Connected Car – What is Your Vehicle Reporting?


February 20, 2019 - 0 Comments

In the previous blog, we looked at In-Vehicle Infotainment, focusing on streamed media and navigation services. In this blog, we’ll look at Connected vehicle services and telemetry. What is this and what data volume does it represent?

Vehicle services

Some vehicle manufacturers such as Jaguar, provide additional information services to the vehicle owner/user. For example, the InControl service includes the ability to report completed journeys. This function provides the customer with information about their journeys including the journey distance, real-time location, the duration of the journey, the average speed and data about the efficiency of the journey.

The information required to offer this function is derived from existing vehicle telemetry that is collected by the vehicle manufacturer. Such information forms a small part of the overall vehicle telemetry that is sent over a cellular connection to the vehicle manufacturer.

A growing number of manufacturers offer ‘remote-control functions’ using a cellular connection, enabling users to perform such functions as enable the heating/air-conditioning, lock or unlock the vehicle, sound the horn, flash the headlamps, check the fuel level or battery charge and effective range, check current location etc. More advanced functions include ‘summoning’ the vehicle, however, these services require a relatively small data exchange between the vehicle and the vehicle manufacturer’s data-center.

Some vehicle manufacturers such as Tesla are using software and firmware update over-the-air. In some cases, these updates are delivered via a cellular connection. In others, WiFi can be used as an alternative delivery method. Anecdotal reports from various driver forums suggest that for Tesla vehicles, the full version updates take place roughly every 6 months, with the version 9.0 update required a download of approximately 1GB. Periodic firmware updates also occur but these are unannounced and are much smaller in size (100-150MB). Over-the-air updates are of significant value to vehicle manufacturers in addressing potential defects or in delivering new capabilities to a vehicle, post-sale. Discussions with a small sample of vehicle manufacturers have identified that some are currently reluctant to use over-the-air updates for anything other than updates to non-safety related software such as infotainment services due to concerns about managing the associated risk.

What is your vehicle reporting?

Vehicle manufacturers are increasingly building their vehicles to be ‘connected’. While some manufacturers gather such information for a limited period of time (typically covering the warranty period) others gather information throughout the lifetime of the vehicle.

BMW collects information including vehicle status information (e.g. mileage, battery voltage, door and hatch status, etc.), position and movement data (e.g. time, position, speed, etc.), vehicle service data (e.g. due date of next service visit, oil level, brake wear, etc.), dynamic traffic information (e.g. traffic jams, obstacles, signs, parking spaces, etc.), environmental information (e.g. temperature, rain, etc.), user profile (personal profile picture/ avatar, settings as navigation, media, communication, driver’s position, climate/light, driver assistance, etc.) and sensor information (e.g. radar, ultrasonic devices, gestures, voice, etc.).

In cases such as a detected fault condition, the information including Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC) will be recorded to local storage within the vehicle. This can subsequently be used by service engineers to determine the fault condition that was encountered. Some vehicles will send a summary fault report to the vehicle manufacturer, as well. As more sensors are added to vehicles, not only will vehicle manufacturers gather information about the performance and operation of the vehicle itself but may also gather data generated from the sensors themselves­2. This does not mean that such data is gathered continuously. Vehicle systems may transmit a form of the sensor data in cases of ‘interest’ such as an accident or an unexpected set of telemetry data being recorded. Such information is of interest to not only the vehicle makers but potentially to organisations such as insurance companies.

As one can see from the information collection details, the manufacturers are collecting far more information than just fault conditions. The position and movement information can include details such as braking and acceleration styles. Traction-control indications can help determine road conditions at a location. Some vehicle makers and mapping service providers are starting to use such information to identify roadway hazards such as potholes.

Such services are designed of course, on the premise of having cellular connectivity coverage. However, very few countries are able to provide ubiquitous coverages. A 2017 report noted that the United Kingdom had 91% coverage of national highways but a much lower 58% coverage of non-highway classed roadways. A 2017 report indicates that most major urban areas in the United States have good cellular coverage but with the large geography covered by the US highway system, there are still many locations where cellular services are patchy at best.

From a vehicle manufacturer’s perspective, one cannot rely on universal cellular coverage. As a result, applications need to be designed to operate on the premise that connectivity may or may not be available and therefore vehicle systems need to include the ability to store critical data locally, transmitting valuable information when connectivity is restored.

Data volume today

How much information is the vehicle transmitting to the vehicle manufacturer and when is it taking place? The data volume varies from manufacturer to manufacturer and will also depend on the type and model of the vehicle.

A study performed by ADAC in 2016 identified that the BMW i3 electric vehicle transmits the ‘Last State Call’ automatically every time the driver switches off the car and locks the doors (vehicle is not in motion). This call includes the content of the error memory, battery details including cell temperatures and charge level, the driving mode (eco, eco plus, sport), operational data of the range extender, the mileage at various driving operations, quality of the charging point including malfunctions and the position of the last 16 charging points used.

Key to note that in the BMW case is that some information is obtained while the vehicle is in motion, with other information being collected at the end of the journey. Information provided by OEM A (a Japanese auto-maker) indicates that their personal light vehicles generate a report of ~10-15MB per duty-cycle. This is collected on a monthly basis in an upload over a cellular LTE connection. Information from OEM B (a Japanese auto-maker) indicates a volume of 15-20MB per duty-cycle collected while the vehicle is in operation where the average ‘driven-day’ in Japan is ~90 minutes, equating to a US duty-cycle volume of ~12MB.

How does this compare to the typical smartphone users? According to a 2018 report, monthly mobile data traffic per smartphone in North America reached 8.6GB (286MB per day) by the end of 2018.

In the next blog post – we’re going to take a look at the Connected vehicle of tomorrow. How do the vehicle services change and what data volume might it represent?



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