car display, it specifically enables easy development of mobile device based automotive applications.

Ethernet for Vehicles is gaining momentum in in the car. Ethernet for Vehicles Advances article tells that Ethernet technology in the car (a concept that was once unthinkable for the automotive industry) has been gaining momentum lately. Special interest group, known as the OPEN (One-Pair-Ether-Net) SIG, is aimed at driving broad-scale adoption of Ethernet in vehicles, largely to serve the expected boom of camera-based applications in cars. Many vehicles now have backup cameras, and many others are going to add cameras for such applications as lanekeeping, adaptive cruise control, and collision avoidance.

There is going to be an increasing number of Driver Information applications that involve displaying complex images and graphics. Xilinx Paves the Way for a New Generation of Automotive Driver Assistance and Infotainment Systems at CES 2012. World’s first Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) based Ethernet Audio/Video Bridging (EAVB) network implementation optimized for carrying high-speed data traffic within the automobile was shown at CES 2012. The IEEE 802.1 EAVB standard is already gaining the attention of a number of leading automotive manufacturers even though the specifications are still being finalized. OMG! Amazing home displays and automotive Ethernet AVB stuff from Xilinx article gives some more details what is expected in near future.


New electronics features are making challenges for developers. Automotive Electronics: Do We Really Need All This Stuff? article tells that everyone in the auto industry knows that the number of electronic control units (ECUs) in vehicles is nearing the point of unmanageability. Low-end vehicles now incorporate between 35 and 40 ECUs, while luxury cars may have 80 or more. “We’re right up against the limit right now. We need to find unique ways to integrate features and functions, and give our customers what they want without overloading our controllers.” The number of automotive features and functions keeps rising.

Would Cellphone Ban Secure Car Safety? article tells that the proliferation of in-car entertainment technologies (internet routers, smartphone links, MP3 connections, capacitive touch screens, etc.) are great for selling cars. Auto executives understand what consumers want: Many people don’t want a car with no extra features. Those new extra features have also sparked a serious debate about driver distraction dangers. “According to NHTSA [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents.” “You’re dealing with human nature here. People want what they want. And sometimes they want more than they should have.”


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Microsoft Cortana Steering Toward Your Connected Vehicle

    Microsoft’s is hoping to important Cortana, its digital assistant, to cars in the future, but a J.D. Power report finds that not everyone is thrilled with Apple, Google, and other invading their vehicles.

    Microsoft is looking to move its digital concierge — Cortana — into the driver seat by developing a heads up display (HUD) that would project onto the windshield of a vehicle.

    Microsoft Cortana Steering Toward Your Connected Vehicle

    Microsoft’s is hoping to important Cortana, its digital assistant, to cars in the future, but a J.D. Power report finds that not everyone is thrilled with Apple, Google, and other invading their vehicles.

    The announcement, reported in the Taipei Times, was made by Samuel Shen, chief operating officer at the Microsoft Asia-Pacific Research and Development Group, at the Microsoft TechDays conference on Tuesday, Sept. 15, in Taipei.

    “We have not launched similar products due to the high cost, but we hope to have further discussions with Taiwanese partners to jointly explore future possibilities,” the paper reported Shen as saying.

    The announcement is part of Microsoft’s larger “Windows in the Car” strategy, which is seen as a competitor to Apple’s CarPlay technology and Google’s Android Auto platform.

    Consultancy firm AlixPartners projected that over the next four years the global market volume for connectivity services and hardware will double from an estimated $20 to $40 billion. More than half of it will be in services and apps.

    In addition, a 2013 report from IHS Automotive forecast the number of Web-connected cars would top 152 million by 2020.

    Despite optimistic growth forecasts, an August report from J.D. Power & Associates suggests consumers are largely turning a blind eye towards connected-car technologies.

    One finding in particular indicates Cortana, Siri, and their digital friends will face an uphill battle when it comes to consumer acceptance. The report found that 43% of car owners surveyed in the report said they never use their in-vehicle concierge.

