A car.

The Digital Car Journal

A weblog about computers in cars
by Will Fitzgerald
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:: The Digital Car Journal is on hiatus. ::

URL for this day Tuesday, March 26, 2002

.: What is 511? DOT's long answer (PDF) and shorter answer. Shortest answer: "Three-Digit Traveler Information Telephone Number." As usual, ITSA is on the job.

URL for this day Monday, March 25, 2002

.: Telematics tackles 'hands-free' operation -- an article from EE Times (There's a quote from me at the end, but it's originally from an older article). EE Times also has a deliciously technical article about telematics chip integration.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 20, 2002

.: I got an email asking what I knew about gesture recognition for human-computer interfaces in cars. Unfortunately, I know almost nothing, and only found the briefest mention in a quick search. Any ideas? Let me know (I'll post what people send).

URL for this day Monday, March 18, 2002

.: One of the small surprises for me at the recent SAE Digital Car conference was the continued importance of Bluetooth to telematics, as opposed to 802.11b wireless. Extended Systems provides various Bluetooth wireless software development tools, and they recently signed a contract with Johnson Controls for JCI's BlueConnect product. Extended Systems already have a relationship with Motorola as well as other OEMs, including IBM, which resells Extended Systems software as "IBM MobileConnect."

.: Consultancy Group BWCS disses location-based services for now, according to this Telematics Update article:

"Mobile Location Based Services: Where’s The Revenue?" pierces the myth that mobile operators can rely on consumer LBS applications to drive up mobile data usage. Services such as "Where’s My Nearest ATM?" will not generate significant medium-term revenues. Instead operators should concentrate on services focused on personal safety, security and transport.

The full report, which costs $1,400, is available here (not that I'm planning to buy it).

URL for this day Thursday, March 14, 2002

.: "Conversational Interface" on the search engines: I/NET is at the top at this Oingo search result, at the top at AltaVista and DogPile and Google has us near the top.

.: Press release: Gatespace Secures Additional Financing and Acquires Ericsson's e-Services Venture. And don't the people at the top look happy about it? I talked to a Gatespace engineer at the Digital Car conference, and they are doing some interesting things with OSGi.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 13, 2002

.: I don't quite know what to think about Ricardo Martinez, (former NHSTA administrator who gave a keynote speech reported on earlier) want to be the company that creates the Global Safety Data Vault to manage the data from car black boxes.

.: Consultants at Dove do a telematics study:

According to the study, over 80% of U.S. consumers nationwide are still unfamiliar with telematics services-showing no change from the study conducted by Dove last fall. But, the study also reveals that consumers who have experienced telematics first-hand are twice as likely to be interested in these services.

Powerpoint version of the "top level results". Although I hate the fact that Dove put a Powerpoint presentation up, I am impressed that they left the survey itself up for view.

URL for this day Tuesday, March 12, 2002

.: Driver Distraction report from Gartner:

According to a February 2002 report from GartnerG2, 80% of US consumers are scared that automobile drivers who drive while using their cellphone will cause accidents. Interestingly, although 59% of consumers say they are concerned that other drivers using a mobile phone might cause an accident, only 30% "strongly agree" that they themselves get distracted when they drive and talk on a mobile phone.
This report also gives more figures for sizing the telematics market:
For a greater perspective on the US telematics market, Parks Associates estimates that the automobile telematics market will grow from $2.7 billion in 2001 to $10.7 billion in 2005. Similarly, Allied Business Intelligence estimates that the US telematics market for personal vehicles will grow to $13 billion in 2006. Global Vehicle Telematics Estimate 2001 $3 billion 2006 $13 billion.

URL for this day Monday, March 11, 2002

.: More on Microsoft's Car.Net: an interview with Gonzalo Bustillos, Microsoft Automotive's Director of Business Development & Marketing:

Windows CE for Automotive 3.5 showcases advanced automotive-centric features such as: (a) New Streamlined Graphical User Interface, ... (b) New Hands-Free Communication Interface, (c) New Platform Foundation, ... (d) New Microsoft Mobile Explorer, (e) New Power Management, (f) New Customizable Developer Tools. (g) Improved Graphics

This article is definitely worth a read.

.: Hitachi's processor for IBM's embedded speech: press release at Telematics Update or ITS.

URL for this day Saturday, March 9, 2002

.: Interesting article Java vs. Windows .NET for telematics.

Reports from the Digital Car Conference and Exhibition

URL for this day Thursday, March 7, 2002

.: I went to an IBM class on embedded Java, so I didn't do anything else--I even missed lunch. Overall, the Digital Car conference was a success: lots of good new technology and good energy to make driving safer and better.

