Next Generation Products Leading the In-Vehicle Device Arena
With market conditions set to undergo significant changes in the future, Clarion is transforming its business portfolio to become an “In-Vehicle Information Solutions Provider” contributing to an enriched and safe vehicle society. The business environment in the automotive industry is undergoing dramatic change, as customer needs expand with regard to driving support technologies, in particular to autonomous driving and automatic parking assistance. New players from the IT sector and other industries are entering the market. Within this business environment, Clarion tries to transform itself to “In-Vehicle Information Solutions Provider” from “In-Vehicle Information Device Manufacturer,” offering added value to drivers to “connect” the car and information. Combining our own businesses of long-established technologies, including car navigation, HMI (Human Machine Interface), cloud services and vehicle cameras and sensing devices, with those of Hitachi Group, we will continue to lead the world in providing integrated system solutions. In these innovative processes, we are transmitting to our global customers our motto of “(Clarion) moves you – connects you” since 2012. This motto represents our thoughts: “Clarion moves you by connecting you to sound, information, comfort and safety/security.”
With its superb technology and highly flexible production systems, Clarion has earned a strong reputation in the global market, and in the OEM∗ market in particular, where we supply OEM certified parts, Clarion has built secure and long-lasting relationships of trust with major automotive manufacturers. Our business in the OEM market began as early as 1951, when we delivered our first original radio to Hino-Renault. We now supply an extensive range of in-vehicle devices to customers all over the world, and this is arguably the backbone of our business. In the future, with the spread of EVs (Electric Vehicles) and HVs (Hybrid Vehicles) in developed nations, there will be an increased demand for more advanced in-vehicle device capabilities. On the other hand, in rapidly growing emerging markets, products tailored to the diverse requirements of different markets will be needed. By leveraging its long-established expertise in applied vehicle technologies and its ability to offer solutions that anticipate customer needs in the rapidly-changing in-vehicle device market, Clarion aims to further expand its OEM business on a global scale.
Against a backdrop of collaboration between the IT and automotive industries, and expansion of the cloud services and ADAS*1 markets, Clarion designs products and services that are unique and different from those of its competitors. This is achieved by two basic technologies cultivated through years of development and manufacturing: first, a combination of IVI*2, which uses ICT*3, and the technology Clarion calls “Safety & Information,” and second, HMI (Human Machine Interface)-based core technologies suitable for high-quality in-vehicle equipment.
Through the application of image processing and image recognition technologies to assist in parking and driving cars, Clarion is working on the development of what we call our “Safety & Information” business, aimed at achieving a safer and securer automotive culture. The main focus of development is the “Overhead View Monitor”, which provides a 360-degree view around the vehicle, and sensing systems to alert the driver of approaching pedestrians and cars. We are also devoting our efforts to enhancing camera products, which are the bases of safety and security. Clarion will continue to further enhance image sensing functions by developing new in-vehicle cameras with higher resolution and sensitivity that can withstand harsh night lights or strong backlighting experienced throughout the world.
Application in automatic parking
Clarion is developing an automatic parking function using the Overhead View Monitor and the vehicle peripheral view monitoring technology that it developed over the years.
Using parking space recognition technology—which includes recognizing the outline of the parking space by means of image recognition—the parking space is determined and automatic parking takes place. If a pedestrian or an inanimate object is detected during automatic parking, automatic braking is employed to pause the vehicle’s movement.
This system’s image recognition performance has also been enhanced through the use of Clarion’s newly developed high-resolution cameras.
(Control system jointly developed with Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd.)
Development of Safe Driving Support System for Commercial Vehicles
Clarion implements peripheral view monitoring technology for applications on commercial vehicles such as trucks and construction machinery. Being larger than passenger cars, commercial vehicles present more blind spots from the driver’s perspective. Clarion provides an Overhead View Monitor camera system for large vehicles such as buses, trucks and construction machinery, contributing to driving safety for large vehicles. In addition, because commercial vehicles are far more varied than passenger cars in terms of size, shape and other factors, once in-vehicle cameras are installed, it is essential to perform calibration* using image processing. Clarion is also developing technology for future products that allows the customer to perform calibration even more conveniently.