    The report also revealed features that are specifically not wanted include CarPlay and Android Auto, along with in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting.

    “While automakers are spending a lot of money on in-vehicle technology, consumers also are paying for the feature,”

    “If new-vehicle owners are not using the technology in their current vehicle, most say they don’t want it in their future vehicles.”

    Microsoft is also touting its experience of more than 10 years in the automotive space and its relationships with automakers including Ford, Fiat, Nissan, and Kia.

    Taking a look at possible rivals, Apple’s CarPlay, which is currently available on select cars, features Siri voice control

    Android Auto, designed to work with Android smartphones running 5.0 (Lollipop) or higher, was also designed to minimize driver distraction.

    At the same time, automakers are developing their own proprietary connected car platforms.

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Humans vs robots: Driverless cars are safer than human driven vehicles
    Rise in cyberspace distractions means accidents caused by human error will only increase

    WITH THE UK’S FIRST driverless “pod” vehicle trials hitting Milton Keynes this month, autonomous cars on our roads is quickly becoming a reality.

    The final design of the electric-powered LUTZ Pathfinder pod was presented to members of the public last week, and will be the first driverless vehicle of its type to operate in public areas in the UK. Designed to work on footpaths and in pedestrianised areas without a driver, the LUTZ Pathfinder is the first vehicle of its kind to be used in a community setting.

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:
    David Kravets / Ars Technica:
    Volkswagen scandal shows why tinkering with vehicle software should be exempted from DMCA restrictions, despite objections from automakers and the EPA

    VW scandal highlights irony of EPA opposition to vehicle software tinkering
    EPA says public can’t be trusted to tinker with vehicle software. So who can we trust?

    “I personally am deeply sorry that we have broken the trust of our customers and the public,” Volkswagen Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn said in a statement Monday, addressing the so-called “defeat device” software the automaker built into its vehicles to deceive US air pollution tests. “We will do everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.”

    What led up to this mea culpa? Researchers from the International Council on Clean Transportation and West Virginia University performed all kinds of tests on VW vehicles, discovering that when the vehicles were on the road they polluted substantially more than when they were being tested for pollution emissions. Nobody could make any sense of how that could be. So the US Environmental Protection Agency threatened not to approve the automaker’s 2016 models for sale. In response, the automaker said its software was designed to hoodwink emissions tests, the EPA said.

    “Only then did VW admit it had designed and installed a defeat device in these vehicles in the form of a sophisticated software algorithm that detected when a vehicle was undergoing emissions testing,” the EPA said in an action letter to VW on Friday. The EPA wants VW to recall about 500,000 vehicles dating to 2009.

    In the wake of the scandal, VW’s stock has plummeted. It also leaves a black eye on the EPA, the agency that is supposed to regulate air emissions, as VW’s shenanigans played the EPA for a fool.

    Strangely, however, the EPA is standing alongside automakers, including VW. They all oppose proposed regulations that would allow the public to circumvent copyright protections measures attached to vehicle software. Also known as “technological protection measures” (TPMs), automakers employ this copyright ruse toward the goal of making it a Digital Millennium Copyright Act violation to examine or tinker with the code in vehicle software. And, for the moment, it’s all legal, and the EPA wants to keep it that way.

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation says forbidding tinkering is an abuse of copyright law.

    For obvious reasons, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers opposes the EFF’s vehicle software exemption proposal. The alliance, which includes VW, recently told the US Copyright Office that such an exemption would “create or exacerbate” (PDF) “serious threats to safety and security.”

    The vehicle software proposal would allow the circumvention of TPMs “in relation to computer programs, databases, and devices for purposes of good-faith testing, identifying, disclosing, and fixing of malfunctions, security flaws, or vulnerabilities.”

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Wall Street Journal:
    Google tries to make its cars drive more like humans by cutting corners, edging into intersections, and crossing double-yellow lines

    Google Tries to Make Its Cars Drive More Like Humans
    Autonomous vehicles are learning to edge into intersections, cut corners

    Google Inc. designed its self-driving cars to follow the rules of the road. Now it’s teaching them to drive like people, by cutting corners, edging into intersections and crossing double-yellow lines.

