Automotive Infotainment & Telematics: What’s Their Purpose & How do They Differ?


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
In the automotive industry, vehicle technology continues to advance to satisfy consumer driven functions. Whether the expectation is increased safety, comfort, or options, in-car technology demands are on the rise. One of the measures taken by automakers to mitigate these demands is the implementation of state-of-the-art infotainment or telematics systems. Although there is some overlap between these two systems, such as sharing the same visual display monitor, there are functional differences. The basis of infotainment involves the combination of entertainment and information, which may be obvious given the name “infotainment”. Common infotainment functions include GPS navigation, listening to music, and Bluetooth phone operations. More recently, infotainment systems have gained the ability to store cell phone related data when tethered by USB or Bluetooth. Infotainment systems also allow drivers to link their phones through integration software such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Vehicle telematics merge telecommunication and informatic functions. When comparing telematics and infotainment, the most notable difference is that telematics utilize two-way communication. The communication provides a platform to send and receive data. The exchange of data is necessary for features like vehicle location for navigation, collision reporting for police or insurance providers, and remote vehicle diagnostics. Telematic systems can be built-in (onboard) or aftermarket. Built-in or OEM telematics are commonly subscription based such as OnStar by GM. Companies are beginning to use aftermarket plug-in telematics to track their vehicles and how or where they are driven. The devices are plugged into and powered by the diagnostic port usually located in the driver’s footwell area. Insurance companies offer similar devices to track driver behavior to possibly yield a discount on premiums.
Regardless of the type of system, infotainment or telematic, accessible data is potentially stored in the vehicle or in a cloud. The data is not only obtained for insurance discounts or safety related purposes, but also for incident related situations being investigated at a forensic capacity.

For additional information on Infotainment & Telematics, or to arrange a presentation, contact Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer with DJS Associates, at or via phone at 215-659-2010.

Infotainment Systems: What’s in Your Car & How is it Used?

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
Modern vehicles in the automobile market can record a wealth of insightful data. Traditionally, forensic investigators had the ability to obtain pre-crash data from airbag control modules or otherwise known as event data recorders (EDRs). This type of data can include about 5 seconds (pre-crash) of parameters such as indicated speed, brake status, and steering input. Infotainment systems, located in the center of your vehicle’s dashboard, are among one of the newest possible data sources. It is essential to understand that infotainment data is different from pre-crash data stored by EDRs. With modern forensic tools, investigators can now access data within infotainment systems. Data stored within these systems vary from cell phone data, GPS track logs, light activations, gear shifts, and door openings/closings. Data of this kind can be useful to not only vehicle crashes, but also criminal related events such as theft. When a phone connects to an infotainment system, the car can record who and when you called or text messaged and at what time. Photos and media files originating from a cell phone can also make their way to the infotainment’s storage. Additionally, your car can store where and when you were located at a specific location and the route you took to arrive there. The data extracted from infotainment systems can be analyzed and applied in many situations to further understand how a collision or an event occurred. For example, the data may depict whether a vehicle stopped at a red light or proceeded through without reducing its speed. Infotainment data may also provide aid to establishing driver habits prior to a crash.
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Motorcycle Handlebars: More Important Than You Think!


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Automotive / Mechanical Engineer ::::
The handlebars are a critical component when it comes to maintaining control of a motorcycle. Whether the rider is accelerating, braking, or employing techniques such as counter-steering, a properly secured handlebar is necessary to complete such tasks. If the handlebars were to come loose or detach, could you maintain control?
Yamaha has recently recalled over twenty thousand late model motorcycles due to a painting issue that can result in the loosening of the handlebars. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a handlebar that is not properly secured to the motorcycle can cause a loss of control and increase the risk of a crash. The handlebars are clamped by a metal holder. It turns out that if an external force is applied to that holder, the paint can wear off over time. As the paint wears off, a space is created between the holder and mounting surface, thus reducing the clamping force on the holder. The combination of the newly created space and engine vibration can cause the holder’s stud bolts to loosen. Not only can the studs potentially loosen, the holders/handlebars can even fall off. Thread-locking material is commonly used to prevent the loosening of bolts due to vibration, however NHTSA indicated that the holder may lack adequate thread-locking material. If the bolts were to loosen or fall off, the handlebars can become detached from the rest of the motorcycle. Continue reading “Motorcycle Handlebars: More Important Than You Think!”

Bicycle GPS: What Stop Sign?

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., BSME, Mechanical Engineer ::::
Global positioning system (GPS) technology has found its way into every aspect of travel. Whether it’s a plane, car, or boat, the need for GPS devices has been present for several years with no foreseeable end of life. Cyclists often search for ways to track their progress and benchmark performance. From the average cyclist to the competitive professional, GPS units and software have changed the way performance is tracked. GPS units now record a variety of data. This data includes parameters such as speed, elevation, coordinates, cadence, heart rate, and even temperature. Continue reading “Bicycle GPS: What Stop Sign?”

