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The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has begun actively working to create a "gateway" into the bus system of automobiles to ensure that the aftermarket has easy access to future vehicles. This goal is the current priority of CEA's mobile division according to its chairman, Stephen Witt, who is also VP/marketing for Alpine.
CEA's Mobile Division board of directors recently voted to prepare a proposal for the automotive industry that would specify a universal gateway into any automotive electrical bus system. The division itself cannot set standards; however CEA, working with the R6 Engineering committee, can establish the proposal for a standard.
The universal gateway would work with any bus including the new MOST and IDB-1394 open architecture systems. It would also simplify installation, making it easy to swap a factory radio for an aftermarket unit, without losing tied-in car functions.
"This is a new concept vs. the old idea of writing specific connection port protocols to specific buses," Witt said. A key benefit of the spec is that the car companies could write part of their protocol to this gateway, "leaving a firewall to protect the integrity of the critical automotive systems. It would also allow for each aftermarket company to maintain some proprietary features for competition and still have a universal connectivity platform," Witt said.
"We would write a spec for our production and a gateway spec and then the auto makers would allow us access through the gateway," explained Chris Cook, CEA staff director for mobile electronics. "It's a long way off, as the auto industry has a tendency to move at the speed of mud."
CEA has also entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to pursue the goal of a universal gateway.
The next step toward creating a specification for the gateway is to create a working group made up of both CE and car company representatives. The group will then establish a framework that could eventually lead to a standard. The first step toward the working group will take place this month through a joint meeting of CEA and SAE via teleconference, followed by a convening of the working group in midsummer, Cook said. "The guys who actually control the electronics in the car can sit down with the same on the aftermarket side to discuss how these [open gateways] should work, which will help us work together in the future," he said.
One of the first collaborations between the SAE and CEA was the recent Digital Car Conference & Exhibition held in Detroit on March 4-7. Eighteen sessions were held on the topic of "Telematics: What Do People Really Want." According to Cook, the result of the collaboration thus far is that "we're getting heard by the auto makers, and we have an ear on why they shouldn't close their systems to aftermarket product."
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