    Humans expect drivers to avoid collisions. But Google’s robots assume the worst and tap the brakes frequently as their digital “eyes” spot potential dangers, sometimes prompting other drivers to stop abruptly.

    The cars are “a little more cautious than they need to be,” Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s effort to develop driverless cars, told a conference in July. “We are trying to make them drive more humanistically.”

    Google is moving closer to commercializing self-driving cars, with the hiring earlier this month of auto-industry veteran John Krafcik as chief executive of its car project. One big remaining challenge is to make the cars, which have run more than a million miles on public roads, move more seamlessly among human drivers.

    Since 2009, the cars have been involved in 16 minor accidents. In 12 of those mishaps, the vehicles were rear-ended.

    Google said it wasn’t at fault in any of the crashes. But some allies say the vehicles’ habit of braking to avoid real, but marginal, risks may play a role.

    “Why is it getting rear-ended? It drives like a computer,” said Jen-Hsun Huang, chief executive of Nvidia Corp., which designs powerful graphics processors that help Google’s cars recognize objects.

    Mr. Huang said Google could remedy the problem with “deep learning” techniques that help computers recognize images and objects, and then improve over time.

    During a recent test drive involving two Wall Street Journal reporters, the Google Lexus RX450h autonomous vehicle jabbed or tapped the brakes at seemingly odd times.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Amazon Launches Flex To Rival Postmates In On-Demand, Crowdsourced Delivery

    Amazon looked at buying Postmates earlier this year, but in the end it built a service that will go head to head in competing with it. The e-commerce giant today took the wraps off Flex, a new on-demand delivery service that relies not on traditional couriers, but ordinary people to bring the packages to you.

    The online retailer is offering workers the ability to make between $18 and $25 per hour by delivering packages for Amazon using their own vehicle and a smartphone app that helps them route their deliveries.

    The service, which is now live in Seattle, is initially focused on hiring couriers for Amazon’s one-hour delivery service Amazon Prime Now, though the company says that in the future, other types of packages may be delivered, as well.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Volkswagen CAN BUS Gaming

    Controlling a VAG CAN BUS tachometer of a Polo 6R with an Arduino, CAN BUS shield with Telemetry API from Euro Truck Simulator 2

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Post-silicon randomized functional testing finds corner-case problems

    Automotive SoCs are becoming increasingly complex in design due to integration of multi-cores, dense clock-tree, increased AMS (Analog & Mixed Signal), complex power & reset management, innovative ADAS/powertrain subsystems, various interfaces, and other highly configurable modules. Throughout the development cycle, there are various pre-post silicon test scenarios executed on IP/SoC level with the objective being to uncover the system-level integration issues in the device. These observations would lead to certain design/documentation changes, resulting in a more robust customer solution.

    However, there may still be some corner case issues encountered, when certain sequences and combinations of events occur on device that have never been exercised in device testing. This paper consolidates the various areas identified for post-silicon stress tests on automotive SoC to enable early detection of system level issues:

    Clock Synchronization issues
    Regression on implemented Finite State Machines (FSM)
    Rigorous low power mode Entry/exit
    Performance aspects around Master-Slave interconnects (Crossbar)
    System behavior on Illegal register accesses

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Virginia State Police Cars Hacked

    Two models of Virginia State Police cruisers were hacked in an experiment to expose vulnerabilities in the vehicles and to come up with ways to protect the cars from hackers.

    State Trooper Vehicles Hacked

    Car-hacking research initiative in Virginia shows how even older vehicles could be targeted in cyberattacks.

    A state trooper responding to a call starts his vehicle, but is unable to shift the gear from park to drive. The engine RPMs suddenly spike and the engine accelerates, no foot on the pedal. Then the engine cuts off on its own.

    The unmarked 2012 Chevrolet Impala from the Virginia State Police’s (VSP) fleet has been hacked — but luckily, by good hackers.

