When the car becomes a smartphone

Connected car: Modern vehicles are becoming updateable. This saves customers visits to the workshop -. It also helps the environment.

For Tesla drivers, it's been the norm for years: their cars' software is regularly updated. And they don't even have to go to the workshop: New functions are added to the cars or the existing ones are improved via radio. Longer range, automated driving in "autopilot" mode and even more horsepower can be programmed "over the air" (ota).

In the meantime, other car manufacturers have also understood how important it is for their vehicles to be able to be updated. The VW Group is now sending its customers back to the workshop to get the latest software, then at least the new models like Golf VIII, ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq can receive new software via radio. The smartphone on wheels, a popular buzzword in the auto industry for years, is finally becoming a reality.

Qualcomm dominates the business

When the car becomes a smartphone

Tesla drivers are already used to having their car updated "over the air". Photo: Tesla

In the future, the same technology will be used in cars as in smartphones: Renault, BMW and Stellantis (Peugeot, Opel, Jeep, Fiat etc).) are cooperating with Qualcomm, the U.S. Group for mobile communications technology. Today, Qualcomm's chips are in almost every cell phone, and in the future they will also be in many cars. From 2024, there should no longer be a Peugeot, Fiat or Opel that doesn't constantly exchange data like a smartphone, preferably via the new, fast 5G network. "All the major automakers are working on 5G networking," says Nakul Duggal, head of Qualcomm's automotive business. The U.S. Semiconductor manufacturer dominates the business with communication chips for smartphones – and cars. Snapdragon is the name of the chipset that Apple's iPhone also uses, and which is now moving into the automotive world. Nearly all large and many small manufacturers already have the technology in use or are about to start series production.

OTA increases resale value

Thierry Cammal, who is responsible for in-car software at Renault, explains the benefits for the customer. He sees the ability to update as a decisive factor even for the residual value of a vehicle: "If a car can be technically updated, this increases the resale value."It will also allow older cars to have improved features added to them, such as more accurate traffic sign recognition, better voice control, or automatic driving even at higher speeds. Even the range of an electric car can be extended retroactively if the battery cell control system gets better software. More horsepower can also be added. Who will buy a car that can't be updated??

It needs a new vehicle architecture

But installing a communication chip is not enough to do this. Cammal: "The old vehicle architecture, where each function had its own control unit, is no longer up to date."More than a hundred such ECUs (electronic control units) can be installed in luxury sedans, connected to a tangle of wires. Here, too, Tesla is setting the pace: Whereas the Model S still has 3 kilometers of cable to connect all the functions, the Model 3 only has 1.5 kilometers. At the end of this development, Elon Musk wants to get by with 100 meters of cable – and three central control units for drive, autopilot and infotainment.

"Matching the digital lifestyle of customers"

When the car becomes a smartphone

The car's communication with its immediate surroundings via various radio frequencies is also coming: CV2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything) is the name of this kind of multifaceted networking. Photo: Continental

For Stellantis, it is above all the customers who demand connected vehicles: "Our vehicles must fit the digital lifestyle of our customers," says Group CEO Carlos Tavares. "We're taking the driver's relationship with their car to a new level."BMW wants to constantly improve the automated driving functions of its new models through updates. So initially, the new iX can't do much more than its competitors, i.E. Keep the distance to the car in front and stay in lane. But the Bavarians could update their brand's electric flagship to enable automatic driving, at least on the autobahn – if the lawmakers allow it.

On the data highway with 5G

Users of electric cars know just how important it is to network the car with the infrastructure: Where is the next free charging station that can still be reached with the available battery charge?? An e-car's route planning can only answer this question if it constantly communicates with the outside world. With the new 5G mobile communications standard, connected cars will finally turn onto the data highway. This opens up almost unlimited possibilities: cars warn each other of traffic jams, icy roads and accident sites. The car recommends a coffee break at the nearest café to the overtired driver and orders the latte macchiato in advance.

Communicating with the environment

In a few years, networked vehicles will transmit over 8 gigabytes of data per day – as much as 20 smartphones today. That's because the car's communication with its immediate surroundings via various radio frequencies is also coming: CV2X (Cellular Vehicle to Everything) is the name of this type of multifaceted networking. The traffic light sends by radio that it jumps immediately on red. So the car can roll out slowly. Don't waste energy braking. This not only makes traffic more efficient, but also reduces air pollution and fuel consumption. Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon estimates that intelligent networking of the car with its environment can reduce electricity and fuel consumption, for example, "by 20 percent in the U.S.". This would avoid twice as much CO2 there as traffic causes in Germany.

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