BMWs to get an Intelligent Personal Assistant starting March 2019

BMWs to get an Intelligent Personal Assistant starting March 2019

The BMW Group is set to revolutionise driving pleasure with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. From March 2019, BMW drivers and passengers will be joined by an intelligent, digital character that responds to the prompt “Hey BMW”.

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This will mark the start of a new era for the BMW Group in which drivers will increasingly be able to operate their car and access its functions and information simply by speaking. The personal assistant will also be able to assist the driver outside their vehicle, whether it's at home with the help of a smart speaker or out and about via smartphone.

The personal assistant will be compatible with other digital voice assistants beyond Amazon Alexa, too, providing a link to other rapidly growing ecosystems. The personal assistant's capabilities are developing all the time courtesy of BMW's Open Mobility Cloud and the use of artificial intelligence. The range of functions and skills available will be constantly expanded as part of regular updates, which can be carried out seamlessly on a smartphone and in-car by Remote Software Upgrade.

"BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant teams up with the new BMW Operating System 7.0 to create a brand new, digital form of interaction with the customer's BMW that redefines the whole driving experience," says Dieter May, Senior Vice President Digital Products BMW Group.

BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant learns routines and habits, and is subsequently able to apply them in the appropriate context. It helps the driver, learns their preferences and is familiar with their favoured settings – e.g. for the seat heating or the places they drive to frequently using the navigation system ("Take me home").

One unique feature over other digital assistants is that drivers can give it a name (for example, "Charlie" or "Joy") to lend it even greater individuality and personality. Not only does the Intelligent Personal Assistant await the driver's every command, it even provides casual conversation.

The assistant is familiar with the vehicle's functions and is able to operate them as required. Saying "Hey BMW, I'm cold" will prompt the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant to adjust the temperature inside the car accordingly. The assistant will benefit from constant technical upgrades and be able to learn more and more preferences and favoured settings.

The assistant takes further strides forward with every command given, every question asked and every setting made. Forming the basis for all of this will be the portable, digital customer profile – the BMW ID. This profile links the car to the customer and their digital world.

BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant is able to explain all sorts of different functions ("How does the High Beam Assistant work?"), provide current status information ("Is the oil level okay?") and help answer questions ("What warning messages do I have?").

In future, the assistant will also be able to give fuel-saving driving tips or think ahead and warn drivers as necessary. It could alert the driver to problems ("Tyre pressure is low"), for example, remind the driver of service appointments and even arrange an appointment.

The Intelligent Personal Assistant will be available in a basic version with voice control in 23 languages and markets from March 2019. In the USA, Germany, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland, Austria, Brazil, Japan and (from May 2019) China, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant will also feature more natural voice control along with further intelligent functions.

The personal assistant will be available to order for the new BMW 3 Series from November 2018 and will be included for three years. From March 2019, new BMW X5, Z4 and 8 Series models fitted with the BMW Operating System 7.0 will be able to install the full version of the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant by Remote Software Upgrade without having to visit a dealer.

FCA invests $30 million in new Autonomous Driving and Testing Facility in Michigan

FCA invests $30 million in new Autonomous Driving and Testing Facility in Michigan

FCA US announced that it has invested more than $30 million at its Chelsea Proving Grounds in southeast Michigan to further development and testing of autonomous vehicle and advanced safety technologies.

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The all-new facility, which begins testing programmes in September, features a dedicated autonomous highway-speed track, 35-acre safety-feature evaluation area and a high-tech command centre.

"The all-new facility at Chelsea Proving Grounds will help support and enable the successful rollout of the company's five-year plan laid out earlier this year," said Mike Manley, Chief Executive Officer, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Chief Operating Officer, NAFTA region. "Our ability to test for autonomous and advanced safety technologies enables FCA to offer our customers the features they want across our brand portfolio."

The facility will allow for testing of various levels of autonomy and enables the company to evaluate FCA vehicles using test protocols from third parties, such the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), U.S. New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) and European New Car Assessment Program (EuroNCAP), plus additional automatic electronic brake test simulations.

The autonomous highway-speed track offers the capability to develop autonomous vehicle systems under a wide range of challenging environments, including obstacles, tunnels, varying road lighting conditions, and interstate-style exit and entrance ramps.

The command centre covers more than 6,500 square feet and houses computer equipment vital to GPS capability and test vehicle communication.

