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Samsung Spends $8 Bil to Buy Mobile Tech Giant Harman

Move could position Korean company as major player in auto electronics.

by on Nov.14, 2016

Samsung is already the world's biggest maker of computer chips, but lags in auto business.

Samsung Electronics will purchase Harman International, one of the world’s largest producers of in-vehicle electronics, for $8 billion.

The move could position the Korean technology giant as a leader in the emerging field of connected cars. It also will let it play a critical role in automotive cybersecurity, a subject of increasing concern as hackers begin to target ever more high-tech automobiles.

“We see substantial long-term growth opportunities in the auto technology market as demand for Samsung’s specialized electronic components and solutions continues to grow,” said Samsung Electronics President and Chief Strategy Officer Young Sohn.

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With annual sales of around $7 billion, Harman is perhaps best known as a producer of mid and high-end in-car audio equipment, including the automotive lines of Bang & Olufsen. An estimated 30 million vehicles now are equipped with one of those systems.


Kia Displays Latest Electronic Innovations at CES

User-Centered Device gives info in 3-D display.

by on Jan.07, 2014

Kia's User-Centered Device (UCD) uses a wide-screen, head-up display to give drivers information such as speed, navigation or traffic information.

Kia continues to find ways to grow its customer base whether its with pricing, improved quality and now it’s looking toward interactive technologies to differentiate the company and its vehicles from the pack.

The Korean maker showed a couple of concepts at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that can be used with its UVO system. The first is a User-Centered Device (UCD). The UCD uses a wide-screen, head-up display to give drivers information such as speed, navigation or traffic information across 18 inches above the instrument cluster. It’s joined by a 12.3-inch TFT-LCD display that provides the data in 3-D.

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Additionally, the system charges mobile devices wirelessly and uses hand-gesture recognition for additional information. (more…)

Autonomous Cars, In-Vehicle Infotainment Steer New Direction at CES

Automakers hope to turn the car into a digital showpiece.

by on Jan.08, 2013

Ford Chief Technology Officer Paul Masarenas at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

Want your friends to get a Glympse of what you’re up to? That’s easy if you’re using the Glympse smartphone app and driving a Ford product equipped with the maker’s latest-generation Sync infotainment system.  With the touch of a button and a simple voice command, the technology will allow a driver to send out a bulletin alerting friends where you are – and where you’re heading.

“We’re providing drivers with a rich, real-time and hands-free way to share where they are,” explains Brian Bryan Trussel, the CEO of Glympse, which is showing off its new software – and its partnership with Ford at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

CES is the largest trade show in the country and this year organizers are reporting record turnout at an even featuring 3,250 exhibitors spread out across 1.9 million square feet of exhibition space at the Las Vegas Convention Center. And that doesn’t include spin-off gatherings scattered all across Sin City.


Traditionally, the show has focused on televisions, audio systems, computers and smartphones, but in recent years automotive technology has come to play a more important role. More than a dozen different automakers have staked out a presence at the 2013 CES, along with scores of hardware suppliers, app makers and other vendors looking to make inroads into the transportation industry.


Quality Makes Big Gains, Says JD Power, But Tech Headaches Worsen

High-tech issues now the most serious issue for most manufacturers.

by on Jun.20, 2012

The newly redesigned Porsche 911 posted the best score in the history of the IQS.

Forget the flats, the rattles and wind noise, even the balky transmissions.  These days, the biggest headache for a new car buyer is likely to be the voice controlled infotainment system.

The good news is that the latest crop of new cars, trucks and crossovers are “better than ever,” according to the 2012 J.D. Power Initial Quality Study.  But while manufacturers have largely overcome the defects and malfunctions that traditionally plagued buyers, motorists are experiencing more issues with the latest in-car technologies, such as voice-controlled navigation and Bluetooth hands-free phones.

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The annual IQS asks owners to report on both defects and design-related issues during the first months after they’ve driven their new products home.  On average, the 2012 study found an average 102 “problems” for every 100 new vehicles.  That’s down from 107 “PP100” in 2011, to use Power-speak.

“This is, without doubt, the best level of quality we’ve ever seen,” noted Dave Sargent, vice president of global automotive at J.D. Power and Associates, or JDPA.


