As the global automotive industry is increasingly pushing for better connectivity and monitoring within vehicles, telematics is finding an increased widespread adoption. Apart from vehicle tracking, telematics can play an important role in improving the fuel economy and safety of vehicles.
Tata Elxsi, a design solution provider, has developed a wide portfolio of products aimed at the automotive industry. The company is betting strongly on its telematics offering and is developing new systems at a rapid pace. Of 3,700 employees, about 90 % are engaged in product development activities presently. Auto Tech Review spoke to Anil Sondur, VP, Tata Elxsi, about the upcoming solutions and their potential for the Indian market.
One of the recent offerings from Tata Elxsi has the potential to change the landscape of automotive insurance. The system from the company is claimed to have the potential for bringing down insurance premium costs for vehicles. Sondur said the major driver for the adoption of telematics from an insurance perspective would depend on legislation. For example, some European countries have already made ‘ecall’ mandatory. The technology is capable of sending a notification to a backend service desk as soon as a vehicle experiences an impact. Post this, the tracking of the vehicle is immediately enabled using inputs from the GPS or a mobile data connection. Such usage of telematics can significantly shorten the response time for support services and reduce the costs as well.
All of this transmission is done by a telematics control unit (TCU), which is a GSM-based system and is placed in the vehicle. The TCU is connected to the vehicle’s electronics and network architecture and is able to take signals from various systems to identify an impact. On confirmation of an impact, a signal is sent to the TCU, which in turn uploads a message to the backend infrastructure. This message also contains the location of the vehicle or the spot at which the impact took place.
The second insurance aspect covered by the technology is that pertaining to vehicular theft. Present technologies are primarily aimed at preventing theft of vehicles but very few solutions are capable of reporting the theft automatically. In case of someone trying to steal a vehicle, telematics can send out a message about the same to the vehicle owner’s phone. With the technology progressing quickly, Sondur said that it could soon be possible that the car sends an image too along with the message. This feature would make use of the multiple cameras modern cars use these days. The commercial introduction of this technology could be in cars for the model year 2015 or 2016. Once again in this case, the overall insurance cost reduces significantly due to a shorter reaction time.
Just through these two areas, telematics could bring about a major cost reduction for insurance companies and vehicle owners. Telematics would also make the legal process more hassle-free as there would be more chances of the said events being recorded in the form of images or electronics transmissions.
Tata Elxsi is presently undertaking development of both the software and hardware for the telematics unit. Owing to the nature of the product, the company presently possesses capabilities in industrial design, mechanical engineering, hardware design and embedded software design. Sondur told us that the company can now carry out visualisation activities as well. This enables the company to provide prospective OEMs with an idea about the location of the telematics unit, its size and its ease of access for maintenance.
Owing to these capabilities, the company some time back got an order from a major European luxury carmaker. The system in discussion has a reverse parking camera hidden behind the brand logo at the rear. On engaging the reverse gear, the logo flips open to expose a camera unit, which then transmits the display into the infotainment screen. The process of fitting the camera, interfacing it with the logo and the action of the logo’s flip was completely designed by Tata Elxsi.
The company has already signed supply deals with some customers in Europe and expects the business to grow at a good pace. In India too, business is expected to grow at a healthy rate as the electronic content in cars increases. With growing interest from consumers for infotainment systems and smartphones, the role of telematics can only increase in the coming years. Knowing this Tata Elxsi has already developed a wide portfolio of solutions for potential customers and seems to be in a good position to reap the benefits of the electronics revolution.
Text: Arpit Mahendra