Carmakers seek more link-ups with tech firms to hone the connected car

03 July 2022

Major automotive manufacturers are forming various partnerships and collaborations with technology companies to develop in-car software, technology, and connectivity capabilities. Skoda and Vodafone, BMW and Valeo are two of the latest arrangements, along with Renault and Atos and Stellantis and 5GAA.

Skoda has launched a pilot project in conjunction with technology-communications company Vodafone to develop a private mobile 5G network which will allow data to be locally transmitted, securely, in real time.

Central to the project is the development of ‘smart’ infrastructure at the Volkswagen (VW) Group brand’s Mladá Boleslav facility in the Czech Republic. The subsequent ultra-fast transmission of reliable data and technology is paving the way for a ‘smart factory’ where the innovations increase efficiency and flexibility in production.

Using 5G Standalone (SA) technology, Skoda’s ‘smart’ network uses a private frequency spectrum, which is unique to the factory. It enables reliable, wireless data transmission and guaranteeing sufficient bandwidth, even under high utilisation.

5G speed

The 5G latency, which is the time it takes to transmit data to sensors, machines, vehicles or other devices, may drop as low as a few milliseconds, making the technology significantly faster than other wireless-communication technologies.

The mobile 5G network can enhance the application of new technologies spanning artificial intelligence and shared data. The next step will involve uploading data to finished vehicles via 5G, with another potential application being the intelligent networking of robots and wireless assembly tools.

‘The private 5G network is a milestone for Skoda on its journey towards becoming a smart factory,’ commented Christian Schenk, Skoda board member for finance and IT. ‘The technology offers enormous potential for future innovations, for example, in predictive maintenance and optical inspections in body construction. Under the recently-launched pilot project, we are testing 5G in everyday operations, and we will also be evaluating future uses of this technology to make us even more efficient and flexible.’

Understanding surroundings

BMW has joined up with automotive suppliers Valeo. The French company will provide a range of advanced driving-assistance systems (ADAS) for the German carmaker. This will span controllers, sensors, and software for parking and manoeuvring BMW’s upcoming Neue Klasse, due to launch in 2025.

Valeo’s ADAS domain controller will host a software platform for low-speed driving, as well as software assets from BMW and Qualcomm for general automation. The system will be able to obtain real-time mapping and understand the car’s surroundings with new features and upgrades planned throughout the car’s lifecycle.

‘Beyond the opportunities resulting from our integrated-software stack, the domain controller itself is an important cornerstone in our strategy for safer and smarter mobility,’ stated Marc Vrecko, president of Valeo’s comfort and driving assistance systems. ‘BMW’s Neue Klasse will also feature the next generation of Valeo’s ultrasonic sensors, the full set of surround view cameras, as well as a new multifunctional interior camera that will contribute to improved safety and create a new level of user experience.’

Renault also confirmed it will expand its in-car software horizons. In an all-French union, the carmaker has joined up with multinational information technology service and consulting company, Atos in a new data partnership, the pair aim to collect and structure data to improve product quality.

Commenting on the agreement, Jose-Vicente de los Mozos, EVP group industry at Renault Group said: ‘Through our collaboration with Atos, we will go one step further in commercialising our expertise as we support manufacturing-sector organisations in the scale-up of their digital transformation. This marks a new step in Renault Group’s digital transformation and innovation capacity.’

Earlier this year, automotive group Stellantis started working with the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), undertaking a connected safety-system trial powered by vehicle-to-everything (V2X) technology. Key to the Stellantis trial is equipping vehicles with the data gathering abilities to enable the V2X technology to send emergency notifications from the cellular network.

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