The ADAS facility accommodates testing of advanced iterations of automatic emergency braking and automated parking technologies on a new 35-acre paved test facility.

Chelsea Proving Grounds (CPG) opened in 1954. Having undergone numerous expansions, it covers nearly 4,000 acres, boasts a road-surface total of 100 miles and features off-road replicas of the Rubicon and other challenging trails. The site is in operation seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Volvo Cars calls for universal safety standard for autonomous car communication

Volvo Cars calls for universal safety standard for autonomous car communication

With its new 360c autonomous concept, Volvo Cars tries to tackle one of the main challenges around the introduction of autonomous technology and calls for a new, global standard in how autonomous vehicles can safely communicate with all other road users.

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Autonomous drive and safety are closely linked and the technology has the potential to deliver significant improvement in traffic safety.

However, autonomous technology will be introduced gradually rather than overnight. As a result, fully autonomous cars will be introduced in a mixed traffic situation where driverless cars without a human driver will share the road with other road users.

In such a traffic situation, it will no longer be possible to make eye contact with and learn about another driver's intentions, a central element of today's everyday traffic interaction.

As part of the development of the 360c, Volvo Cars safety engineers decided to tackle this challenge of how to establish a safe means of communication between fully autonomous cars and other road users.

Additionally, the focus was to create a universally applicable standard, so that other road users do not have to consider the make or brand of individual autonomous cars.

The 360c addresses this challenge with a system comprising external sounds, colours, visuals, movements, as well as combinations of these tools, to communicate the vehicle's intentions to other road users. This means it is at all times clear what the car will do next.

Crucially, while the design of the 360c safety communication technology focuses on making the car indicate its own intentions to other road users, it will never issue directions or instructions to other road users.

"We strongly believe this communication method should be a universal standard, so all road users can communicate easily with any autonomous car, regardless of which maker built it," said Malin Ekholm, vice president at the Volvo Cars Safety Centre. "But it is also important that we do not instruct others what to do next, in order to avoid potential confusion. Our research shows this is the safest way for fully autonomous cars to communicate with other road users."

The 360c represents Volvo Cars' vision for a future of travel that is autonomous, electric, connected and safe, and which may allow Volvo Cars to enter new growth markets.

It presents four potential uses of autonomous driving vehicles, a sleeping environment, mobile office, living room and entertainment space, which all reimagine the way people travel.

Inside the sleeping environment, Volvo Cars' safety engineers have also looked at the future of safety technology and how a different passenger positioning could influence safety. A special safety blanket included in the sleeping environment envisions a future restraining system that works just like the three-point safety belt, but is adjusted to people lying down while travelling.

The 360c also envisions a range of new potential customer groups for the company's business and considers the possible implications for the future of city planning, infrastructure and modern society's environmental footprint.

Mitsui Mining & Smelting develop “CeraMesh” for firing electronic component

Mitsui Mining & Smelting develop “CeraMesh” for firing electronic component

Mitsui Mining & Smelting Co., Ltd. (Mitsui Kinzoku) announced that it has started mass production/shipment of CeraMesh, a next-generation kiln tool for electronic component firing, such as Multi-Layer Ceramic Capacitor (MLCC).

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Mitsui Kinzoku's Ceramics Division (Omuta City, Fukuoka Prefecture) has been providing ceramic products that satisfy customer needs in areas such as lightness, thinness, toughness and complex shapes. They have been broadly adopted as kiln tools for electronic component firing.

Demand for electric components has recently been strong thanks to the growing use of electronic components, such as ADAS for automobiles, IoT and smartphones. As one of the leading manufacturer of kiln tools for electronic component firing, Mitsui Kinzoku is moving steadily ahead with increased production and new product development.

It has developed CeraMesh, a mesh ceramic plate for next-generation kiln tools. The mesh shape improves the ventilation of the gas generated from firing objects on the ceramic plate and circulation of atmospheric gas near firing objects. This feature enhances degreasing and temperature distribution, with yield growth anticipated in products. In addition, it reduces weight by 60% compared to conventional plates, lowering the heat required to burn kiln tool plates, helping to boost heat flow and energy saving.

Low-volume production lines of CeraMesh have already started. Going forward, Mitsui Kinzoku plans to enhance its capacity in accordance with demand.