* Calibration: Fine-tuning camera installation positions and angles
Developing Autonomous Driving Technologies
Autonomous cars have become the hottest topic in the automotive and technology industry over the past few years. Fundamentally, these new vehicles need to ensure safety within their own peripheries and vicinities. At autonomous driving levels 2 and 3* the system performs two out of the three operations: acceleration, steering or braking. Or, it performs all three. Although some legislative hurdles remain to be cleared, Clarion is speeding up the pace of its development work, with a view to launching mass production of products employing these technologies in 2016. Meanwhile, working in collaboration with Hitachi Automotive Systems, Ltd., Clarion has forged ahead with the development of vehicle peripheral perception technologies based on in-vehicle cameras and image processing capabilities which Clarion has developed over the years. These advanced sensor fusion technologies combine cameras with other in-vehicle sensors to enable more accurate peripheral monitoring.
Koriyama Test Course (in Fukushima Prefecture)
When developing sensing functions and Overhead View Monitor functions for monitoring a vehicle’s periphery, a testing environment that closely replicates real-world driving conditions is essential. Clarion conducts validation tests at a test course equipped with a simulated parking lot and intersection, and reflects test results in the development of technologies.
Cloud information services not only provide value by way of “comfort and convenience” in the in-vehicle environment, but also enhance value for “safety.”
In order to implement its “Smart Access” cloud information services, Clarion provides integrated in-vehicle application services, in-vehicle information terminals and server systems.
Considering the vehicle usage environment, the Smart Access in-vehicle application services are designed to enable the user to access the most up-to-date contents and applications at all times, without the inconvenience of logging in and/or downloading/updating applications for in-vehicle devices. This allows us to continue providing in-vehicle equipment – which has a longer product life cycle – with the latest cloud services as well as services that respond to social and infrastructure changes. The server system, which was jointly developed with Hitachi, provides security functions, market functionality for in-vehicle applications, and diverse management/control functionality, in the form of an in-vehicle service platform.
In addition, Smart Access, which has provided telematic services in products to car manufacturers and aftermarkets, will expand and enter the B to B services for commercial vehicles as “Smart Access For Enterprise” (SAFE).
The “Solid AD Series” has been introduced as a general in-vehicle terminal compatible with SAFE employing Android OS, a platform capable of handling flexible changes to implement various services required by each and every industry, allowing telematic services to be used in commercial vehicles.
Use of Smart Access enables high-precision voice recognition, and analyzes and estimates the driver’s action based on the huge volume of information available in the Cloud, deploying its process capability to the fullest extent. As a result, the user interface between the in-vehicle information terminal and the driver evolves more intelligently.
“Smart Access” can connect various cars, drivers and cloud information services, providing a safe, comfortable and convenient user interface.
Clarion is committed to developing technology that can seamlessly provide safety and security-related information and services to cars, making the connected car a reality by using automobile communications devices called TCU (Telematics Communication Unit). The use of the TCU does not only improve the convenience of driving through telematic services, it can also perform automated self-diagnosis to prevent breakdowns before they happen, it can make emergency calls in the case of accidents, and it can notify the proper parties quickly in the case of trouble such as car thefts. Most drivers will never see a TCU, but a TCU has a back up function that ensures communication during times of emergency. Various precautions have also been made to ensure that the communication system would not be affected even if the mobile access built into the vehicle is interrupted. As the connected car becomes more highly computerized, it will contribute to making a ubiquitous vehicle society a reality.
Navigation devices are one of the important groups of Clarion’s main products, and they are supported by multiple technologies that have been developed throughout the years with our expertise in automotive devices, including the development of a proprietary map format, locating technology that can pinpoint a vehicle’s location accurately from road data and vehicle sensor data, and route searching technology that guarantees most favorable routes to destinations while considering surrounding road conditions.
As concerns for safety arises in recent times, as well as needs for future technology focusing on autonomous driving, we are aiming to realize a vehicle society that can promise safe travel for everyone by improving our navigation technology.