Ford’s Mulally, Mercedes’ Zetsche to Highlight 2012 CES

Autos and automakers increasingly powerful force at annual consumer electronics show.

by on Oct.24, 2011

Ford CEO Alan Mulally will return to CES in January - though keynote duties will go to Daimler's Chairman Dieter Zetsche.

While the words, “consumer electronics,” are likely to bring to mind an iPhone or widescreen TV, the auto industry is becoming a more and more powerful force in the field as motorists search for technology that will keep them informed and entertained while driving.

That convergence was underscored, in recent years, by Alan Mulally’s three-peat appearance as the keynote speaker at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, held each January in Las Vegas.  The largest trade show in the country will once again turn to a member of the auto industry as keynoter for 2012, but this time to Daimler AG Chairman and Mercedes-Benz boss Dieter Zetsche.  Mulally will be back in Sin City, however, as a member of one of the annual event’s opening panels.

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“Convergence is real,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, sponsor of CES, which is expected to draw at least 2,000 exhibitors and 150,000 attendees to Las Vegas next January.  “Innovation,” he stressed, is critical to both the automotive and electronics industries because “growth comes only from innovation.”


Hurricane Earl Crisis Center Opened by OnStar

OnStar provides all services regardless of the subscriber's plan.

by on Sep.03, 2010

Electronics have their uses in spite of the distracted driving issues they cause.

OnStar is offering “Crisis Assist” services to its active subscribers in areas affected by Hurricane Earl. With the push of the OnStar button in General Motors vehicles, subscribers will be put in contact with specially-trained “Crisis Advisors.”

Crisis Assist services are currently being offered to subscribers along the coastal areas of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. Since evacuations began on August 31, 2010, OnStar has seen a 40% increase over typical call volume in these areas.

OnStar’s crisis capabilities include:

  • Emergency Services: Advisors can contact emergency responders if needed and direct them to the subscriber’s exact vehicle location, using OnStar’s embedded cellular system and Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology. OnStar Advisors can also use GPS technology to provide subscribers with evacuation routes.
  • Central point of contact for assistance: Advisors can provide crisis information and centralized assistance for evacuation routing, food, water, shelter locations and hotel accommodations along with information on road closures, power outages, and weather updates.
  • Keeping subscribers connected: Subscribers who are without power in their homes or cannot recharge cell phone batteries can push the OnStar blue button to stay connected.
  • Reporting new incidents: OnStar encourages subscribers to act as “Good Samaritans” and contact an Advisor whenever they witness someone with an emergency need, so that the Advisor can inform appropriate public safety officials of the location of the incident.
  • In addition, OnStar can assist state and federal agencies by providing them with real-time/on-the-ground crisis information from OnStar subscribers.


Universal Brake Override Software at GM by 2012

All vehicles will select brakes over throttle in emergencies.

by on Apr.05, 2010

Increasingly rare manual transmission cars will be exempted for heel-toe fans.

General Motors announced today that it would expand use of “enhanced smart pedal” technology to all passenger cars with automatic transmissions and electronic throttle control.

Commonly called brake override, the change involves modifying existing electronic controls to reduce power to the engine in cases where the brake and accelerator pedal are depressed at the same time.

The lack of such a system is thought to be one of the problems with run-away cars. (See National Academy of Sciences and NASA to Study Unintended Acceleration Issues for DOT )

The global roll-out at GM will be completed by the end of 2012.

The system is already in use on GM vehicles in the United States. Chrysler and German automakers also use the design philosophy as an additional safety feature. Ford Motor uses the system on its European vehicles, and is looking at expanding its use in North America.

It is expected that when the National Academy of Sciences finishes its report on unintended acceleration issues for the national Highway traffic Safety Administration, that override software will be proposed as a federal regulation.

Toyota, until recently, did not have such as system, but is starting to expand its application as it continues to be enmeshed in an unintended acceleration controversy that is allegedly responsible for more than 50 deaths.    (more…)

Electronics Meltdown?

Toyota hearing raise new question about in-car electronics.

by on Feb.23, 2010

It may look like a simple mechanical device but behind this pedal, Toyota (like other automakers) has wired up a spider's web of electronic controls.