LG and Luxoft partner to bring LG’s webOS in the automotive ecosystem

LG and Luxoft partner to bring LG’s webOS in the automotive ecosystem

Luxoft Holding, Inc., a global IT service provider, has partnered with LG Electronics Inc., a multinational electronics company, to help create the next generation webOS as part of a strategy to extend its capabilities and ecosystem into the automotive, robotics and smart home verticals.

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As a strategic partner, Luxoft will be bringing technical assets as well as experience in designing and deploying software platforms for a wide variety of products and services.

"Thanks to our collaboration with Luxoft, we are able to bring webOS into automotive and beyond," said I.P. Park, Chief Technology Officer at LG Electronics. "Luxoft is providing a substantial technological contribution to webOS and has also greatly enhanced our ability to deploy it into new industries."

Luxoft will lead the deployment of webOS into the new, targeted sectors, beginning with automotive. Initially focusing on digital cockpit development, which includes infotainment, navigation, and other features that are human-car interaction-centric.

"We're already leveraging LG Electronics' thriving smart TV eco-system to customise and enhance webOS so it provides an innovation canvas for car manufacturers to develop next-generation autonomous vehicles," said Mikael Söderberg, Senior Technical Director, Automotive at Luxoft. "Having access to webOS and its cloud services platform will enable car makers to design and develop better customer experiences for autonomous mobility services."

With both technology and specific industry expertise, the Luxoft and LG partnership is helping provide more ways for businesses across multiple sectors to digitise.

"Underlying this partnership is a shared desire to make it easier for manufacturers to innovate with technology. This platform gives them the flexibility to make digital changes. This will help accelerate the mobility revolution, improve human-robotic interactions and make smart devices even smarter," concluded Dmitry Loschinin, President and CEO of Luxoft.

Hitachi develops highly durable SiC power semiconductor for energy saving in EV motors

Hitachi develops highly durable SiC power semiconductor for energy saving in EV motors

Hitachi, Ltd. announced the development of an original energy saving power semiconductor structure, “TED-MOS” using next-generation silicon carbide (SiC) material that contributes to saving energy in electric vehicles (EV).

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This power semiconductor is a new device using a fin-structured trench MOSFET based on the conventional DMOS-FET, a SiC transistor of power semiconductor. Using this new device, an energy saving of 50% was confirmed as the structure reduces the electric field strength, an index of durability, by 40% and resistance by 25% compared to the conventional DMOS-FET.

Hitachi intends to apply this device in motor drive inverters which are a core component of EVs to increase energy efficiency. Furthermore, by utilising this technology not only in EVs but also in a range of electrical transducers used in societal infrastructure systems, Hitachi hopes to contribute to efforts to reduce global warming and the realisation of a low-carbon society.

As the adoption of EVs is also expected to increase dramatically, reducing EV power consumption is considered critical, Thus, the use of power semiconductors using SiC as the semiconductor material which can deliver significant energy savings for inverters, is attracting much attention. One issue, however, is that in SiC power semiconductor, unlike silicon (Si) devices, the resistance varies greatly depending on the crystal plane.

Hitachi developed an original fin-structure trench DMOS-FET "TED-MOS" that achieved both a reduction in resistance with the smaller trench pitch and high durability with lower electric fields for industrial applications at high voltage (3.3 kV), and presented these results in May 2018 at the International Symposium on Power Semiconductor Devices and ICs (ISPSD) in Chicago, U.S.A..

This time, Hitachi has enhanced the "TED-MOS" for EV inverters as they require higher current density at a lower voltage (1.2 kV). The "field relaxation layer (FRL)" was developed to reduce the electric field strength extensively, where the PN junction to relax the applied voltage forms in the center of the device structure.

In addition, the "current spreading layer (CSL)" was developed to reduce the resistance in the n-JFET region, which serves to form the electric current path connecting the sides of the fin-like trenches as low-resistance crystal planes and the n-JFET region. As a result, "TED-MOS" simultaneously achieves both a smaller electric field strength and lower resistance in SiC power semiconductors.

The benefits of this technology development was verified using a prototype device. It was found that the "TED-MOS" reduced the electric field strength by 40% and resistance by 25% in comparison to the conventional DMOS-FET while maintaining the rated voltage of 1.2kV required for the motor drive in EVs.

Furthermore, the modified device structure mentioned above also improved the switching speeds between ON/OFF of the power semiconductor, and as a result, energy loss in the electric current due to this switching operation was also reduced by 50%.

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