Vehicle Telematics And Applications Information Technology Essay

Telematics is the technology formed by blending of two other technologies, Informatics and Tele-communications. When this concept is applied to vehicles or automobiles, it is termed as vehicle Telematics. Vehicle Telematics implies the use of cellular communication for transmitting the vehicle based data which can be further processed for various Applications. Vehicle Telematics applications ranges over wide spectrum from simple but critical vehicle accident notification to highly sophisticated in-car internet and cloud based computing. The Telematics product displays all characteristics of a typical embedded system making it perfect for our case study. The motive for choosing this topic is the endless scope of innovative ideas possible for development of telematics applications. Our vision for this assignment is to research on the design of Telematics units, study various challenges as an embedded system developer, and try to suggest evolutionary proposals to add to the product value. The highlight in the report will be on investigation of various options available for components of Telematics unit and how to choose based on the given requirement, application, cost, time to market and various constraints.

Vehicle Telematics aims at transmitting vehicle data over cellular communication channel. In most cases Telematics units are equipped with GPS (Global positioning systems) units which provide vehicle location details. The data transmitted over the cellular network can contain the critical emergency information from vehicle or in advanced applications; it can be packets of cloud downloaded data.

The report is organised based on the complexity of various applications describing the development of Telematics product at each level. The report provides the details for design considerations at each complexity level. Design considerations include the main parameters to be considered for platform, various peripherals, interface required and the challenges.

To start with, a simple yet critical application like Automatic collision notification is considered; Followed by a little complicated application for manual emergency notification. Then we proceed to understand several applications with little or no modifications to this basic system design. This is in view of deriving selling points based on the market needs. We then proceed towards various sophisticated applications which involve integration with various other technologies like internet, 3G etc.

Automatic collision notification is the most basic and critical application of Telematics systems. It is already implemented in most of the vehicles in developed countries and soon pacing up with developing countries. The product concept and hence the design is simple and can be realised with little infrastructure from embedded systems side.

We will now proceed further by understanding various components of this basic telematics system and have it as the basic building block to enhance our report further to describe the arena of products for Telematics.

Components and Critical applications of Telematics systems

Author : Haripriya Katti

The basic Telematics unit consists of a Cell phone module, Global Positioning Systems chipset, a microprocessor and few other basic peripherals like memory, vehicle connector (Battery, Ignition, communication bus etc.)

The microprocessor is responsible for interacting with cell phone, GPS chipsets and vehicle. It collects various vehicle based data through the vehicle bus and passes this information to cell phone which can then be transmitted to some base station for further analysis. This information can be supplemented with position information and time stamps with the help of GPS data received by the GPS receiver. Based on the segment (Cost) of the vehicle, the vehicle communication bus can be K-line (KW2000, single wire interface), Local Area Interconnect (LIN, single wire interface), Controller Area Network (CAN bus, single line or Two line based on required speed).

The block diagram below indicates the basic vehicle Telematics unit.

Figure 1 : Typical Telematics System in very basic form

Automatic collision Notification

This simple product is capable of realising many critical applications like Automatic collision notification, theft detection etc with little or no modification. The airbag deployment signal can be connected to Telematics unit using the vehicle bus or as discrete input. This microprocessor can transmit this information via cell phone to emergency call centre (On-Star in American continents) for immediate assistance. The non-volatile memory like EEPROM is uploaded with all the emergency contact numbers.

