An iconic car manufacturer, Fiat Group wanted to build on its long history of continuous innovation by offering the most current communication and entertainment technologies in 15 car models, including Fiat and Chrysler. To meet that goal, the
company turned to Continental to design an affordable infotainment system within 18 months. Powered by Windows Embedded Automotive, the solution offers multimedia entertainment, integration with the Fiat eco:Drive application, and support for mobile phones,
media players, and TomTom satellite navigation. The company projects an increase of up to 40 percent in market penetration by adapting the affordable, high-quality system to multiple brands and models. Fiat has also cut its own deployment time and risk while
enhancing driving experience, safety, and fuel efficiency.
Established in 1899, Fiat S.p.A. is the largest carmaker in Italy and a leading international manufacturer with operations in 140 countries. The company’s 214,000 employees worldwide produced more than 4.2 million vehicles in 2012, including mass market
and luxury and performance cars. Its brands—including Fiat, Chrysler, Ferrari, and Maserati—generated approximately €83.59 billion in gross revenue in 2012.
Like most car manufacturers, Fiat faced a highly competitive global marketplace influenced by changes not only in customer demographics but also in consumer technology. To reach a younger generation of consumers, Fiat needed to offer both affordability and
support for more smart phones and other mobile devices. “The so-called Millennial Generation is starting to drive and buy cars,” says Candido Peterlini, Director of Product Planning—Infotainment at Fiat. “These people are extremely tech-savvy and demanding,
but at the same time, their budget is limited.”
||By offering the Uconnect infotainment system based on Windows Embedded in all models, we anticipate a 30 to 40 percent increase in market penetration.
| Candido Peterlini
Director of Product Planning—Infotainment
In 2004, Fiat launched Blue&Me, an infotainment system based on the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system. The award-winning system included Bluetooth and USB connectivity to mobile devices, voice commands, and satellite navigation. But with the increasing
flood of smart phones and mobile devices, the company realized it was time for an update.
In 2009, the company decided to rebuild its infotainment system to improve usability and support for peripheral devices and applications. And to increase market penetration, Fiat Group wanted a solution that it could ultimately implement across seven brands
and more than 15 car models, including Fiat, Lancia, Alfa Romeo,
Chrysler, Jeep , Dodge and the company’s fleet of commercial vehicles.
To control costs, Fiat Group needed a solution that would combine a smaller processor and reduced storage space with high levels of performance. The company also wanted a system that could adapt to new devices and applications after installation. “The challenge
we faced is that the lifetime of the car is obviously much longer than the lifespan of consumer devices,” says Peterlini. “As a result, the ability to upgrade the in-car system was extremely important to us.”
Fiat chose Microsoft partner Continental, a leading manufacturer of automotive products, to design an affordable infotainment system that would include a high-resolution LCD screen and support for multiple kinds of devices, including mobile phones, tablets,
and media players. Adding to the challenge, Fiat asked Continental to deliver the new solution within 18 months, in contrast to the two years it had taken to develop the Blue&Me system.
Fiat knew that a solution based on Windows Embedded was the best choice for meeting both its aggressive deadline and technology requirements. “Fiat has more than 10 years of experience with the Microsoft platform,” says Rossella Lertora, Infotainment Manager
at Fiat. “We like the scalability, and the fact that it can be updated with the most current drivers and features. We also have a good relationship with Microsoft as a partner.”
In addition, the Microsoft development ecosystem—which includes the operating system, automotive extensions, and a development tool set—would also speed implementation.
Continental used Windows Embedded Automotive development tools, including the Microsoft Visual Studio development system and Platform Builder for Windows Embedded Automotive, a Visual Studio plug-in. “By working with Microsoft technology, we were able to
offer a best-in-class product with features such as a color touch screen, Bluetooth connectivity, and sophisticated media playback functionality,” says Sten-Olaf Wilkening, Director of Marketing, Business Unit Infotainment and Connectivity, Continental. “Development
was also easier because the cooperation between Microsoft and Continental was smooth. Whenever we had a question or request, the Microsoft partner response team was there to help.”
With a solution based on Windows Embedded, Fiat could also offer an intelligent system that integrates multiple systems to improve energy efficiency and driver safety. Peterlini says, for example, “We can offer a version that integrates with TomTom satellite
navigation, and give users the ability to download new applications that take advantage of traffic services and other features.”
