Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY – The aftermarket will have a critical role in making intelligent transportation systems, or ITS, happen.

If only new cars are equipped with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) or vehicle-to-infrastructure systems, it will take 20 or 30 years before all cars are in the network, Roger Berg, vice-president-wireless technologies for Denso International America Inc., says at this year’s Management Briefing Seminars here.

“Aftermarket has to be part of the strategy,” he says.

The Speciality Equipment Market Assn., a group of aftermarket companies, is preparing a concept car using available technology to build a connected car, says Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle, whose battle cry for the industry is “Deploy, deploy, deploy.”

But don’t look for connected cars to immediately fulfill the dream of saving 32,000 or the 40,000 people killed annually in accidents on U.S. roads.

Bruce Emaus, president of Vector CANtech, a leader in providing embedded software in cars as well as development tools, says it took 10 years to implement control area network (CAN) standards and will take at least that for the FlexRay communications protocol.

Automotive Open System Architecture (Autosar), which is a broader idea, will take 10-15 years.

“It’s going to take longer than it took to get to the moon,” Emaus says, noting previous standards had the OEMs as stakeholders, while V2V adds telecommunication and many layers of government. “Maybe we need to downsize the group a little bit.”

The potential benefits of having vehicles understand where they are and what potential hazards exist are significant. Studies show congestion causes 4.2 billion lost hours and burns through 2.9 billion gallons (1.2 billion L) of gasoline. The annual cost of this waste is $72 billion.

A connected bus traveling 75,000 miles (121,000 km) annually can save $2,357 in fuel by using a navigation system that knows what stop lights are doing. A car driving 20,000 miles (32,186 km) a year saves $213, says Karina Morley, group vice-president of Ricardo, Inc., which is developing such systems.

But getting connected cars going is another matter. There are privacy, liability and security concerns. Hackers that now steal identities on the Internet might in the future steal credit-card numbers from toll booths or simply rob homes when the owner is known to be driving in another state.

Plus, there is little money available. The federal government has $1.5 billion in so-called funds available to states to develop research projects, but that must be spread over 50 states. And right now, both the states and the industry are poor.

Connected-transportation projects are “tough to defend” in the legislature, admits Michigan’s Steudle. Even the military research arm, TARDEC, is hoping to find sponsorship from the Joint Forces budget to fund additional vehicle-communication projects.

Yet, the cost benefit of connecting vehicles could be huge. Mike Schagrin, project leader of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s IntelliDrive program, says the cost per car of a V2V system would be about $100 – based on all 200 million cars equipped with the technology.

That compares with radar, lidar and camera sensors in a car that might cost thousands.

But if governments and industry are strapped for money now, some consumers still are spending it, which again suggests the aftermarket, which is where business models are built every day, some of them successful, Steudle says.

“They know how to market and sell it, so everybody wants to put it in their car.”

While the OEs remain key participants in the future of connected vehicles, “in the early stages of implementation, the aftermarket will probably be more important,” agrees Denso’s Berg.

The earliest connected vehicles could become a reality would be 2013, says Schagrin, noting that’s the soonest a regulation would be adopted, or something like the New Car Assessment Program would give extra safety credit to a car being tested if it is communicative.