Design considerations for Automatic collision notification

The Design of the Telematics product for Automatic collision notification is very simple. The microprocessor used for this system must include basic peripherals like UART, SCI, IIC. The cell phone unit generally communicates to microprocessor using AT commands. Phone chipsets generally provide serial communication interface. So, micro having SCI or UART could be considered for interfacing. Again, GPS chipsets generally provide serial communication channels for interfacing (NMEA commands). So we can select a micro with couple of serial interfaces. Another important consideration for the micro selection interface required for the vehicle bus. This depends on the segment of the vehicle under consideration. For low segment vehicles, vehicle interface like K-line or LIN (Local Area interconnect) can be used. For high segment vehicles, vehicle interface like CAN can be used. For the vehicles having CAN as the vehicle-bus, micro considered for Telematics unit would need to contain a CAN transceiver. Besides interfacing considerations for the platform, the other major consideration is the power consumption of the platform and the entire telematics system. The power management of telematics system is crucial part of the design. Hence, it is worth describing separately. Memory requirement for this system would not be too high. We can go for the combination of Flash (NAND type) memory for program storage and EEPROM for configuration data and Emergency contact numbers to be dialled during the vehicle collision. (These data must be field programmable). We can go for GPS chipsets which give 2-D or 3-D fix based on the market targeted. For Ex: Markets like Japan, US would need a 3-D fix for GPS location due to flyovers (Altitude also required along with latitude and longitude information). Note that the phone and GPS chipsets are generally taken from third party suppliers and are not developed in-house from Telematics product suppliers. This is in consideration of Time to market.

Power management considerations for Telematics systems design

The telematics product must consider power management critically. The usage of a cell phone inside the system (the vehicle), makes it challenging to design. End users would certainly not like to have their vehicle batteries drained frequently just due to the presence of Telematics units in their vehicles. The selection process of the cell phone for the Telematics system must involve the critical study on the design of cell phone power management itself. Also, similar design approach applies while selecting GPS chipset. The micro processor used for the Telematics systems must provide with various power modes (Ex: ARM generally provides at least 3 power modes) so that the power consumption of the system can be managed adequately. Note that, the cell phone unit in the telematics system will be turned off almost all the times and will be on only when required. This may be during the emergency call or stealth call (explained later). Besides the run time power consumption, the dark current for the system must be very low or nil.

Another important dimension of power management for Telematics system is the battery (power) availability during accident. In case of head-on collision of the vehicle, there are all possibilities that the vehicle battery might get damaged. However, Telematics system must remain unaffected. Thus, there is always a second battery in the vehicle (generally termed Backup battery) to aid Telematics system to sustain emergency call. This adds to the cost of the Telematics product and additional interfacing requirements for the backup battery.

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Manual Emergency Notification

The Telematics product only for the purpose of accident notification cannot become vehicle’s selling point as the feature will come to use not more than once or twice during in product life time. The simple system described in the previous section can be enhanced further to get applications like Manual emergency notification. This feature takes into consideration about emergency situations like Driver bad health and vehicle mal-function.

Design considerations for Manual Emergency Notification

For manual emergency notification there is quite a lot of design consideration for the system. Here, the driver would use a button interface (located near the steering column or in the infotainment system) to place an emergency call. This button needs to be interfaced to telematics system. This requires additional peripherals on the micro. A microphone will be required so that the driver can speak to emergency call centre. This calls for another peripheral on the micro which is ADC. Also, the voice signals from the phone must be diverted onto the speakers of the vehicle. This would call for DSP to process the PCM (pulse code modulation) signals from phone and play it on to audio system (vehicle Speakers).

We can select Micros like TI’s OMAP series (Open Multimedia Application Platform) which is dual core micro containing ARM code and TI DSP. The DSP need not be very advanced and a simple fixed point DSP would suffice this application. Generally, In OMAP, ARM core is the master and DSP is a slave and they communicate on a simple mailbox kind of protocol called Host communication Protocol (HCP). Sometimes, there might be requirement to play voice prompts to indicate the driver about the call. (Ex: Connecting to Call Centre etc). This would call for a codec in the system to store the prompts in digital format and then play at the time of call being placed.

The block diagram below describes the various components of telematics system for manual emergency notification.

Figure 2: Enhanced Telematics Systems for Manual Emergency Notification

4.2 Some Critical comments on the feature of Manual emergency Notification

By mere observation, it is evident that we have enhanced the system to quite a large extent to achieve the feature of manual emergency notification. Again, this feature is not put to use frequently in the life time of the product. This argument drives the Telematics system designers to introduce lateral product concepts with little or no modifications to this system design. The main aim would now to be innovative so that the same product design can be put to use more frequently there by enabling end users appreciate and welcome the new technology. Such applications generally include vehicle theft management, Fleet management, Geo-Fencing, Remote door lock-unlock.