URL for this day Wednesday, March 6, 2002

.: Most of my day today was on the Digital Car Exhibition floor. Some brief observations:

  • Microsoft had the flashiest display, in the most prominent position. They also sponsored the lanyardss that everyone wore around their necks with their ids, so "Windows CE for Automotive" was everywhere. And they had some cool voice recognition development tools. But I saw some people from an automotive standards group exchanging their Microsoft lanyards for Sun lanyards. Microsoft's voice recognition did not work well at the booth.
  • IBM's embedded speech recognition did work at the booth, with the demonstrator using a stem microphone in the very noisy hall. I wish the embedded speech SDK were available on the IBM web site.
  • Java was everywhere. IBM and Sun are battling for the telematics space, with rival Java virtual machines.
  • Ford had a very cool display, showing off current and future technologies, including what Wingcast (the Ford/Qualcomm joint venture) hopes to deliver. Ford has a very good software architecture, and they showed off integration between Bluetooth devices, a Java button (which had personalization data on it), and telematics services.
  • Several companies were touting their microphones and voice filters. Clarity was there (whom I've mentioned before). A new company to me was Wavemakers.
  • There was an interesting panel sponsored by Intel (they gave away tiny radios), with representatives from DaimlerChrysler, IBM, Johnson Controls, Intel, and QNX. James Kohut (senior manager for Corporate Telematics at DaimlerChrysler) was the only car manufacturer representative, so he fielded a lot of questions people wanted to ask the car makers, which he did with good grace.

.: The keynote lunch speaker was Dr. Ricardo Martinez, a former NHTSA administrator. He gave an engaging and interesting speech about safety. He made a strong case for "black-box"-like technologies in cars, since NHTSA needs lots of accurate data to help make cars safer. Two things he said that surprised me somewhat: If we could (on average) increase by 1 second the response time before a rear-end collision, we could decrease fatalities from these accidents to half their current level. He also had some good words to say for voice in the car: I think he believes that we've made (as a society) a choice for the convenience of using phones (etc.) in cars over safety, and so it's a matter of decreasing the danger of cell phone use, and voice could do this.

URL for this day Tuesday, March 5, 2002

.: I spent my day at the Digital Car Conference with IBM. They're running a repeating morning session and afternoon workshop on their software development platform for telematics and embedded systems. IBM is using their size, longevity, and commitment to standards as key selling points of their solutions to the automotive manufacturers and top component suppliers. IBM has relatively recently announced their Eclipse open source software development environment and the (more proprietary) "Websphere Studio Device Developer" environment (even one of the IBMers was willing to say this was a terrible name). Still, this looks very interesting, and the IBM booth is demonstrating several devices running on a couple of different car buses all running their J9 embedded Java virtual machine with remote debugging capabilities. Cool stuff.

.: W.S. "Ozzie" Osborne, head of IBM's Voice Systems, gave the keynote lunch speech. He spoke more about "pervasive computing" than voice per se, and he made some very good points about the importance of designing speech into an application from the start, rather than just an add-on to a system. He said the (next) major barrier to acceptance of voice in cars is the acoustical problem of recognizing speech in the car environment, but claimed that 1000-word at a time systems were possible today for cars today, with different recognition models being tuned for a car at rest, at 10 mph, at 50 mph, etc. In fact, the engineer on the floor was showing a speech system that seemed to be performing well even in the very noisy environment of the show floor--the microphone is just sticking out into the air (no chamber being used), and it just worked.

URL for this day Monday, March 4, 2002

.: Digital Car Journal, live again. In honor of SAE's Digital Car Conference and Exhibition, the Digital Car Journal is live again. I'm at the conference, and here are some notes and commentary.

.: The Digital Car Conference doesn't start until Tuesday, so today I attended the SAE technical session on "Human Factors in Driving and Automotive Telematics". Peter Roessger of CAA gave a presentation on "Intercultural Differences in the Interaction between Drivers and Driver Information Systems," reporting on some cross-cultural surveys that CAA has done. Among the general claims:

  • Japanese (in general) don't mind "deeply structured" menus, like "HiTech" interfaces, want entertainment and games, accept parallel interfaces (like multiple maps on a display).
  • Europeans (in general) want sequential, easy-to-use interfaces that are obvious and clear. They want "high value," and the look and feel is important. Use of local language (i.e., not English) is important.
  • Americans (in general) want to talk; they are lonely in their cars. Like Europeans, they tend to be sequential. They want sports.

It might be unfair to stereotype people in this way, but it is the case that systems developed in a culture for that culture tend to be more successful than systems developed by people across cultures.

Yauhiro Ihara of Panasonic described an "HMI Design and Evaluation for the Driver Information System." He contractdicted Roessger a bit, saying that intuitive and easy-to-use systems were guiding principles for his design. One of the interesting design ideas Ihara presented was that of a "virtual radio" for all audio; this consistent interface for radio, various news feeds and music feeds applied the standard radio metaphor of a "channel" well. I'm not really doing this justice, I'm afraid, but it seemed to me that the constraints on human audio processing (we can generally only listen to one "channel" at a time) made the ability to move around various virtual channels a powerful metaphor for streaming audio.

Some mechanical engineers from an accident reconstruction company, Triodyne, presented some history of how the law has treated driver reaction to "Sudden Emergencies," which is, apparently, a legal doctrine that goes back to the 19th century and coach-and-four days. People make bad decisions when presented with sudden emergencies, and their legal liability is under consideration. These guys reported that expectation failure, emotional stress, and uncertainty of the effects of one's actions, and the actions of others, play a big part in bad decisions. I was reminded of the Buridan's Principle, "A discrete decision based upon an input having a continous range of values cannot be made within a bounded length of time," which applies even under ideal conditions.

Finally, Vivek Bhise reported on some work investigating the "IVS-DEMAnD Driver Attention Demand Model," in which the task being undertaken, the traffic conditions and the age of the driver are major inputs on stresses to a driver's attention. This was a good piece of work, and I'll look for more information on it .SAE has a rather draconian policy of charging $10 for a single reprint of an article even for attendees.

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