Wireless automotive products: standing the test

Paul Boughton

Seamless connectivity between smart phones, on-board units and operator networks is a trendy requirement, expected by drivers of luxury and economy vehicles alike.

It is the basis for applications such as tracking, infotainment, telematics etc, are wireless modules that easily and reliably connect to operator networks.

If wireless automotive applications and devices are to gain market acceptance, security and reliability aspects must also be considered.

In order to fulfil such expectations, rules and regulations are under continuous development aiming to ensure standardised levels of interoperability, the efficient usage of the radio spectrum, and minimum levels of security, safety and quality. [Page Break]

Type approval requirements

All radio products and short range devices must adhere to country-specific regulatory requirements. Depending on how the device is integrated into the vehicle, additional automotive specific rules have to be fulfilled.

Regulatory approval processes vary considerably. In the EU and EFTA markets a 'self-declaration' which indicates that the product complies to the R&TTE directive and the Vehicular EMC directive is basically sufficient. In North America 'classical type approval' according to the rules of the FCC or IC Canada is required. In many countries in Asia, Africa and South America type approval tends to be more complicated, requiring for example in-country testing or factory inspections. [Page Break]

Mandatory and voluntary certification schemes

In addition to country specific type approval, several certification schemes exist. PTCRB certification is a must in North America. In Europe and many other countries, testing and certification is governed by the GCF. Since 2011 the Car Connectivity Consortium develops MirrorLink standards for Smartphone in-car connectivity.  

Both GCF and MirrorLink are voluntary. Further schemes like Bluetooth qualification, Apple MFi program or wireless network operator approvals may have to be taken care of as well. These tend to be particularly demanding for upcoming technologies such as LTE.[Page Break]
Integration of pre-certified modules

Manufacturers of automotive wireless devices often implement pre-certified modules. These accelerate the development process and ease mandatory and voluntary test and certification procedures. However certain re-testing and further certification of the connected automotive device might be necessary if additional functions of the module were activated during integration or the radiation changed.

As connected automotive devices are often designed for permanent installation they have an extended lifetime during which software updates of the pre-certified module might occur. Manufacturers therefore need to ensure the product life-cycle is reliably managed over several years. [Page Break]
Easing the certification process

An efficient testing and certification strategy for wireless automotive devices can be set up with the help of a third party laboratory, that not only has the required accreditations but also provides reliable information on market access requirements, engineering support, testing services and product life-cycle management.

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