    This is what police officers could someday face in the age of car hacking. It’s just one in a series of cyberattacks waged on the VSP’s Impala and on one of its 2013 Ford Taurus marked patrol cars as part of an experiment by a public-private partnership to test how state trooper vehicles could be sabotaged via cyberattacks.

    Car-hacking has shifted into overdrive this past year, mainly thanks to research by famed car hackers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, who this summer demonstrated how they were able to remotely control a 2014 Jeep Cherokee’s steering, braking, high beams, turn signals, windshield wipers and fluid, and door locks, as well as reset the speedometer and tachometer, kill the engine, and disengage the transmission so the accelerator pedal failed.

    the VSP research didn’t hack moving vehicles. But the Virginia project demonstrated how even non-networked, older-model vehicles are also susceptible to cyberattacks.

    The hacks of the VSP cruisers require initial physical tampering of the vehicle as well. The researchers inserted rogue devices in the two police vehicles to basically reprogram some of the car’s electronic operations, or to wage the attacks via mobile devices, which they demonstrated.

    The project evolved out of concerns by security experts as well as police officials of the dangers of criminal or terror groups tampering with state police vehicles to sabotage investigations or assist in criminal acts. And unlike most car-hacking research to date, it includes the creation of prototype solutions for blocking cyberattacks as well as data-gathering for forensics purposes.

    Perhaps a bigger surprise than the car hacks themselves was that a police department would agree to participate in potentially sensitive cyberattack research.

    “The University of Virginia study is helpful to remind industry, regulators, law enforcement and consumers that cybersecurity is an issue that requires focused attention. The staged cyber-attack on a Ford vehicle required unrestricted physical access to the interior to install a device that provided remote access to the electronic control module. This study does not simulate any immediate real-world risk,” Ford said in its statement. “It highlights the need to be vigilant about vehicle security and to avoid plugging in devices or technologies that do not have proper security safeguards. And, it serves as a reminder that all connected computing systems should have appropriate safeguards in place to mitigate the threat of cyber-attacks.”

    GM declined to comment directly on the project, but noted that it’s working on securing its vehicles from cyberattacks

    The Hacks

    In addition to the gearshift, instrument panel, and engine hacks, researchers from Mitre Corp. also wrote attack code that opened the trunk, unlocked the passenger doors and locked the driver’s door, and ran the windshield wipers and wiper fluid.

    “We think this is really not about car hacking as it is about coming up with strategies” to protect vehicles from attack, says Brian Barrios, portfolio director of Mitre’s National Cybersecurity FFRDC.

    The first set of attacks by Mitre occurs via a smartphone app connected via Bluetooth to a hacking device planted in the vehicle, he says. “This car [the Impala] doesn’t have Bluetooth or cellular” connectivity built in, he says, so connectivity was provided via the Mitre device.

    MSi performed its own set of attacks on the VSP’s marked Ford Taurus cruiser. One attack basically performs a denial-of-service hack that blocks the car from starting. The researchers also were able to remotely start up the car from a smartphone-borne attack, and lock and unlock the car such that the driver would be trapped in the vehicle unless he or she rolled down the window to manually open the door.

    “A policeman would get out of the car to see what’s wrong, he looks under the hood and the car starts itself and the dashboard is going crazy. Horns blow, lights blink, and he decides this car is no good,”

    The researchers also used a device placed in the vehicle that monitors the OBD II port and detects any hacking tools plugged into the car’s port, as well as any attacks over the CAN bus. Like the Kaprica tool, it stops any attacks and collects attack information for forensic analysis afterward.

    VSP’s Davis says the new age of car hacking means law enforcement will be faced with considering the cybersecurity of its fleet. “We understand with vehicles that not being connected [to the Internet] is a good thing. Taking a look at systems and components embedded in there and how they communicate together: is this something I need to consider in my purchase?”

    He says VSP already has in place technicians who investigate computer fraud, so forensics analysis out of a potential car hack would be another aspect of their duties.