The company met its deadline and was ready for the debut of the new Fiat 500L at the 2012 Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland. The Windows Embedded Automotive powered system, called Uconnect, offers support for a broad range of devices, including smartphones
and media players. Users can connect devices through USB ports or wirelessly with Bluetooth technology, and they can control the system through touch or voice commands.
||By implementing a solution based on Windows Embedded, we were able to minimize development time and cost.... Our customers will benefit by getting a state-of-the-art infotainment system at a very competitive price point.
| Rossella Lertora
In addition to satellite navigation, Uconnect integrates with the company’s eco:Drive solution, which helps users track driving efficiency by collecting data about CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. The information is immediately available in the car, and
can also be stored on a USB key for analysis on a PC.
Previously, eco:Drive had been available with Blue&Me in a limited number of car models. Integrated with Uconnect, eco:Drive will be available in 15 models over the next few years.
Although standard components will be available with each system, drivers will be able to enjoy a personalized driving experience for the lifetime of their car.
To update the system with new drivers and applications, owners will be able to download updates from thebrands’ website to a thumb drive. Then they can install the updates through a USB port on the infotainment system. “Customers want the
most current consumer devices in their cars, including phones and media players,” says Lertora. “Powered by Windows Embedded, an updatable platform like Uconnect will ensure that we meet that expectation.”
By implementing an infotainment system powered by Windows Embedded Automotive, Fiat can significantly increase market penetration, support broad implementation across multiple product lines, cut development time and risk, and enhance its customers’ driving
Anticipates 40 Percent Increase in Market Penetration
Fiat Group brands can attract more customers by offering an affordable infotainment system at lower cost. “By implementing a solution based on Windows Embedded, we were able to minimize development time and cost and spend more time on tests and checks to
improve quality,” says Lertora. “We expect significant economies of scale in sourcing and purchasing, and our customers will benefit by getting a state-of-the-art infotainment system at a very competitive price point.”
With a lower-cost solution, Fiat Group can also integrate the new infotainment system in more cars, and expects to boost market share as a result. The company recently looked at a business case scenario that projected a significant increase
in sales. Peterlini says, “By offering the Uconnect infotainment system based on Windows Embedded in all models, we anticipate a 30 to 40 percent increase in market penetration.”
Peterlini points out that the solution’s flexibility played a key role in both cutting costs and designing new features.
“This was a good balance between technology and implementation,” says Peterlini. “We needed a high-quality, upgradable solution, but we didn’t want a huge processor that would drive up the cost,” says Peterlini. “We found the sweet spot by using the Windows
Embedded operating system.”
||The scalability and flexibility of the Windows Embedded platform supports the broadest deployment of an infotainment system in our history.
| Rossella Lertora
Fiat Group also can add features and install the system in new car models without redesigning the existing platform. “We plan to launch the Uconnect system based on Windows Embedded in 15 car models under seven different brands, including Fiat, Lancia, Alfa
Romeo, Chrysler, and Dodge,” says Lertora. “Each brand has its own identity, so the design and interface will be adapted accordingly. The scalability and flexibility of the Windows Embedded platform supports the broadest deployment of an infotainment system
in our history.”
Cuts Development Time by 25 Percent
It had taken Fiat two years to produce the Blue&Me system, and just 18 months to deliver UConnect. The company points out that the cooperation between Microsoft and Continental played a significant role in the project’s success. “Microsoft and Continental
made all of the adaptations necessary to meet our specific requirements,” says Lertora. “This was a complex project serving the needs of multiple brands and vehicle classes. Eighteen months is not a lot of time for a project of this scope, and Continental
and Microsoft ensured that we could meet that deadline.”
Enhances Driving Experience
The new infotainment system is easier to use, and it provides better access to important information. Fiat Group customers benefit not only from enhanced entertainment and communications features, but also improved safety and energy efficiency. “Diagnostic
and navigation data, traffic information, fuel costs, and points-of-interest information are all delivered in a user-friendly way while you’re driving,” says Peterlini. “We also have a lot of entertainment services that take advantage of Internet access and
social networks. With an infotainment system based on Windows Embedded Automotive, we can integrate people’s digital lives with their cars in a balanced way.”
Windows Embedded extends the power of Windows and the cloud to intelligent systems. Encompassing operating systems, tools, and systems and services, Windows Embedded enables enterprises to generate tangible, real-time benefits with anytime, anywhere access
to executable data. Microsoft entered the embedded marketplace over 15 years ago and continues to lead the evolution toward intelligent systems with an extensive suite of technologies for enterprises across a variety of industries.
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