Personal Mobility Assistants and Mobility-Related Services

Lately, the question of how to assist individuals in their mobility needs through technical systems – commonly referred to as personal mobility assistants or personal driving assistants – has been a vivid field of research, foremost in applied (rather than fundamental) research.

A common trend in the automotive sector appears to be the augmentation of traditional navigation systems with information and entertainment functions, resulting in value-added infotainment systems. For instance, ConnectedDrive by BMW is a prominent example for such a system, where traditional navigation is extended through Internet-based value-added services, such as real-time traffic or dynamic speed limit information (BMW, 2010). COMAND, an infotainment system by car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz, follows the same approach, and offers value-added services such as online routing and weather forecasts (Telematics News, 2011). With its CarInfotainment system, Volkswagen provides a system that is mostly focused on providing the driver with up-to-date information concerning the current condition of the vehicle. Nevertheless, Volkswagen provides drivers with the means to upgrade their software, e.g., with additional, new functionalities using their In-Car Software functionality (Volkswagen, 2011). Ford has introduced SYNC, a system which can be voice-controlled using special commands after activating certain functionalities via the corresponding buttons (Ford, 2011). At the heart of their SYNC-system is the driver’s smartphone. SYNC uses, for example, apps installed on the driver’s smartphone with its AppLink feature, e.g., to find points of interest or play the driver’s favourite music, or to interact on social networks such as Twitter. In contrast, Audi uses for its Audi connect a build-in phone, which establishes a connection to the Internet to gather news, traffic information, and weather reports (Audi, 2012). Audi does also permit the usage of predefined voice commands to control the system after activating the desired function with the corresponding button. Italian car manufacturer FIAT has, in cooperation with TomTom, developed a portable infotainment system, Blue&Me, which provides comparable functionality. Despite its portable nature, according to TomTom, the system is fully integrated with the car electronics (TomTom, 2009). Many of the current systems offered by car manufacturers put a strong focus on integrating drivers’ smartphones, most often via Bluetooth, and subsequently make use of the phones’ functionalities, such as placing and receiving phone calls, establishing Internet connections, and using the available apps and music. In most of the cases, a restricted number of Internet-based services can be used via the devices, with one recurring example being Google Local Search.

Besides car manufacturers, the providers of mobile navigation systems are important players in the context of personal mobility assistants. In addition to their traditional products, i.e., portable, GPS-based navigation solutions, most of them develop and offer navigation apps for smartphones, such as the Apple iPhone or special Android or Windows 7 apps. In addition to traditional navigation, the premium systems of TomTom, for example, offer several value-added services, such as Internet-connectivity with the use of Twitter or Google (TomTom, 2013). In this context, NAVIGON offer their Live Services with, e.g., Clever Parking Live, which provides the driver with live information concerning parking possibilities nearby his or her current location (Navigon, 2013). Falk offers, besides traditional car navigation, an integrated multimodal transport routing, which incorporates train and bus schedules to allow a traveller a real multimodal journey when it is efficient or desired by the traveller (Falk, 2013). SituationScan is a functionality provided by Becker, which analyses the driver’s behaviour and recommends corresponding destinations or detours. For example, the system detects that the driver is searching for a parking space and therefore it provides the driver with parking possibilities nearby (Becker, 2013). Most often, the systems integrate the driver’s mobile phones via Bluetooth and allow him or her hands-free calling or even reading out incoming text messages (cp., e.g., (Garmin, 2013)). All of these systems can be controlled via predefined voice-commands, most of them after activating the currently required functionality, like routing or points of interest, by pushing a dedicated button.

With respect to mobility assistants integrated into the automotive domain, several proprietary solutions came up during the near past.In 2009 BMW, General Motors and several other partners founded GENIVI as open source development platform for in vehicle infotainment systems. The alliance still exists and fosters standardization and and further development of in vehicle infotainment systems. Apple officially entered the automobile infotainment market with the announcement of CarPlay. Google and a number of automakers are planning to bring Android to cars with the launch of a new group called the Open Automotive Alliance. The alliance consists of Google, GM, Honda, Audi, Hyundai, and chipmaker Nvidia, and will focus on bringing the successful mobile operating system to in-car entertainment systems "in a way that is purpose built for cars." The first cars with Android integration are planned for launch by the end of 2014. MirrorLink is a device interoperability standard that offers integration between a smartphone and a car's infotainment system, it is developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium. A more detailed explanation is given in section "Automotive App Platforms".

Also smartphone based mobility assistants are already available. The AUTOMATIC App for example combines several mobility related assistance services within one application and even provides a hardware interface to the vehicles diagnose data. Also research projects have the focus to create applications to assist the user with respect to mobility and environment friendly behaviour, e.g., the Green Mobility project focuses within this context on commuters.

Mobility-related Services

“Mobility-related services” are services that assist human mobility (e.g., services for transport, driving assistance, movement support, etc.), whereas “mobile services” are understood as the services (of any type and purpose) that are invoked on wireless mobile devices like smartphones. In this context, both refer, of course, to services that are related to computing / software. Although the terms are obviously different, they are often considered in parallel, as they often appear in the same (or similar) application scenarios and they naturally share many common research considerations. Thus, a project that cares about mobility-related services, such as SIMPLI-CITY, needs to consider both dimensions, namely by researching on the following questions:

Concerning the first question, research has mainly focused on the intelligent combination, selection, and/or coordination of means of transport. Enhanced route-planning and “Vehicle-to-X” services are two typical examples of actively researched domains, in which many mobility-related services reside:

Concerning the second question, the state of the art is shaped by the recent research results from the fields “efficient / lightweight mobile services” and “mobile service personalization and context-awareness”. (Lonthoff & Ortner, 2007) discuss how to achieve lightweight mobile Web service consumption, while (Papageorgiou et al., 2010) examine a list of approaches for reducing the amount of wirelessly transmitted data when Web services – invoked either directly or as part of end user apps – are consumed by mobile devices. Other works are even more specialized on mobility in the sense of transport, focusing, for example, on how to make vehicle-to-vehicle communication more efficient by using adaptive beaconing between the vehicles (Schmidt et al., 2010). While the mentioned approaches focus on performance, new approaches for intelligent and automated context-enrichment of mobility-related services are also being researched. The latter may consider technical / system context in order to achieve compatibility (Oritz & de Prado, 2009) or user context in order to achieve personalisation (Arbanowski et al., 2004).


References and Further Reading



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