The following sections will describe on the design considerations individually for each of the above mentioned applications.

Vehicle Theft Management ( Author : Prthvi Kumar Panchapakesan)

Telematics products can promise an efficient solution for the problem increasing number of vehicle thefts. Vehicle theft management can be categorised into three distinct phases. These phases can be defined as given below:

Vehicle Theft Detection: Ability of the vehicle to identify by itself that theft has occurred.

Vehicle Theft Notification: Ability of the vehicle to notify (to user) by itself after theft had occurred.

Vehicle Theft Tracking: Ability to respond with vehicle position when queried after the theft.

With these definitions, we can now analyse the various design considerations for Telematics systems for Vehicle Theft management. We consider enhancing the Basic telematics system described in the section of Automatic Theft detection. So, the basic components for this system would remain same as described in section for Automatic collision notification (Please refer Fig 1).

Design Consideration for Vehicle Theft Management

In order to achieve Automatic Theft detection, the Telematics unit must be connected on the Vehicle CAN LIN bus. When the immobilizer unit detects the wrong key feed, it can be programmed to immediately send appropriate messages the telematics unit over vehicle network bus. This input from immobiliser can be used to notify the Theft. The Telematics controller unit gets the current location of the vehicle from GPS. The Cell phone transmits the location information to the owner call centre. This can be either done using short service message (Text message – SMS) or real time data call on the network. The diagram below indicates the system to perform Automatic Theft notification using input from the immobiliser unit.

For Automatic theft notification, the usage of data call has infrastructure implications from Telecom industry. It involves send data over the voice channel of CDMA or GSM network. This requires encoding decoding capabilities of data on both ends. This is expensive and some times not affordable especially in developing markets. One of the major telecom players for such support is a company named Airbiquity in US

Once the vehicle theft is detected and notified, more sophisticated system and software integration can turn off Engine; can turn on microphone in the vehicle. However, this would need for the vehicle to be on the network and thus needs CAN LIN transceiver in the Telematics system.

Figure 3: Automatic Vehicle Theft Notification

With various options available for the components, we can go by choosing the following:

Microcontroller/Microprocessor with CAN interface:

A 68-pin PIC18C658 from Microchip Technology Inc will do the job for this application. These are microcontrollers used extensively in the automotive industry. They have an intelligent CAN interface. It also has I2C™ or SPI™ communications capability for peripheral expansion.[p1]

GPS receiver:

SiRFstarIII High sensitivity microcontroller based GPS receiver. This communicates with the host microcontroller using a UART. Besides, GPS chipsets from ATMEL also make a good choice.

Some Critical remarks on feature of Vehicle theft management

This feature can be added without having any additional peripherals.

Effort for additional software development is justified by the market demand and is not huge.

A telematics unit only for emergency notification is not a good selling point in many markets.

Has a huge impact on markets with high automobile thefts. (In Brazil, after the car is stolen, it is only an hour before the car is broken down).

Can be retrofitted (as an After-market product)

Challenges for the system design for Vehicle theft management

Retrofitting in cars without a CAN bus will involve wiring and is more tedious.

Automatic theft notification requires an immobilizer unit which might not be present in all cars especially in vehicles in developing markets.

This calls for further product ideas and innovations that require theft detection with out the use of immobilizer unit.

Fleet Management (Author: Swaminathan Rajendran)

Fleet management is yet another important application of Telematics. It is the management of vehicle fleet. In fleet management, vehicle tracking is one of the important aspects. Fleet management facilitate in running cluster of vehicles in order to achieve efficient operation. Fleet management is applicable both in public transport (buses and trains) and commercial logistics companies (cars, vans, trucks).

