Tech giant’s consumer-electronics roots boosts its position to connect the car to the IoT, Ted Cardenas tells Susan Kuchinskas.

Pioneer Electronics has long been in the business of expanding the capabilities of cars, with better stereos, navigation systems and backup cameras. It’s eyeing the aftermarket for ADAS and connected-car services, aiming to help the millions of “dumb” cars be better citizens of the internet of things.

Of course, Pioneer also is heavily involved in designing technology to be integrated by carmakers. At CES 2017, it demonstrated its Advanced UX Cockpit for highly automated driving, a Laser Head-up Display, and a LiDAR system. It also announced it would bundle its aftermarket, rear view camera with multimedia navigation receivers that connect with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Ted Cardenas, director of business development and corporate planning at Pioneer Electronics, has watched the convergence of the car and the phone over the years. He thinks the next wave is integration between mobile devices, connected cars and connected homes. “It’s reasonable to think that in the next few years, there will be the real capability of being able to drive within a certain geofenced proximity of your home and have the security system recognise your approach, so that when you open the garage door, the alarm doesn’t go off, and the lights go on,” he says.

He believes that the current crop of digital assistants, including Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit, will be able to interact with cars and connect them to other systems. While connecting the home to the car would be convenient and fun, so far, consumers have not found it easy. Cardenas is an electronics enthusiast, so he’s created a completely connected home using products from a variety of manufacturers. “That’s a daunting task for a lot of consumers,” he says. However, as telecoms and other providers begin to offer complete packages, he believes consumer adoption will increase.

Aftermarket effect

When it comes to vehicle-to-vehicle communications, Cardenas thinks that even a little connectivity can go a long way. With some 23M unconnected cars on the road, he believes that an aftermarket option is essential for creating enough critical mass to achieve the benefits of V2V and V2I.

“Even if my five-year-old car doesn’t avoid a collision with a new vehicle that has V2V, at least it’s talking to it, so the newer vehicle that does have collision avoidance can recognize it.”

He sees beacon technology being used to provide this kind of limited V2V communication. While the tech itself is relatively simple, the specifications and definitions of the language for car-to-car communications still needs to be finalised.

While consumers are unlikely to be willing to shell out for car-to-car communications, Pioneer plans to package this with other, more obviously useful enhancements.

Today’s aftermarket kits make installing aftermarket backup cameras, Bluetooth or Apple CarPlay affordable and attractive, according to Cardenas, as well as affordable

“It’s a very real opportunity,” he says. “Maybe you couldn’t afford it when you bought the car, but now you can. Our message is, ‘Don’t break up with your car, upgrade it.’”

Assuming the risk

Advanced safety systems are the purview of automakers at this point, according to Cardenas, because they require a higher level of installation than may be provided by third parties. There’s also the question of liability. “It’s clearer if you sell me a device to install. That is the big challenge for the potential of systems for aftermarket. It’s much more clear-cut when it’s factory-installed at the product-line level.”

However, while the industry hasn’t defined responsibility for making sure such aftermarket features as lane-departure warnings are installed and operating correctly on consumer vehicles, Cardenas says there are precedents. For example, school busses are frequently updated as safety and communications technologies evolve.

School-bus safety is highly regulated, and there are established protocols for certification and approval of the systems and the work. There’s also precedent there for which entity has liability for installing a new safety system and at which stage of the work liability shifts. “While there has to be some definition, there are paths that the market can follow,” he says.

Aftermarket autonomy

Cardenas doesn’t see true autonomous systems being installed in the aftermarket any time soon but he sees strong opportunity in other ADAS offerings there. “Do I want even a certified technician to install something in my 12-year-old car to provide autonomous driving? Probably not,” he says. “But I would like something that gave warning of a car in the lane next to me, and maybe applied braking if I’m distracted or sleepy. Those are a viable opportunity for the future.”

[Auto.Kuchinskas.2016.10.26]

TU-Automotive Detroit 2017

07 Jun 2017 - 08 Jun 2017, NOVI, USA

The Undisputed Home of the Connected, Autonomous Car. With 150 speakers, 200 booths and 3000 attendees it's the world's biggest conference & exhibition dedicated to automotive tech. innovation.