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Meeting the challenges of tomorrow's vehicles

The automotive and transport market covers a vast amount of applications. The u-blox product portfolio is designed and developed for such applications, saving both time and money for improved efficacy and operation.

Autonomous driving

A car without a driver? What not long ago sounded like a fairytale is already in test mode with experiments by Volvo and Google’s campus cars to name a couple.

The autonomous vehicle raises the bar for information availability in the vehicle in order to ensure a safe ride. Ultra-precise and reliable vehicle position as well as information on the behavior and position of surrounding vehicles becomes crucial. All this is only possible with the seamless integration of sensors such as cameras, highly reliable navigation components, secure and stable wireless LTE communication channels, as well as communication to other vehicles and the roadway infrastructure. Technologies including high precision GNSS, Cat 9 LTE, and 802.11p are already today supporting this vision.


At a basic level of V2X, vehicles can communicate critical information between vehicles (vehicle to vehicle / V2V) and infrastructure (vehicle to infrastructure / V2I) to avoid accidents at intersections or send location information for emergency call services. However, the excitement is around V2X’s potential to usher in a new era of cognitive automobiles that are not only aware of their own status, but are also aware of the status of other vehicles, the environment, weather and road conditions, traffic, and myriad other parameters that might affect driver safety and travel efficiency. This automotive cognition happens when sensing, communication, and decisions take place at a machine-to-machine (M2M) level and enhances the overall driver experience as well as road safety.


Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) deployed today include radar sensors and cameras. These ADAS methods enable vehicles to sense obstacles but only in certain conditions, within a limited angle and range. As V2X arrives, 360 degree awareness will be enabled offering exact vehicle data including position, speed, and direction. ADAS will bring high quality maps fused with sensors (cameras, RADAR, LiDAR, etc.) as well as GNSS with 3D dead reckoning. V2X will thereby complement conventional ADAS technologies, resulting in a new era in road safety and traffic efficiency. ADAS is brought forth by a careful combination of technologies that are required for fully automated and autonomous driving – including reliability and protection from cybersecurity threats.


GPS-based eCall (Europe) and GLONASS-based ERA GLONASS (Russia) are emergency call service initiatives that combine mobile communications and satellite positioning to provide rapid assistance to motorists in the event of a collision. The systems monitor in vehicle sensors for such events as airbag deployment to automatically transmit location details and summon assistance via emergency cellular service. In band modem (e.g. GSM, UMTS) capability – that is, the ability to transmit data over the voice channel – is a key requirement for both systems.


Navigation & traffic services

Improved and specific traffic services, such as real-time traffic information or location based services (LBS) on your route, will make driving safer and more efficient. The technologies that these services are built on are GNSS and cellular communication, technologies that u-blox has a long track record with in automotive OEMs and Tier1s. This focus is also reflected in the fact that u-blox designs components specifically for the automotive industry.



From a purely technological point of view, the addition of Internet connectivity to automobiles for infotainment purposes is a natural and evolutionary reaction to the movement of mobile devices from the home to the car. Applications range from streaming music and video, in-vehicle Internet access, and receiving alerts of traffic and weather conditions. 

Infotainment systems can deliver a rich user experience, and when combined with navigation systems they offer the highest level of performance in terms of design, quality, and user friendliness. A high-speed cellular module can be embedded directly in the center-stack infotainment system as an intelligent communications hub for all services. This reduces the need for cabling and safety implementations, which can be expensive because they need to ensure that critical services like eCall work after a crash. Hands-free voice and music streaming can be achieved via Bluetooth, while Wi-Fi can facilitate an in-vehicle access point, multimedia distribution, and rear-seat-entertainment, as well as display applications such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mirror Link.


A telematics unit (TCU) gathers and transmits status information of the vehicle. GNSS receivers and wireless communication are the underlying technologies for successful telematics applications. They support a plethora of applications such as fleet and asset management, stolen vehicle recovery, usage-based insurance (UBI), power distribution, and public safety.

Connectivity and, in many cases, the intelligence of the telematics system, are placed in direct conjunction with the antennas (smart antenna / connected car node), avoiding expensive cable runs. Due to placement, a high speed data bus is needed to connect the system to high bandwidth data devices in the car. Often, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections enable data to and from consumer devices in the vehicle. These systems tend to be great for cost-effective smart modules, which “borrow” the processing capacity of a cellular module for the entire node, including for routing and telematics services.

While the TCU is primarily dedicated to telematics, it can also provide connectivity for infotainment systems and other services. For instance, cellular connectivity can enable features such as eCall, bCall, concierge services, remote control, and remote monitoring. Connectivity to the Internet can also be made via external Wi-Fi hotspots to access the cloud, media services, over-the-air (OTA) updates, or to off-load LTE. Additionally, V2V and V2X communications can be achieved via 802.11p, and remote key-less entry (RKE) can be done via Bluetooth low energy to the smartphone that acts as a key.

u-blox TCU reference design

u-blox TCU reference design

In the next few years, traffic will increase, the number of people requiring mobility will increase, and simply the way we will live and work will have an underlying impact on our need for mobility. Consequently using the next generation of wireless communication and location technologies will contribute to optimizing traffic flow, efficient use of resources, and also the improved usage of vehicles.

Fleet management

The gathering and transmission of on-board diagnostic (OBD-II) data, combined with sensors, precise positioning, and driver monitoring are also critical for fleet managers, who can now track truck and driver status to make sure the truck receives maintenance before breaking down. They can also check that the driver is alert and maintaining good driving habits. For fleet managers who are in a very competitive environment, it can make the difference between staying in business or not. Fuel savings, automatic tolls to save time, along with fewer breakdowns can add up quickly to reduce the overall business costs. It will also increase safety, as critical information can be transmitted in real-time and service can be prepared efficiently, thereby avoiding downtimes.

For fleet managers, it is crucial to have a stable data connection to communicate with the vehicle, combined with location information and short range communication options (for example, for diagnostics in the garage or to update relevant vehicle information via a gateway). 

Logistics asset tracking

For full operational visibility and decision making through the logistics business value chain, it is crucial to be able to accurately track assets and vehicles. For instance, containers can be tracked globally with a combination of battery optimized cellular technologies (such as NB-IoT), Wi-Fi connected access points, and standard positioning technologies. This will allow logistic companies to track the driving behavior of each driver, optimize routes, and get technical information to maximize efficiency. 


Logistics Asset Tracking