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Telematics unit generally fixed in motor vehicle or automobile which is capable of sending information like vehicle’s location, speed. These transmissions of data can be periodically or when queried. Since all the data collected from the fleet will be in the form of latitude and longitude so these data should be plotted on a reader friendly GIS (Geographical Information System) for better scrutiny.

Again, the Telematics system design for Fleet management can be considered by enhancing or modifying the basic Telematics system used for Automatic collision notification. (Please refer Fig 1)

We will now consider various other design considerations for the system to perform Fleet management and factors affecting the design.

Design considerations vehicle Fleet management and Tracking

Since Fleet management is mostly considered for commercial vehicles in large numbers, cost plays an important role for the system design. The complexity of the system thus decides the cost. Complexity here refers to features such as transmission of vehicle speed and other vehicle data from various ECUS which can be fetched by vehicle bus interface. The other dimension that gets added to this feature which was not in any feature discussed before is the Display unit. This unit would display the driver about important messages posted by Fleet owner. So, the system design must consider the interface to the display with adequate Human machine interface (HMI) calling great amount of software work. The display also introduces new set of challenges in terms of power management. Cellular phone might be based on GSM or a CDMA technology depending on the market.

The microcontroller used for this application could range from simple Intel 8052 to sophisticated Intel Atom. This platform selection is mainly based on the intelligence that the fleet management ECU should contain. This product can be made capable of reporting the status of a variety of sensors, Information on acceleration, braking, fuel usage, temperature, etc. can be reported along with GPS data. However, if the telematics unit is not on CAN bus, it would be difficult to gather these information as discrete inputs would be required. The block diagram below indicates the basic form Fleet management unit.

Figure 4: Vehicle Fleet Management Systems

The following details are excerpts from Baoruh (Taiwanese) Fleet management product which is capable of vehicle tracking, data recording, fare calculation, printing bills and much more [RS1].

Key Features and specifications:

Communication (voice and text message) between driver and the home office via GSM and GPRS, GPS chipset for location

SOS function key to report emergency

Provide 16 digital inputs, 4 digital outputs, 4 analog inputs to connect with on-board sensors to monitor vehicle speed, RPM, indicator, beam, engine, lubricant pressure etc.

Embedded printer, embedded speaker to enable voice communication.

LED indicator fare amount and LCD display to show vehicle status or message

CPU: 32-bit RISC Micro controller with 128KB Flash ROM and 8KB SRAM

External flash ROM for program of 1MB and battery backup SRAM of 1MB

NAND flash: 8MB (up to 128MB)

Digital input /Digital output /Analog input: 16/2/4, speed detection by Odometer pulse input

Display: 128 x 64 Dots Graphic LCD, 7-segments LED display * 5

User interface: 8 keys, Buzzer, Voice output (Optional)

Input power (DC): + 10V ~ + 36V

Critical remarks on the feature of vehicle Fleet management systems

Fleet management products act as a boon to Transportation and Logistics companies for efficient operation. The complexity of these systems is driven by the cost and features required. These products form the major chunk of Telematics products. Since this product development is mostly driven by cost, all the components selection must be with low cost point of view. Also, an additional cost factor is the licensing of the product as it contains cell phone unit. Generally, legislations require certifications on Telematics product and this must be borne by the supplier. This adds to the NRE.

Geo Fencing

Geo Fencing is yet another interesting feature of Telematics. It mainly deals with establishing virtual boundary for the vehicle with help of GPS positioning systems and little software addition to our basic Telematics product described in the section of Automatic collision Notification (Please Refer to diagram 1). This feature can be targeted for both Commercial vehicles and Passenger vehicles.

The Telematics controller unit can be programmed to send alerts to Owner or bas station whenever the vehicle crosses the pre-defined geographical area. The alerts can be sent using text message over the network. As seen, it hardly calls for additional interface but yet makes a good feature increasing the selling point of the vehicle.

So Far, we have focussed on enhancing modifying the basic Telematics product design to get various simple applications. We will now move our focus to sophisticated applications of Telematics and deal with design considerations and challenges. These applications generally include off -board navigation, Internet Radio etc.

