Sierra Wireless has taken the veil off of four new modules for the automotive segment that will let manufacturers embed cellular connectivity directly into the vehicles.
The company has already landed contracts from “three big car manufacturers” for the new AirPrime AR Series modules, which will be commercially available in the second half of next year. The modules support EV-DO and HSPA/GSM and will be used for safety, telematics and in-car entertainment.
The EV-DO module boasts a peak downlink rate of 3.1 Mbps and the company’s two HSPA modules support peak downlink rates of up to 14.4 Mbps. The modules all come with voice capabilities and GPS, according to Sierra.
Sierra designed the modules from the ground up for the automotive environment, which requires equipment be able to withstand extreme temperatures, thermal shocks, constant vibration and humidity over many years. The modules can tolerate up to 1,000 thermal shock cycles and operating temperatures ranging from -40 degrees Celsius to 85 degrees Celsius.
Sierra also designed the modules to accommodate the differences between the time it takes to bring a new car to market and the rapid development cycle of consumer electronics typical to the wireless industry.
“You have to provide a wireless module that can be left unchanged over the lifecycle of the automotive project, which is about seven to eight years,” says Andreas Kohn, technical director of Sierra’s automotive division. “It’s completely different than on the consumer side, which is about two to three years.”
The modules use a Qualcomm chipset that can be provided until 2017, which Kohn says solves the lifecycle issue for in-car wireless modules.
The modules offer a glimpse into the future of the connected car. Kohn predicts that embedded wireless modules will become automotive industry standards over the next few years in Europe and North America.
Kohn also expects that car manufacturers will bring more wireless technology into the car by expanding their existing offerings into new areas.
For instance, Ford may add a safety component to its Sync technology, which currently offers in-car entertainment and telematics, and GM could expand OnStar with new entertainment technology.
“Now, you have two flavors,” Kohn says, referring to GM’s OnStar and Ford Sync. “We’re seeing that you’ll need both, you’ll need safety, telematics and Wi-Fi in the car.”
Sierra has been delivering modules to automotive suppliers for more than 10 years and its customers include Toyota, Volvo, Mercedes, Ford and their suppliers, which include Denso, TomTom and Continental. The company has sold more than 2 million modules to top-tier automotive suppliers.