    “There are crashes every day” and it’s impossible to tell if a cyberattack was the cause

    Someday someone will claim responsibility for something. Then what do the automakers do? This is an engineering problem.”

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:
    After VW’s Dieselgate: 5 Questions for Carmakers

    Since the Volkswagen scandal first broke more than a week ago, we know a lot more about how Dieselgate started to unravel. What remains mysterious, though, is why the German carmaker thought it would be OK to hack its own car to rig the system (and put consumer trust in jeopardy); worse, how on earth those involved in the fraud at the company had assumed that they could get away with it.

    Leading up to the appointment of Volkswagen’s new CEO, Matthias Mueller, announced last Friday, we’ve learned how one of the biggest frauds in automotive history was uncovered by a group of researchers at West Virginia University working on a $50,000 grant from the International Council on Clean Transportation. And the researchers’ data wasn’t just made available now, but more than a year and a half ago.

    Perhaps more important, Volkswagen, confronted with discrepancies in data — between tests results generated in labs and those on the road — insisted to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials, for as long as a year, that Volkswagen wasn’t to blame. The company said testing methodologies or inexperienced testing personnel should be questioned.

    It wasn’t until much later — when the EPA denied approval for Volkswagen’s 2016 “clean diesel” cars in the United States — that VW admitted purposely cheating the system.

    Volkswagen designed a subroutine — or parallel set of instructions —secretly sent by ECU to the emission controls to activate emission controls during tests.

    EE Times has made a list of five issues related to Volkswagen or the auto industry at large that the recent scandal has exposed.

    1. Who tests vehicles?

    Nobody in any industry – automotive, financial, medical, telecommunications or consumer electronics industries – would volunteer for excessive regulation.

    In the United States, carmakers do their own emission tests and submit results to the government. In Europe, automakers can shop around for a private testing outfit in any European Union member state.

    Although U.S. carmakers do their own testing, the EPA conducts random checks. This is not so in Europe

    In sum, there is a clear conflict of interest in the Europe’s vehicle testing system.

    2. Digital Millennium Copyright Act and software code inside cars

    As Roger Lanctot, associate director at Strategy Analytics’ global automotive practice, told us, “Technically speaking, the testing and software code analysis performed by the West Virginia University and the California Air Resources Board (CARB)/EPA folks was a violation of VW’s copyright.” He explained that software code in cars is protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    Lactot described VW as having “some of the most opaque and carefully protected software code in the industry.”

    The real issue, however, resides in the following. “Protecting software code means you or I cannot modify that code or if we do or we want to, we pretty much need to ‘hack’ our way through it.” In his opinion, “Opening up that code to repair shops, vehicle owners, universities and inspectors will be a first positive step forward.”

    In a day and age when the open-source community plays an essential role in improving software codes, why should a carmaker hide behind a copyright law to block public access to its automotive code?

    3. OBDII ports to be scrutinized further?

    The on-board diagnostic port found in most cars manufactured after 1996 was originally created to facilitate emissions testing, according to Lanctot.

    Carmakers tend to be fiercely protective of this port as a defense against rogue individuals seeking a way to modify their vehicle performance including the emissions controls.

    The question that should be weighed here is which is a more serious offense? Is it an individual modifying a car to add “muscle,” or carmakers who make orchestrated cheating into an organizational practice?

    4. Automakers’ engineer-driven culture

    Engineers often bewail the hypocrisy of politicians who promote electric cars that plug into a power grid that still burns fossil fuels.

    But whether it’s hypocrisy, arrogance, or a sense of technical superiority, it’s clear that engineers contributed to the still-unfolding shame of Dieselgate.

    Did engineers agree to develop a clever solution to rig the system, under pressure from management to increase sales of diesel-powered cars in the U.S. market?

    5. Carmakers and perils of software code

    I’ve found it kind of curious that Volkswagen has been seemingly immune to any high-profile hacking cases.

    Strategy Analytics’ Lactot said, “It’s dumb luck so far.”