Off board Navigation for Vehicles

There are two kinds of vehicle navigation systems which are onboard and off board navigation systems. The onboard navigation systems need memories like SDCARD or DVD containing maps. These maps are then put on vehicle display. The On board navigation systems have an inherent disadvantage of not being updated. This calls for the need of off board navigation system. In this case, maps are downloaded on the fly with all latest information. These maps are downloaded and the location from the GPS receiver is plotted on the display. The diagram above shows an off board navigation system.

Figure 5: Off Board Navigation system

Design Considerations for Off Board navigation systems

8.1.1 GPS receiver:

GPS receiver must also give high performance with weaker satellite signals. They should have a small board area and should have good power management.

GPS receivers which use software (algorithms) to decode the signals should be considered rather than GPS chips which use a lot of ‘correlators’. GPS chips with more correlators add to both chip area and power consumption.

E.g NaviLink™ 5.0 single-chip GPS solution: NL5350 can be used. It is a single chip using TI’s DRP™ technology, consumes low power and has integrated power management, also gives high performance with weaker satellite signals, exceeding 3GPP and 3GPP2 requirements. [P2]

8.1.2 Processor:

Processor must be able to support graphics (control display), audio codecs, give high speed UART interface to cellular phone and a GPS receiver. It has to now basically interface with co processors for controlling display and audio.

Processor should be able to support highly computational intensive algorithms like ‘Dead reckoning’ algorithms. ‘Dead reckoning’ is used to predict the location of the vehicle in locations where the GPS receiver goes blind.

Since the vehicle is now equipped with a 3G enabled phone, it opens up possibilities for other applications. Hence the processor must also be able to support other applications like internet browsing, remote diagnosis etc.

E.g. An ARM Cortex-A8. (AM3715/03) can be used. It has up to 1-GHz Sitara™ ARM® Cortex™-A8 – Non multiplexed Address/Data Mode. POWERVR SGX™ Graphics Accelerator, Four UARTs (One with Infrared Data Association [IrDA] and Consumer Infrared [P3]

8.1.3 Cellular phone:

This depends on the market. Cellular phone might be based on GSM or a CDMA technology depending on the market.

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For this application a cellular phone which is 3G enabled is a must as it has to download maps at a very fast rate.

Automotive company has to also tie up with a cellular network provider which supports 3G data rates and also has a wide coverage.

8.1.4 Application Software:

Navigation softwares are complicated to develop and are expensive to buy. Hence it must be decided whether to buy or to build it. RTOS must be used as this application involves a lot of real and complex time calculations.

This unit must have good software security to prevent hacking and must have remote software download capability.

Now software must also consider billing the user for data packets

Critical remarks on the feature of Off-Board Navigation using Telematics:

No need to store old maps on memory cards

One can venture into unknown areas without fear of getting lost or not having maps

One can always use the most up-to-date maps, which you do not have to update once a year or so on


With navigation telematics unit becomes more complicated.

It requires a display, hence a separate co processor (Graphics processors) to control display.

High end processor because of intensive calculations needed for navigation

Navigation software is complicated to develop.

Since cellular phones are used for downloading maps, users have to pay the Telecom for data packets.

Since navigation systems are costly, they can only be fitted in luxury vehicles narrowing the targeted market segment.

Cellular phones must be equipped with 3G technology.

Navigation system is blinded in areas without cellular network.

RTOS (For Ex: QNX, micro itron) is required as real time calculations have to be performed. RTOS will increase the NRE.

Internet Radio and 3G influence on Telematics

With fast development of wireless and internet technology, there is a directly proportional scope for development of Vehicle Telematics units. The integration of 3g phones into Telematics units instead of basic cell phone opens up next set of opportunities for Telematics product segment. We are now moving our focus of integrating internet related technologies with Telematics product in the vehicle there by enabling applications like Data downloading, Emails, Social networking, Internet Gaming etc.