Clarion adds its own information to the data supplied by map companies before compiling and storing it in its own proprietary format. This is used as a core source of information in our navigation systems. By maintaining a proprietary format for map data, which is directly linked to navigation performance, we can flexibly adjust to customers’ needs by combining information freely like a patchwork quilt. This also contributes to improving our navigation’s precision as we optimize extensive map data. Map data that cannot be found anywhere else is what supports “Clarion’s Navigation.”
Clarion’s navigation is used by many customers all over the world in various locations.
Therefore, Clarion has a system in place to maintain map data concerning road conditions in different regions to meet customers’ needs to provide the highest quality navigation on a global scale with a vast network.
In response to ever-changing road conditions, new map data is often updated to prove we are ready to offer the best car navigation. We can reduce the load on and support drivers by using the latest maps to offer them a pleasant drive.
Conventional systems place a 3-dimensional car on a 2-dimensional map, which leads to wrong car placement and false recognition. Clarion has developed the “3D Locator,” which aims to improve the accuracy of your car’s location by using elevation data of every road. This allows a 3-dimensional vehicle to be cross-referenced against 3-dimensional map data, so even if roads overlap each other, the location of the vehicle will be precisely identified.
Vehicles can also be accurately recognized in complex parking structures by using exclusive data. This enables your car to be located with a high level of precision.
Car navigation systems are not only used to look up the “shortest route” or “how to reach a destination faster.” They can further help drivers to take the optimal route considering road conditions such as the safest route, a stress-free route, and routes with fewer traffic lights and turns. We have also developed and employ the “Route Learning Function,” which prioritizes roads often used by the driver. Our navigation systems aim to provide the most pleasant route without being overbearing.
Clarion has developed and launched the world’s first full-digital speakers, which balance eco-friendliness with premium sound.
Clarion’s full digital speakers combine Dnote*1, digital signal processing technology, along with our expertise in car audio cultivated throughout the years. Audio is fully transmitted digitally from the audio source to speakers, making high-quality and full digital sound a reality by allowing direct input of high-resolution audio sources to speakers without any loss in quality. By efficiently converting the digital signal, we have both quadrupled the audio output compared to existing full digital systems*2 and reducing power consumption to 1/5th of analog systems*3.
*1 Digital processing uses the Dnote technology from Trigence Semiconductor. “Dnote” is a trademark and/or registered trademark of Trigence Semiconductor
*2 Compared to other Clarion references. (Convention full digital systems were only sold in Japan)
*3 Drive circuit of a general OEM audio system.
Full Digital Sound System
In a never-ending pursuit for quality audio, Clarion developed a proprietary LSI for in-vehicle use that improves playback from full digital speakers. The Z3, the core of our full digital sound systems, which employs this LSI, has been released in Japan as well as in North America, Europe, and Australia. This innovative system which is compatible with high-resolution playback and enables intuitive tuning with smartphones, has been highly praised by audio critics.
ZF160L *Image of "Spage", a system bathroom by LIXIL Co., Ltd.
We also released the “ZF160”, “ZF160L”, and “ZF100L”, full digital speakers built into homes that fully utilize energy conservation. The ZF160L is offered as an OEM option for the “Spage” as well as the “Remore, Arise, and Renobio V,” unit bathrooms by LIXIL.
We will continue promoting the use of full digital sound while entering new markets with products that leverage its unique characteristics.
The time waveform of music: ① OFF/② ON
In order to achieve ideal sound quality in the acoustically harsh environment of the car interior, we have vigorously pursued the development of its original sound processing technology “Intelligent Tune”.
“Dynamic Beat Enhancer” was newly developed in 2015. It includes technology that enhances something lost in most vehicles: bass sounds, enriching the audio with fuller ambiance and recognizable tempo. We also released the “Intelligent Tune App” in 2015, allowing users to easily tune audio settings based on the car model and speaker quality.
Clarion will continue to develop sound technologies that enable customers to enjoy even better sound within their vehicle comfortably.