Industry Insights

Accelerating development of connected cars

2018-10-18  |  7 min read 

The connected car evolution continues to speed up: 64 million shipments are predicted in 2019, up from 33 million in 2017. In 2020, it’s predicted that 98% of all new cars will offer Internet and car-to-car connectivity via cellular and wireless broadband, as well as enhanced navigation and safety systems.

To keep pace with market rivals, manufacturers will need to invest in extensive new testing programs to ensure that their vehicles’ increasingly complex connected systems deliver the performance, safety, and reliability that consumers expect. Manufacturers have traditionally done this connectivity testing in the later stages of the development cycle, relying heavily on real-world road testing. This is because of the challenges of simulating the effects on connectivity of the vehicle’s material construction and operating environment in lab environments.

However, the growing complexity of connectivity systems means that this late-stage testing is increasingly risky. Testing complex systems needs more time. Also, if testing reveals a problem that requires a redesign just prior to launch or worse, after the car has been launched, it can prove extremely costly. As such, how can auto manufacturers minimize these risks, and significantly shorten the development time and costs associated with delivering their next-generation connected cars? Let’s examine the main test challenges involved with vehicle wireless connectivity systems.

1. Connecting the car to the Internet

Services such as enhanced traffic information, multimedia, vehicle relationship management, and emergency call capability all rely on the quality and reliability of the vehicle’s connectivity. They also create huge volumes of data. As such, auto wireless connectivity solutions embedded into vehicles need to support multiple air interfaces, including LTE, 3G and 2G, as well as 802.11 Wi-Fi. Each air interface needs testing separately across the worst-case network conditions that the vehicle is likely to encounter, as well as for interoperability between each air interface. Testing modem redundancy is also important to meet reliability requirements.

2. Emergency call mandates (eCall and ERA-GLONASS)

European governments mandate that every new car sold after April 2018 must offer emergency call (eCall) capability, to reduce accident response time to half the current average. To achieve this target, a cellular connection (2G/3G/LTE etc) to emergency services must be available immediately and maintained long enough to report the location and scale of an incident, whether by the driver or automatically triggered by an airbag deployment. This in turn requires extensive cellular performance testing and network compliance testing of the vehicle.

3. Intelligent transport systems

Vehicle safety solutions, both vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), also need extensive testing, as part of the global drive to reduce road traffic accidents. In the US alone, over 400,000 accidents occur annually, with a total economic impact estimated at 800 billion US dollars, close to 2% of the country’s GDP. V2V and V2I solutions use Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) based on 802.11p Wi-Fi standards, which means that another significant air interface needs in-depth testing.

4. Ensuring wireless connectivity performance and reliability

Satellite data reception for navigation needs testing both in isolation and in coexistence with the on-board wireless systems mentioned above. The multiple radio transceivers within the vehicle are in close proximity, which means that the transmit power of one transmitter could be much higher than the received power level of another receiver. In some cases, the use of filter technologies and frequency separation will ensure the transmit signal does not cause significant interference. However, for some coexistence scenarios (such as different radio technologies within the vehicle operating on adjacent frequencies) current filter technologies may not provide sufficient rejection. Furthermore, the vehicle’s final material composition may not be fixed until late in the development cycle. This makes it difficult to predict interference modes and paths in real-world usage.

Reducing late-stage drive testing

To help address these challenges, auto manufacturers can accelerate their test programs by adopting methodologies that are already used extensively in the mobile industry, which has a strong focus on performance and short development cycles. An example is virtual drive testing, which has been proven to accelerate mobile product rollouts and QA testing.

Virtual drive testing involves using a lab-based performance and interoperability test automation environment. This uses data captured in the field to emulate real-world RF network conditions, including network settings, signalling to and from the car module, satellite signals, and the RF environment in and around the car. This in turn leads to reliable and cost-effective device benchmarking and resolution of issues found in the early stages of development.

Another proven test technique from the mobile industry which auto manufacturers can use is over-the-air (OTA) testing. It uses channel emulators in an anechoic chamber to accurately simulate different radio environments such as urban, suburban, and rural areas, to replicate the real-world conditions seen by the vehicle’s antenna cluster. This allows testing of the user experience when accessing vehicle onboard data services.

Using these proven approaches will speed up automotive system development. They enable testing of the performance of in-vehicle software and hardware modules against international mobile operators’ requirements under real-world network conditions, prior to their final integration into the vehicle. This in turn can cut the costs and time involved in performance-related testing, by highlighting any system issues much earlier in the vehicle development cycle.

Keysight is exhibiting at Automotive Testing Expo (ATE) 2018, October 23 – 25, showcasing our range of solutions to help automotive design and test engineers bring their products to market faster and safer. Visit us at booth 2008.