For the case study, we will consider the design aspects of internet enabled Telematics System. The various considerations for the design and Challenges involved. We will take the examples of sophisticated existing product in this domain which is Ford Synch which is an internet Radio. The product in this spectrum does much more than the automatic collision notification and other Telematics applications described in the preceding sections.

Design considerations for internet enabled Radio Telematics Products

The major support that would be required for having internet enabled product is ability to handle complex software protocol like TCPIP. So the performance of the platform must be high to cater for these complex applications. Generally, multi core processors like Freescale’s or Intel’s Atom are among the best of available choice due to their considerably low power consumption and support for automotive segments.

The next consideration would be the RTOS. Since we need to support complex protocol stacks like TCP IP, Bluetooth, Wifi and several applications like Pandora, Facebook etc, There is an obvious need for RTOS and we can no longer use home-built schedulers. So, RTOS like RTLinux, QNX can be chosen. However licensing charge for proprietary OS is the biggest challenge and is cost to be borne by the Product supplier.

The next major consideration major consideration is the Graphics. Since the product has many features, it obviously calls for sophisticated Human machine interface with hundreds of screens and support for handling them. Processors like have dedicated Graphics processor units to aid managing HMI. Also, the software development time for HMI in this range of products is considerably huge and adds to the NRE cost. However, most of this software development is being made automatic by using Code generation tools like QT, EB GUIDE engine. The block diagram below shows the trend in building latest multimedia products. Telematics is a part of Multimedia system and integrated with Radio to form internet radio.

Figure 6 : Typical internet Radio with integrated Telematics

9.2 Challenges for the internet enabled Telematics system and internet Radios

With inclusion of so many sub-systems and third party soft wares, the product integration is very challenging and time consuming. By connecting the vehicle infotainment system to the cloud, we are actually opening up chances for Hackers and viruses to enter the vehicle. This calls for secured systems and additional system complexity. Power management becomes extremely important as 3G phone modem consumes quite a lot of power. Besides phone modem, the next few power consuming elements in internet radio are Bluetooth, Wifi chipsets and thus require proper power management techniques. The performance of the system with this level of complexity is very vital. In the sense, we do not want the system to continue downloading songs during collision, but should switch to emergency mode and place SOS call. So the Software architecture must be well prioritized and all possible use cases must be considered. The software design gets challenging due to complexity and motivates the concept of re-use of building blocks. There are upcoming architecture standards like GENIVI (Similar to AUTOSAR but for Multimedia) to help build standard systems.

Ford Sync – a classic internet Radio

Ford Sync is in vehicle communication and Entertainment product developed by Automotive Giant Ford and Software giant Microsoft which is on Road from MY-2008[ ] .

The telematics related features mainly include

SOS Emergency call or US 911 emergency assistance

Traffic updates and turn by turn navigation

Vehicle Diagnostics reports

The non-Telematics features includes

Audible Text messages

Voice controlled music system

Application support to Blackberry, Ipod,

Voice recognition

Bluetooth pairing for phonebook support etc

The system design is based on the 400 MHz Freescale i.MX31 which contains ARM11 that uses 256MB of 133 MHz Mobile DDR SDRAM from Micron and 2GB of Samsung NAND flash memory. It runs the Microsoft Auto operating system and uses Voice recognition technology by Nuance Communications. The image below shows the various components in Ford Sync. [ ]

Figure 7: Ford Sync System module


Telematics will be a value added item and offer higher margins for car manufactures. It creates new costumer experience that makes driving simple and the bundle of services offered connects the driver and passenger to the outside world in the vehicle and thus the automotive system as the car becomes another internet portal with few special quirks.

Telematics requires joint industry collaboration; it is not the automobile industry that needs to work out a business strategy. It has got impact on other industry as well.  There is never going to be enough mobile band width to accommodate all the new applications content and connected devices. So new network technologies will only bring the cost and availability of broadband mobile connectivity down.


As we integrate GPS and wireless technology with the electronics available in today’s vehicle our car becomes nodes in a wireless network able to communicate vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure and enhance the ways of driving.

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