The Rapid Evolution of the Connected Car

By Contributed Article | July 17, 2018

In the past 20 years, connectivity has become a defining feature for vehicle performance, function, and experience.

By Amphenol RF

Rapid Evolution of the Connected Car

The automotive industry has seen monumental changes in recent years as the Internet of Things (IoT) has infiltrated nearly every function of cars, from in-vehicle entertainment systems to performance monitoring and drive features. The most visible introduction to this transformative technology came with General Motors’ OnStar feature in 1996. Since then, connectivity has accelerated at a rapid pace.

While this industry is still very much in its infancy, a variety of technological advances have emerged in a short period of time, including innovations in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), safety technologies, and in-car entertainment that offers consumers a better, more connected driving experience. Automotive manufacturers, OEMs, and tech startups have spent decades focusing on connected car R&D. Now, these technologies are increasingly being designed into consumer products.

According to the 2017 Strategy & Digital Auto Report by PwC, 65 million connected cars will be on the road by 2025, and the global connected car market will reach a value of $292 billion by 2025. This is massive growth considering that it was only a $34 billion industry in 2015. While there are opportunities across the globe in this industry, the United States has proven to be the top nation in terms of revenue thus far (projected to be at 11,044 million in 2018), with Europe and China coming in next. Even though the global connected car market penetration is only at 8% in 2018, it is expected to reach 19.3% by 2021. By 2020, a projected quarter of a billion connected cars will be on the road.

In-Vehicle Entertainment

For many drivers, in-vehicle entertainment systems are the most visible form of connectivity in their cars. Voice command systems (e.g., Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa) that connect drivers to entertainment options, navigation, and climate controls are the first wave of functions drivers may utilize. Integration with software and media companies have helped the global in-car entertainment hardware market expand rapidly, with an anticipated value of $36 billion by 2021, compared to $20 billion in 2016.


Connected cars have a track record of making the roads safer for drivers. A 2013 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed that automatic braking systems reduced rear-end crashes by around 40%. Forward collision warning technology reduced accidents by 23%. Advanced braking systems are not the only reason why cars are becoming safer through technology.

There are many different types of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) that are being utilized in both driver-operated and autonomous vehicles. In 2018, the implementation of fully autonomous vehicles for consumers is still a few years from becoming a reality but various forms of ADAS are being implemented in many popular cars that are already on the road. Furthermore, automotive manufacturers are committed to implementing additional ADAS technology into consumer vehicles in the near future. Twenty automakers, representing 99% of the U.S. auto market, have already pledged to make automatic emergency braking (AEB) a standard feature in vehicles by 2020. The overall ADAS market reached a value of $6 billion USD in 2016 and is expected to grow to $10 billion USD by 2022.

LiDAR, another very popular autonomous vehicle technology, is also improving the safety of driving. In basic terms, LiDAR helps cars avoid collisions and improve overall safety by using lasers to detect the position and distance of surrounding objects. This technology continues to see significant technological improvements. In 2017, Velodyne successfully built a device called VLS-128, which is only one-fifth the size of its previous generation high-resolution sensor. This new device can “see” further and in more detail than any LiDAR sensor currently available. As LiDAR technology becomes more cost-effective for manufacturers to produce, it will become an increasingly popular function on the next generation of consumer vehicles.

V2X and Connected Infrastructure

Vehicle-to-X (V2X) uses dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) to turn mobile devices and fixed nodes into a mesh network in which data can be shared. V2X creates an interconnected network for vehicles and infrastructure systems that will improve the future of transportation. With advances in V2X, the quality of ADAS and other driver safety technologies will continue to improve.

According to the US Department of Transportation, V2X helps “significantly reduce many of the most deadly types of crashes through real-time advisories, alerting drivers to imminent hazards, such as veering close to the edge of the road; vehicles suddenly stopped ahead; collision paths during merging; the presence of nearby communications devices and vehicles; sharp curves or slippery patches of roadway ahead.”

V2X can also optimize traffic flows, reduce congestion, and minimize carbon emissions. There are three main components of V2X technology: Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V), Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I), and Vehicle-to-Pedestrian (V2P). Connector companies like Amphenol RF are creating solutions for V2X communications to further advance the capabilities of in-car entertainment, ADAS, and autonomous vehicles.

Components of the Connected Car

Many connected car features are focused primarily on software. For instance, mobile apps can help drivers find better gas prices nearby, improve fuel economy, and even call for emergency assistance. While such software is an important part of connected cars, hardware is an equally vital and highly profitable segment of this industry. Connected hardware is valued at a worldwide market volume of $9,765 million USD in 2018. Numerous hardware components that go into making the connected car operate smoothly. Hardware solutions extend across engine management and control, exhaust monitoring and cleaning, infotainment and communications, in-car power, lighting, safety and security systems, navigation, and telematics systems.

One such hardware solution is FAKRA, or “Fachkreis Automobil.” FAKRA was originally established in Germany as a way to standardize interfaces for coaxial interconnections in automobile applications. It has since become adopted as a global standard. FAKRA and other industry standards like USCAR have helped to reduce the costs of making and implementing RF (radio frequency) interconnection by optimizing electrical and mechanical performance in telematics applications. Companies including Amphenol RF, Molex, ITT Cannon, Pasternack, Aptiv (formerly Delphi), and Rosenberger provide important FAKRA hardware.

Amphenol RF’s earlier generations of FAKRA connectors (Gen 1.0 to 3.0) can be used in traditional connected car systems, like LVDS surround camera systems, infotainment systems, GPS devices, and satellite radio. Gen 4.0 of Amphenol RF’s FAKRA connector series will be an integral part of the movement toward autonomous, self-driving vehicles, as they can be used in important V2X applications like blind-spot monitoring, emergency vehicle warning systems, and autonomous braking. This generation of products is also an upgrade over previous generations because it is specifically intended for high volume users with factories that utilize high-speed automated cable assembly production.

FAKRA connectors are required for dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) and V2X Applications. For example, 6GHz FAKRA connectors can be used for V2V and V2I applications like real-time alerts and updates that quickly inform drivers of potential hazards on the roadway, which makes them integral components of systems that help prevent crashes and collisions. They can also be used for V2I services like e-parking and toll payments that utilize DSRC. Amphenol RF’s 6.0 GHz connectors are designed for excellent VSWR (voltage standing wave ratio) performance from DC to 6GHz and meet the mechanical and environmental requirements of the automotive industry per USCAR-17.

FAKRA connectors with IP67 sealing are essential for future connected car technologies, and especially those placed around the exterior of vehicle. These products protect parts of the connected car that would otherwise be susceptible to damage caused by temporary submergence or other harsh environmental factors. For example, sealed FAKRA connectors can easily be integrated into camera housings located within side view mirrors.

High-Speed Data

High-speed data (HSD) cable-mount connectors play a vital role in providing data transmission for current and future in-car entertainment technologies. For instance, they can be used in infotainment modules, head-end units, and consumer ports. Amphenol RF’s HSD product line can be used in combination with a variety of protocols such as low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS), Gigabit video interface (GVIF), USB, IEEE 1394, and Ethernet protocols.

The connected car industry continues to provide consumers with new technological advancements that deliver enhanced entertainment and improved safety capabilities, and Amphenol RF will continue to support the development of this exciting growth market and enable the connected cars of the future by providing automotive OEMs with the highest quality connected hardware products available.


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