Telematics take tolls on the Autobahn

August 1, 2008 OpenSystems Media

While there are no speed limits or tolls collected for cars traveling on the Autobahn, trucks are required to follow speed restrictions and pay tolls. Because German highways do not have tollgates, most trucks carry electronic onboard units that register the distance traveled and calculate the fees. Structures similar to road sign arches span the Autobahn, using electronic and photographic equipment to register trucks as they pass at full speed.

The TU-500 onboard unit from Garz & Fricke, Germany, pictured in Figure 1 exchanges data between the truck and stationary scanners on the highway. This unit is equipped for telematics control, enabling trucking companies to know exactly where their trucks are at any given moment. If a truck is late because of traffic congestion, the company can rearrange the meeting or transshipping point to shorten wait times. The company’s internal fleet server performs similar time and location control duties as the toll-collecting government agency and determines if cargo is on the road, in the warehouse, or at the customer’s location.

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Figure 1

Used on the road since 2003, the TU-500 terminal is based on the Garz & Fricke MiniModule DOWN UNDER Series with Renesas Technology SH3 or SH4 microprocessors as well as Sharp LH7A404 microprocessors and other models using an ARM9 microprocessor CPU from NXP Semiconductors. The onboard unit was built for Euro Telematik AG, Germany, which manufactures telematic systems that monitor and control mobile units for transportation, logistics, and aerospace companies.

The TU-500’s hardware and Windows CE operating system can be customized for requirements through its modular design. Basic features include:

  • Integrated GPS receiver with external antenna
  • Four serial interfaces (RS-232) for connecting modems, mobile telephones, or similar peripherals
  • One CAN fieldbus interface to query vehicle data
  • USB 2.0 interface
  • One PCMCIA slot for memory expansion or additional interfaces
  • LVDS interface for connecting a vehicle-proven TFT display and touch-screen operation
  • Complies with all standards for worldwide vehicle use

After the TU-500 terminal makes the electronic connection to the data center via GSM, GPRS, WLAN, or other interfaces, it transmits vehicle status and receives new orders or messages from the central office. If a driver cannot be reached, messages are stored in a mailbox. Onboard navigation also can be implemented on the device, eliminating the need to install additional devices and simplifying the driver’s job. In calculating tolls, the onboard unit and the software at the central office allocate fees according to partial distances and the respective customers.

Embedded statistics and events

The worldwide market for embedded systems is estimated at ‚Ǩ160 billion (U.S. $250 billion), according to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. The expected annual growth rate is 9 percent from now until 2010. Germany is ranked third in this market, close behind the United States and Japan. In Germany, a very high percentage of embedded products goes into cars. An average German car uses about 70 processors and roughly 10 million lines of code, which is twice the amount of code used in Windows XP.

The SENSOR+TEST 2008 conference and exhibition held May 5-8 in Nuernberg, Germany, attracted nearly 8,000 visitors and 562 exhibitors. A team of design engineers from InfraTec GmbH, Technical University of Chemnitz and the Fraunhofer Institute in Chemnitz won the €10,000 (U.S. $16,000) prize for an infrared detector with a Microelectromechanical Systems (MEMS)-based Fabry-Pérot filter.

Hermann Strass (European Analyst)
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