    He explained, “VW was late to the telematics party, and the ADAS (self-parking etc.) party and has generally lagged the market leaders in the United States where the lion’s share of hacking has occurred. So if you are a hacker trying to frighten an OEM into writing a check and listening to your suggestions, VW was not at the top of your list.” Lanctot concluded, “Nothing inherently safe or secure about VW’s.”

    The irony here, as the analyst pointed out, is that “VW was caught hacking itself.”

    This goes to show how hard it is to prove when something goes wrong in software.

    This helps to explain why Dieselgate succeeded for VW for so long.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Automakers may be in their Lehman moment

    German auto giant Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal is adding to the jitters in global markets.

    As in the aftermath of the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers, fraud allegations, hefty compensation claims and tighter regulations, could all follow in the Volkswagen fallout. That is raising concerns we will see an auto industry triggered crisis.

    Adding to the headache, economies tend to be more sensitive to the auto industry than the financial sector.

    Plenty of problems

    Ripple effects from an economic stall in China, a pending interest rate hike in the U.S. and the Greek debt crisis, which at one point rattled the equity market, have cast a dark shadow over the global outlook.

    Volkswagen adds to this list of concerns. The German automaker is at risk of up to $18 billion in penalties from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which discovered the deception. Amid rising criticism, Americans see the massive fine as par for the course. Volkswagen will also inevitably face class-action lawsuits.

    The emissions scandal has ruined the automaker’s strategy of focusing on diesel cars and pushed the company into a corner.

    Spillover effects

    The EPA recently announced that it will crack down on diesel cars produced by other automakers, such as Germany’s BMW and General Motors of the U.S. Gas-powered vehicles will probably come under more rigorous testing, too.

    Automakers will have no control over their fate. The agency will no doubt conduct thorough investigations and could unearth more damaging revelations.

    In addition, the U.S. is now moving into presidential election mode.

    In Japan, the Volkswagen scandal has dragged down car-related stocks on the Tokyo bourse.

  11. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Daimler Tests a Self-Driving Truck On the Autobahn

    Engadget reports that Daimler has tested an autonomous truck in one environment guaranteed to put stress on any car: the German Autobahn. While the Mercedes Actros truck was guided with a mix of “radar, a stereo camera array and off-the-shelf systems like adaptive cruise control,” there was a human crew on hand, too, just in case.

    Daimler tests a self-driving, mass-produced truck on real roads

    Daimler’s dreams of self-driving big rig trucks just took one step closer to reality. The automaker has conducted the first-ever test of its semi-autonomous Highway Pilot system in a production truck on a public road, driving an augmented Mercedes-Benz Actros down Germany’s Autobahn 8. While the vehicle needed a crew to keep watch, it could steer itself down the highway using a combination of radar, a stereo camera array and off-the-shelf systems like adaptive cruise control. The dry run shows that the technology can work on just about any vehicle in the real world, not just one-off concepts.

    This doesn’t mean you’ll see fleets of robotic trucks in the near future. Daimler had to get permission for this run, and the law (whether European or otherwise) still isn’t equipped to permit regular autonomous driving of any sort, let alone for giant cargo haulers.

  12. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Apple buys AI outfit VocalIQ to boost Siri and fuel automotive plans
    UK-based firm claims the ‘world’s first self-learning dialogue API’

    CAMBRIDGE-BASED SPEECH TECHNOLOGY FIRM VocalIQ has reportedly been scooped up by Apple as the latter looks to bolster its Siri voice assistant.

    The firm typically didn’t reveal much else, but the acquisition points to Apple looking to supercharge Siri, potentially ahead of the launch of its first vehicle, as well as boost its presence in the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market.

    VocalIQ builds speech processing technology and describes its software as “the world’s first self-learning dialogue API”. The software is designed to facilitate more natural communication between humans and computers, which the firm describes as crucial to the future of the IoT, saying that more than automated speech recognition in needed to improve conversations between people and machines.

    “For all of the many devices we use, we want to find a way to get what we need, in the easiest, safest way possible. That’s where voice comes in.”

