AASHISH BHATIA is President of Visteon India operations
There was once a time, when owning an automobile was considered the ultimate symbol of success and status. However, with the advent of the instantaneous service culture, consumers today want more than just a comfortable ride in a luxurious wagon. They want an experience that keeps them informed, entertained, connected and safe – and a ride that is environmentally friendly.
These evolving expectations cannot be met without major transformation across the auto industry. The industry rightfully wants to preserve its 120 years of proud legacy, yet also recognises it must not be burdened by it. This is possibly the best time for the industry to embrace advanced technologies, form new partnerships, drive electrification and adapt to the speed of change – governed by its DNA of safe transportation for all.
The auto industry has shown the ability to transform and enhance the automobile design, manufacturing and driving experience – from delivering a 100 % finished product in an assembly line to creating products that are always learning and are updated; from being a closed industry with limited traditional players to building an ecosystem with multiple start-ups and non-automotive partners; from being known for its mechanical design and styling to integrating millions of lines of code; and from relying on gasoline-powered engines to embracing electric powertrains. But all this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is more to come with the arrival of AI and voice technology, the rapid rate of technology adoption, stringent government regulations, and the human need to “democratise” mobility.
As a leading Tier 1 cockpit electronics supplier, Visteon is well-positioned to help enable this transformative journey and drive this seminal change. Here are a few key areas of technology transformation in the cockpit that we see influencing the future of mobility.
THE VEHICLE COCKPIT AS A DIGITAL CANVAS
Traditional analogue clusters are being replaced by hybrid and all-digital clusters. The biggest driver of this change is the need to display ADAS-related safety-critical features such as forward collision and lane departure warning. This trend is applicable to India as well. India has, in fact, leapfrogged from 4-inch displays in the instrument cluster to a 7-inch TFT display. Visteon launched a 7-inch instrument cluster on the Tata Harrier and Kia Seltos in 2019. The large display is used to showcase information in a graphically intuitive manner. This also makes it possible for the automakers to provide consumers with different themes or modes, which can be customised – similar to what we see in smartphones.
Another interesting technology we introduced globally is the 3D cluster for the Peugeot 208. The cluster projects priority information such as speed and alerts in an eye-catching manner, to capture the immediate attention of the driver.
Infotainment systems, representing the largest segment of the cockpit electronics market, are increasingly built with a connectivity module and a host of features including voice and navigation – all aimed at improving the driver and passenger experience.
We also see the industry moving towards adoption of native Android OS in the dash. Android offers regular, easy updates, the addition of apps (owing to a large developer base) and an easy-to-use interface, thus providing freedom to the drivers and passengers in terms of app content they want to see on the dash.
Going forward, the instrument cluster and infotainment will no longer be discrete systems, but rather one single digital canvas that would not just support a wide range of embedded functionality, but also enable occupants to bring an increasing amount of digital content into the vehicle from personal devices, or the Cloud, via the vehicle’s computerised systems.
Additionally, digitisation, coupled with secure connectivity, would enable easier over-the-air software updates that could save time, effort and cost for automakers and provide fresh content to consumers.
TRANSFORMING THE DIGITAL COCKPIT INTO A COMPUTING PLATFORM
The future of vehicle cockpit electronics will be largely driven by domain controllers, which integrate multiple ECUs that are part of a traditional electronics system. Visteon is helping drive the industry forward in two types of domain controllers – the cockpit domain controller, which we were the first company to launch in production vehicles; and the emerging ADAS/autonomous controller, which will enable Level 2-plus features to facilitate hands-off driving under certain conditions. Our SmartCore™ domain controller is the leading product of this type in the industry, and can be found in an increasing number of prominent vehicles, such as Mercedes A and B-class.
Visteon is developing a technology called DriveCore™ that offers car manufacturers a hardware and software technology solution to develop autonomous driving systems. DriveCore™ is the central processing brain of the autonomous system and is responsible for integrating data from all sensors that are connected to the vehicle. Using machine learning algorithms, the system can perform the tasks of perception, path planning, and then actuation to mimic the behaviour of a human driver and control the vehicle.
We believe collaboration holds the key to advancing autonomous driving technology. With its Cloud-based development environment, the DriveCore™ Studio enables automakers and partners to create and support an ecosystem of algorithm developers, unlocking innovation potential through an open framework for developing algorithms using sensor-based AI. It allows easy integration of third-party algorithms and access to real-life sensor data. This is complemented by a simulation, validation and benchmarking environment for perception algorithms used for object detection and feature-based path planning.
VOICE & VISION-BASED ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
In the recent past, there has been a huge flux in the use of AI-based tools and applications adopted even by small and medium business making inroads into most of the industry verticals. At home, voice-based AI technology is heavily integrated into our lifestyle in the form of Google home and Amazon Alexa. They assist us by playing our favourite music, booking a cab or ordering food. The advancement of AI will continue and these assistants will become smarter.
The confluence of AI with automotive technology has already started to transform the in-car experience. We see AI impacting two areas – first, AI is critical to the development of natural language speech recognition and development of smart assistant features. Second, it is also critical to camera-based vision processing capability, to detect and classify objects into lanes, cars, pedestrians, etc.
As a company, we have developed a strong AI competency in these two areas of voice recognition and vision processing. Visteon developed a “say ‘n serve” smart assistant solution, which is designed to use natural language processing for on-board or off-board commands in cars (such as modify the temperature or play a song from the internet radio) without always needing Cloud connectivity. With AI, we can hope to achieve significantly low word-error-rates (WER) of less than five percent – that is essentially as good as human ability for voice recognition. We are also working with local suppliers in this segment.
Similarly, we can detect objects on the road such as cars, pedestrians, lanes, etc., at 95 % or better accuracy, and at distances that even exceed the ability of the human eye to detect these objects. The challenge with AI is to reduce the need for computational power, which today is fairly significant and translates into higher cost. At Visteon, we are working with several partners in the AI ecosystem to develop more cost-competitive solutions for these capabilities.
VISTEON IN INDIA
Visteon has been in India for two decades and we work with most of the vehicle manufacturers in this country to define their technology roadmap for cockpit electronics. We are also working with multiple ecosystem partners including local start-ups in the area of AI and voice. We will continue to harness and build talent across our technical centres in Bangalore, Chennai, Goa and Pune and the manufacturing facility in Chennai to accelerate our development and innovation in this space.
In summary, we are excited about the transformation of cockpit into a digital environment with multiple displays powered by a cockpit computer; enabling drivers and passengers to customise, download and stream content, converse, and have a better understanding of how the car perceives the surroundings. Thus, increasing user experience and the joy of riding!