The ongoing Toyota safety crisis is putting the spotlight on the use of electronic controls for critical vehicle systems such as brakes and throttle.  During today’s hearings, on Capitol Hill, testimony raised serious questions about Toyota’s claims that it had developed a safe and reliable engine controller that could and would not cause vehicles to unexpectedly surge out of control.

Whether or not the automaker is ultimately cleared, with more electronic content in cars today, especially as electronic systems replace mechanical functions, a fundamental question has arisen: Are automakers equipped with the right tools to design and develop these digital systems — and, more importantly, do they have the right testing mentality?

(A university professor’s 3-hour experiment could show that Toyota electronic systems are flawed. Click Here for that story.)

The electrical and electronics complexity inside cars today is enormous, and with relentless attention focused on fuel economy, reduced emissions and improvements in safety, it’s unlikely to abate.  By some estimates, as much as 40% of the value of some premium cars will be in the onboard electronic systems by mid-decade.  It’s like having a full computer network on wheels.

“Frequently a single function – braking, for example – involves multiple electronic control units (ECUs), as well as a lot of application software, communication software stacks, and operating systems,” explains Serge Leef, vice president at Mentor Graphics. His firm markets software that car makers use to verify that the communications between ECUs are transmitted and received accurately and on time.


“There may be one ECU that controls the brake pedal, another for tire rotation information, and another responsible for braking signals – and it’s quite possible that all three ECUs come from different vendors. When you consider what happens when the driver hits the brakes, the opportunities for error from network communication inside the vehicle are phenomenal,” Leef says.

“If all the computers involved come from different sources, and the only way they know how to communicate is because the automaker gave the suppliers specifications for the type and timing of each message, the first time that everything comes together is in the automaker’s lab.”


Kia UVO revealed

It’s not a car, but an entertainment system.

by on Jan.12, 2010

The electronic content keeps going up.

Kia Motors America showed in Detroit its new in-car communications and entertainment system, “UVO powered by Microsoft,” to be available in select Kia vehicles starting this summer.

The system provides, it is claimed, consumer-friendly voice- and touch-activated experiences for simple management of music files and hands-free mobile phone operation.

Co-developed with Microsoft and based on Windows Embedded Auto software, UVO is an easy-to-use, hands-free solution that allows drivers and passengers to answer and place phone calls, receive and respond to SMS text messages, access music from a variety of media sources as well as create customized music menus.


UVO is just one of a growing number of electronic systems offered by automakers as fatalities from distracted driving rise to record levels. The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that 6,000 people died last year and hundred of thousands more were injured in distracted driving accidents.


Makers Deliver Better View From the Driver’s Seat

Bigger, better and brighter displays mark dashboard design.

by on Nov.13, 2009

The 12-inch video display in the 2010 Range Rover replaces traditional gauges and instantly adapts to changes in vehicle settings.

The 12-inch video display in the 2010 Range Rover replaces traditional gauges and instantly adapts to changes in vehicle settings.

Loaded with electronic features, cars are fast becoming smartphones on wheels, and that makes the view from the driver’s seat more important than ever. The dashboard is a focal point of competition, and automakers are embracing displays, designs, and development platforms in search of the best fit for infotainment, comfort, safety, and performance systems, most of which require driver interaction.

Like smartphones for which myriad “apps” are available, automakers are allowing customers to personalize their vehicles. Visteon Corporation, for example, designed a configurable digital instrument cluster platform for Jaguar Land Rover’s Range Rover that features a 12.3-inch color display – one of the largest available in a vehicle – with a virtual speedometer, virtual gauges, and a message center. Drivers can customize the system warnings and vehicle information displayed in the message center as well as the audio and telephone displays. The message center provides information on steering angle, wheel articulation, suspension settings, and Terrain Response™ settings, and the instrument cluster can reconfigure itself dynamically as the vehicle shifts from one drive mode to another.

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“Integrating larger and more complex color displays is cutting edge in driver information systems today,” says James Farrell, Visteon’s senior manager for driver information. “This allows automakers to bring the consumer electronics experience into their vehicles, which is a growing expectation of the driver.”