  13. Tomi Engdahl says:
    What Effect Will VW’s Scandal Have On Robocars?

    It’s looking bad for Volkswagen, German car manufacturers and possibly even car manufacturers as a whole. But the revelations that VW put software in their cars to deliberately cheat on emissions tests could have even greater repercussions. Robocars’ Brad Templeton looks at the effect for manufacturers of autonomous vehicles. From the Robohub article: “There may be more risk from suppliers of technology for robocars.”

    What does the VW scandal mean for robocars?

    Most of you will have heard about the revelations that Volkswagen put software in their cars to deliberately cheat on emissions tests in the USA and possibly other places. It’s very bad for VW, but what are the implications for robocars?

    A lot has been written about the Volkswagen emissions violations but here’s a short summary. All modern cars have computer controlled ignition systems, and these can be tuned for different levels of performance, fuel economy and emissions.

    Cars have to pass emission tests, so most cars have to tune their systems in ways that reduce other things (like engine performance and fuel economy) in order to reduce their pollution. Most cars attempt to detect the style of driving going on, and tune the engine differently for the best results in that situation.

    VW went far beyond that. Apparently their system was designed to detect when it was in an ignitions test. In these tests, the car is on rollers in a garage, and it follows certain patterns.

    It has not been revealed just who at VW did this, and whether other car companies have done this as well. (All companies do variable tuning and it’s “normal” to have modestly higher emissions in real driving compared to the test, but this was beyond the pale. The question everybody is asking is “What the hell were they thinking?”

    After all, having been caught, the cost is going to be immense, possibly even ruining one of the world’s great brands. Obviously they did not really consider that they might get caught.

    Beyond that, they have seriously reduced the trust that customers and governments will place not just in VW, but in car makers in general, and in their software offerings in particular. VW will lose trust, but this will spread to all German carmakers and possibly all carmakers. This could result in reduced trust in the software in robocars.

    What the hell were they thinking?

    The motive is the key thing we want to understand. In the broad sense, they did it because they felt customers would like it, and that would lead to selling more cars. At a secondary level, it’s possible that those involved felt they would gain prestige (and compensation) if they pulled off the wizard’s trick of making a diesel car which was clean and also high performance, at a level that turns out to be impossible.

    Why would customers want this?

    But many more customers want performance and would not want to pollute the air. VW gave them a different magic solution — a better performing car and the illusion that they were not polluting.

    Who decided to do this?

    We all want to know who decided this. It seems really unlikely that a lone rogue engineer would do it — what’s in it for her or him? Ditto for Bosch, the parts supplier. But engineers would have had to collude with any managers who decided to do this

    How many levels of management knew?

    It needs somebody high enough up that they win big by doing this.

    It’s also that possible high management asked the engine systems programmers to do this without informing the middle managers in the chain, but how?

    My best guess is a high level manager (high enough to benefit from increased sales in all the vehicles with this engine) but perhaps not the C-levels, who were somehow able to develop incentives for a key programmer. But we’ll find out eventually, I suspect.

    For robocars…

    It’s not too surprising that companies might cheat to improve the bottom line, especially when they convince themselves they won’t get caught. Where does that leave the robocar maker?

    My prediction is that robocar vendors will end up self-insuring their vehicle fleets, at least while the software is driving. Conventional insurance in PAYD mode may apply to miles driven with a human at the wheel. The vendors or fleet operators may purchase reinsurance to cover major liabilities, but will do so with a very specific contract with the underwriter which won’t protect them in the event of actual fraud.

    Would suppliers lie?

    There may be more risk from suppliers of technology for robocars. Sensor manufacturers, for instance, may be untruthful about their abilities or, more likely, reliability. While the integrators will be inherently distrustful, as they will take the liability, one can see smaller vendors telling lies if they see it as the only way to get a big sale for their business.


    This scandal will probably raise more questions about the popular (and still probably correct) approach of having vendors self-certify that they have attained functional safety goals for their systems. These are actually unrelated issues. VW was not self-certifying, it was going through a government certification process, and cheating on it.


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