Jonathan Nattrass, Delphi Managing Director Europe – Software and Services (MyFi)

Jonathan Nattrass, Delphi Managing Director Europe – Software and Services (MyFi)

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As a leading global supplier of automotive electronics and technologies, Delphi provides vehicle manufacturers with systems integration and connected vehicle solutions designed to mitigate driver distraction, as well as link drivers to an array of services through cloud connectivity and safety systems. Vanessa Scholfield, editor of just-auto/QUBE's Connected Vehicle service spoke to Jonathan Nattrass, Delphi Managing Director Europe - Software and Services (MyFi) to discuss the latest technical developments and trends in Delphi's vehicle connectivity services.

What are the latest developments from Delphi in terms of vehicle connectivity?

The MyFi Road Map demonstrated at the IAA in Frankfurt in September provided a good overview of our thinking in terms of the distracted driver. This is an area of significant focus for Delphi. The MyFi, Connecting with Safety, concept car showcased breakthrough technology that demonstrates a near-production solution for allowing a complete cockpit infotainment experience while ensuring the driver's attention is where it needs to be.

The core elements are the Work Load Manager and a high-mount, transparent display with reconfigurable clusters that keeps critical data in the driver's line of view. The Workload Manager controls the content of the display, and of other displays in the vehicle, by comparing data from the active safety systems (also supplied by Delphi) with data from the driver state sensors, which monitor eye gaze and driver alertness. This allows the system to bring the driver's attention back to the road by intelligently minimising activities and providing alerts. The high-level screen allows the majority of function to be operated with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, using voice control and controls mounted on the steering wheel. The next generation software has the capability to function even when the driver is wearing sunglasses.

We also use an array of sensors to identify potentially dangerous driving behaviour. For example, Delphi's sensors can tell if the driver is departing/swapping lanes and provides intelligent advice to the driver including automatically adapting to the road conditions depending on the traffic volume around the driver.

How will this technology develop in the future?

In future we could see technology that offers lip reading to assist with tracking driver activity. This will be combined with enhanced facial recognition, gesture control and even medical sensors to monitor changes in driver physiology. We are integrating Delphi's HMI expertise into high mount displays (translucent display positioned below the drivers field of view) that makes it easy to see vehicle information and critical alerts without compromising the driver's attention to the road.

The technology solutions are impressive, but how is Delphi making this affordable?

When developing technology of this complexity we have to take into account a whole host of variables including processing capability, cost, size and performance. We also have to recognise that it is not practicable for us to do everything and indeed not advisable to try, as specialists from other industries can bring great ideas and technologies that have already received substantial investment.

We are therefore forging a series of partnerships, for example with Nvidia to bring game-quality graphics into the vehicle with automotive grade system robustness. Through this partnership we will work together to develop and configure graphics technology that provides engineers with tremendous new opportunities as well as providing end users with an impressive and highly-capable display system.

The industry is moving towards open standards and this will allow us to render highly sophisticated functions from a range of specialist suppliers, integrating them more quickly than has previously been achievable within traditional automotive development processes. What is happening in the consumer electronics field is influencing the way in which the driver wants to receive information and we must respond accordingly. Flexibility to configure hardware in many ways allows much greater volume, which has a big impact both on the level of integration that can be justified and on manufacturing volumes; both big drivers of cost down.

How do you ensure that your technology is up to date in the vehicle and that it keeps up with ever changing smartphone technology?

It is important that the quality of the in-car infotainment environment, including the functionality and the user interfaces, is aligned with the vehicle owner's expectations formed in other aspects of his infotainment experience outside the car. The quality of the graphics is now primarily limited by cost, which will therefore control its rate of adoption. We have a roadmap for introducing new chipsets and software platforms, including the inclusion of graphics chips developed by our consumer electronics partners. This allows us to plan when to introduce new chips into the automotive development process so they can be timed to give at least a two to three year development life, so a chip upgrade would be aligned with the vehicle's mid-life refresh.

Because Delphi has expertise across a wide range of systems, we are also working on multi-domain controllers that bring functionality together into lower-cost hardware. One chip will be able to work with a reconfigurable display to manage eye tracking, traffic sign recognition, pedestrian detection and much more, as well as the traditional infotainment functions. This very high level of integration will allow simplification of the vehicle architecture, with space and cost savings and potentially a faster upgrade path. Delphi is one of very few companies that has expertise in all the necessary systems, making integration less complex.

It isn't just smartphone technology that we must keep up with, but all areas of consumer electronics, particularly where these systems set customer expectations. To help us here, we have recently opened an innovation centre in Silicon Valley that allows us to work more closely with specialist partners from other industries, to get to know the people behind the latest business and technical innovation ideas, and also to attract individuals with specialized skill sets and who think in different ways to conventional car industry engineers.

How is Cloud-based connectivity developing?

With a sufficiently broad pipeline, we can enable a vast range of new services using the Cloud. In addition to upgrading data storage, personalisation etc; we can see new business opportunities for Delphi and for companies whose business model is enabled by Delphi technology.

We have recently launched a car-to-cloud/cloud-to-car connectivity system to Verizon and US Cellular customers in North America. Delphi Connect provides drivers with fast, cloud-connected information about their vehicle over the Verizon and US Cellular network. Sold through both of our partners' retail stores and websites, the system allows car owners to remotely control, monitor and track their vehicle in real-time via a smart device or computer. We will be launching the service for Europe in early 2014.

But that is just the beginning. The amount of data in the vehicle, and increasingly in the transport infrastructure, presents a vast range of new opportunities, all enabled by sharing through the Cloud. One of the most exciting aspects of this job for me is meeting non-auto people who can see things we can't. Delphi's Cloud will be a portal to the vehicle that enables new revenue streams.

What other type of companies could be partners for the service?

There are a number of possible businesses that could be partners, for example road side assistance organisations, fleet and hire companies. We could also help insurance companies with a driver scoring system, which subject to driver agreement, could be used to support insurance premium calculations.

The technology also lends itself to ECO driving and helping with recalls. Based on our data and analytics expertise we can interrogate the engine when the vehicle has stopped and feed this information back to the driver, fleet operator or telecoms companies. Recording journey data will become more important in the future for both business and personal use. For example it would enable drivers to log usage that has been for personal versus business use. This type of information is being used in countries such as Holland for working out tax breaks and is already in fleet trials. We see this type of usage becoming more commonplace.

Autonomous driving is becoming a hot topic. Where does Delphi's technology fit into this rapidly evolving market?

Delphi is uniquely positioned to deliver the technologies and capabilities that automated driving requires. What sets us apart from other automotive suppliers is our ability to produce technology in three areas that are critical to bringing an automated driving vehicle to life: connected products, active safety products and electrical architecture. Delphi is one of only a handful of automotive suppliers that can offer all three. Our radar, vision and sensing systems will be core technologies to automated driving.

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