Equipped with NXP's telematics solution ATOP (Automotive Telematics On-Board Unit Platform), the cars started their trip in November 10th from three European cities, Madrid, Athens, and Helsinki to converge at the eSafety Forum in Brussels after 16,000 kilometers of accumulated trip distance.
During the drivers' journeys, the IBM, Allianz & NXP backends received 15,000 eCalls sent out automatically by the telematics boxes, half of them from in-band modem and half of them SMS-based, via the mobile networks of Deutsche Telekom and its roaming partners. The trial proved successful even at border-crossings where the telematics module had to switch between different standards to keep sending its tracking messages.
eCall is an EU system designed to reduce the time it takes for rescue services to respond to traffic accidents across Europe by sending an automated emergency call which includes vital data such as the exact location (GPS coordinates), the time of the accident and the vehicle's characteristics (model, engine or fuel type etc.). The call is processed by the relevant road emergency service provider who in turn tries to establish contact with the driver for a quick check of the situation.
Alternatively emergency services can be sent out directly to the rescue. The European Union has called for mandatory implementation of eCall for all new automobiles and it is expected that from 2014 onwards, all new cars will be fitted with eCall as standard. Studies have shown that eCall could save up to 2,500 lives annually in Europe thanks to emergency services reaction times being reduced by an estimated 50% in rural areas and 40% in urban areas.
NXP's solution for eCall, the ATOP system-in-package telematics module is little bigger than a two-Euro coin, allowing cost-efficient and flexible integration in auto electronics. It combines GPS, GSM / GPRS mobile communications, advanced security and in-car connectivity, all in a package that still has room for future upgrades or additional electronic components.
It is automotive-certified and serial production was launched in 2010, ready for mass production before the eCall option becomes mandatory. “So far, the eCall memorandum of understanding has been signed by over 20 European Union member states”, said very optimistic Kurt Sievers, senior vice president and general manager of NXP Semiconductors' Automotive business unit. “We aspire that eCall becomes available to every European citizen and support the EU government processes in promoting eCall”.
NXP has already delivered the module to a number of car manufacturers together with development kits and wants to turn its ATOP in the de-facto standard in terms of form-factor, pin-out and software interface. The unit is programmable to address all types of car sensors setup and reads data directly from the car area network to send the eCall upon airbag deployment or manual trigger. So an eCall could even specify the number of occupants in a car featuring seat sensors. As well as the CAN, UART, and GPIO interfaces, a USB and a SIM interface allow user-centric configuration on a secure part of the interface module. This means additional personal information could be sent out in case of an emergency, such as blood type, prior health conditions, next of kin to be contacted etc.
NXP's automotive telematics on-board unit platform and its block diagram
The module can be either embedded in auto electronics or mounted as an aftermarket solution dedicated to services and applications such as stolen vehicle tracking, e-call and road pricing. It can also be used as a front-end in more advanced open service telematics platforms, containing a variety of services including pay-as-you-drive, e-Horizon, Eco-Navigation and location based mobility services. These help improve driving patterns, which significantly influences fuel consumption and CO2 emission. Traffic monitoring could be extended with car-to-car communications, delivering optimum road usage alerts to the drivers, avoiding congestion or smoothing out the traffic flow.
Car insurance companies are keen on the idea too as the continuous collection of data (GPS and inertial sensors among others) could help them identify dangerous driving patterns. They could be prompt in raising insurance premiums to match their service offering to the level of risks taken by motorists.