Enhancing the riding experience with embedded connectivity
Enhancing the riding experience with embedded connectivity
Connectivity continues to become a more prevalent aspect of daily life. Through the Internet of Things, various devices and technologies are able to communicate with one another to enhance how people interact with the world around them. It’s an exciting moment when the dots between what is known, expected and being learned are connected in ways that redefine what is possible.
In the automotive world, consumer demand is rising for technologies that make driving safer, more comfortable and more efficient – and automakers are responding accordingly by integrating connectivity solutions into their automobiles. In fact, several major automakers – including both Ford and GM – have announced plans to greatly expand connectivity features in their new models.
OEMs in the two-wheeler space have been slower to adopt these technologies than their four-wheeler counterparts. This is, in part, because connectivity solutions developed for cars don’t necessarily translate well to motorcycles, which are designed and operated very differently. But connectivity solutions that account for the unique dynamics of two-wheeled mobility have the potential to dramatically enhance the riding experience in a number of ways – by improving vehicle safety, reducing the overall cost of ownership, simplifying vehicle maintenance, and more.
Embedded vs. tethered solutions
There are two primary types of connected mobility solutions: tethered and embedded connectivity.
A tethered connection is established through a cell phone or mobile device. It is, essentially, a connection by proxy. By connecting their vehicle to their mobile device, riders gain access to a limited set of features such as hands-free calling, GPS navigation and music playback. When their device is out of range of the bike, however, the connection is broken.
Embedded connectivity, on the other hand, utilizes a telematic control unit (TCU) that ensures a constant connection between the owner, their device and their vehicle. This is because a TCU allows the vehicle to communicate with the cloud, even when the rider – and more importantly, their mobile device – is not in close proximity to the bike.
This persistent connection enables an entire suite of features – including tamper alerts, stolen vehicle tracking, remote vehicle disable, firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) updates, real-time battery charge status, predictive maintenance reminders, usage analytics and more – that can be accessed anytime, anywhere. The result is greater convenience and peace of mind for riders, like having a mechanic on the bike along with the rider.
The new frontier of vehicle connectivity
As OEMs, tech companies and governments increasingly embrace the future of connected mobility, we’re seeing a rapid increase in both vehicles and roadway infrastructure being outfitted with connectivity hardware. This technology – referred to as “vehicle-to-everything” or V2X – allows for wireless communication between vehicles, roadside infrastructure, transit authorities and OEMs.
As V2X technology matures, it will enable operators of connected vehicles to receive real-time notifications of roadway conditions, including traffic updates, inclement weather alerts, and more. But perhaps most importantly for motorcyclists, the vehicle-to-vehicle communications enabled by V2X connectivity can alert cars and trucks to their presence, even if the driver can’t see the motorcycle. This increased visibility for motorcyclists on the road is just one example of how this embedded connectivity can address riders’ most pressing concerns.
Applications for electric vehicles
As consumers becoming increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment, demand for electric vehicles (EVs) is on the rise. While embedded connectivity tech is compatible with both traditional and EV motorcycles, it can provide functionality to specifically enhance the experience of EV ownership.
With embedded connectivity, riders have access to real-time information about their EV bike’s engine status and battery life, including current charge level and estimated range remaining. Riders can opt to receive notifications when their battery is fully charged (or when it needs to be charged), as well as alerts when maintenance is recommended or required.
Electric vehicle usage data can have potential benefits for OEMs, as well. When riders opt to share this anonymized data, OEMs can derive insights that lead to product improvements and reduce warranty issues.
Consider, for instance, a prevalent OEM leading the way in electric two-wheel mobility that had to navigate the large cost of warranty claims against the batteries in their EV motorcycles. These claims were not because of faulty hardware, however. The explanation was even simpler: People living in cold climates simply weren’t using their electric motorcycles during the winter. As a result of sitting unused for an extended amount of time, the batteries completely died and had to be replaced by the manufacturer.
By investing in an embedded connectivity solution for their EV motorcycles, the OEM made it possible for owners to receive well-timed reminders to charge their bikes long before the battery died – making for more satisfied customers and lowering costs significantly for the OEM.
Greater insights for OEMs
Connectivity is, of course, a road that goes in two directions. While an embedded connectivity solution provides owners with real-time awareness on the state of their vehicles, OEMs can access anonymized data to gain insights into how their bikes are being utilized in various situations and to discover trends among riders. This data can then be used to inform product design in ways that would not have been possible otherwise.
For instance, many OEMs optimize their motorcycles for peak performance on a track, where a professional rider pushes the vehicle in a controlled environment. But the needs and habits of a rider who uses their bike on a track vs. a commute are fundamentally different.
One OEM recognized this after usage data showed that riders were shifting sooner on the road than they would on a track, trying to access torque at lower RPMs. The OEM was then able to use that information to remap the engine control modules to change the shift points on the transmission if they detect the rider is on a commute in order to provide the best, most efficient riding experience.
Moving toward the future
Automotive companies are continually innovating to make the best vehicles possible, leveraging decades of industry insight to create the optimal riding experience. As connectivity solutions have continued to mature, automotive OEMs have been working with technology solution providers to enhance the traveling experience. These technologies are reimagining, and elevating, the relationship between riders and their vehicles, making traveling safer and more enjoyable.
At Panasonic, we’re working with leading OEMs to develop connectivity solutions to enhance the riding experience for vehicle owners. For their first electric motorcycle, the LiveWire™, Harley-Davidson partnered with Panasonic to create H-D Connect™, a proprietary service that maximizes the rider experience. This service connects owners to their motorcycle via a mobile phone app and a telematics control unit (TCU) powered by Panasonic’s OneConnect®.