Failure Due to Recall or Driver Error

Robert S. Kinder, JR, BSME, Mechanical Engineer ::::
Over the years, automotive electrical systems have grown steadily in function and sophistication, often replacing former mechanically-controlled systems with electronic ones. A case in point is the modern power steering system. What had long used a belt-driven pump providing hydraulic pressure to perform the work required to ease operator steering effort is now a fully electronic system. The advantage of the electronic power steering system is that, unlike its predecessor that provided power steering assist continuously whether needed or not, the electronic version provides “on-demand” assist. Vehicle speed data is particularly important to determine whether or not the electronic power steering should be active as lower speed turning requires power steering assist but higher speed maneuvers typically do not.
But, as is often true with new technology, these systems can be prone to premature failures that can lead to recalls; and as is often true, vehicle recalls can become a catalyst for a forensic automotive investigation. Such was the case in a recent investigation of a vehicle equipped with an electronic power-assisted steering system. Continue reading “Failure Due to Recall or Driver Error”

Electric Car Crash-Test Ratings


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., Mechanical Engineer ::::
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently tested two electric vehicles, a 2017 BMW i3 and 2017 Tesla Model S. The testing consisted of five different crash tests. The highest obtainable award is the Top Safety Pick-Plus. Receiving the highest safety pick award requires that among the many parameters tested, a vehicle must have adequate headlights, crash prevention technology, and get the highest rating for all five crash tests. An example of crash prevention technology would be automatic braking. Currently, there are no fully electric cars for 2017 that made the Top Safety Pick-Plus list.
The Tesla Model S earned a low rating in a frontal crash that simulates a vehicle impacting a narrow object such as a tree or pole at approximately forty miles per hour. The crash dummy was able to hit its head on the steering wheel due to the forward motion that the seatbelt typically helps prevent. Crash testing also gives the manufacturer the opportunity to improve. Tesla will be making adjustments to improve the seat belt performance. Other areas that did not perform at the highest level were the headlights and roof strength. Both the Tesla and BMW earned good ratings for four out of the five crash tests. BMW received a lower mark in the head restraint test. The head restraint test identifies neck protection during a rear end collision. Continue reading “Electric Car Crash-Test Ratings”

Will Cars Monitor Your Health?


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., Mechanical Engineer ::::
Technologies in cars reach new levels every day to meet the demand for safety, comfort, style, and performance. Automakers now move to broaden vehicle capabilities to ensure that occupants are in good health. The current goal is to monitor vital health signs such as blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar, and stress. Many companies plan to use a seat that contains sensors to monitor various health parameters. In addition to the seat, the steering wheel can be equipped with sensors.
The Munich Technical University has conducted research along with BMW. The research resulted in a steering wheel that monitors infrared reflectance through the driver’s fingers to measure heart rate and oxygen saturation. They were also able to monitor stress by measuring skin conductance. The information obtained by the sensors can be transmitted to the vehicle’s display, allowing the driver or occupants to be aware of potential problems. Continue reading “Will Cars Monitor Your Health?”

Industry Update: Heavy Vehicle Truck Data

event data recorder

Robert S. Kinder, Jr., Mechanical Engineer ::::
Event data recorders (EDR) have been a hot topic since late 2012 when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed a rule requiring EDRs in all passenger vehicles and light trucks. Although the rule does not apply to heavy trucks, many of them can store event data within the vehicle’s electronic control module (ECM). Data stored in the ECM was originally designed to optimize fuel economy, emissions control, and engine diagnostics. However, ECMs can record data that is relevant to a particular collision and useful in a situational appropriate collision reconstruction. It’s important to note that data from heavy trucks can be volatile. Continue reading “Industry Update: Heavy Vehicle Truck Data”

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Responds to Legalizing Marijuana


Robert S. Kinder, Jr., Mechanical Engineer ::::
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and automotive industry have a long history of alcohol induced impairment research. That research includes goggles which simulate the effects of alcohol on the ability to operate a vehicle. Until recently, the MSF only offered an alcohol impairment course for motorcycle operators. Due to the increasing number of states legalizing marijuana, they have released a marijuana impairment goggle system. This system or kit is called the “weed goggles” kit. It will hopefully increase the level of awareness of marijuana usage while operating a vehicle or motorcycle.
The kit cannot replicate the effects of being “high”. Instead, it allows the visualization of the distorted perception marijuana has on a person while in control of a motorcycle. The kit includes a course with activities that you will follow which illustrate the effects marijuana will have in traffic situations. There have been numerous studies which show marijuana affects your psychomotor skills in traffic situations. Testing revealed the marijuana induced driver will drive slower and requires a longer time response time to traffic or emergency situations as compared to a sober driver.
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