Auburn Hills — The maker of Jeep SUVs, Ram pickup trucks and other vehicles said Tuesday it's testing infotainment screen pop-up messages to alert drivers of upcoming disabled vehicles.
The technology would augment Stellantis NV's already-deployed Emergency Vehicle Alert System that messages drivers of its model-year 2018 or newer vehicles about ambulances, fire trucks and other first-responder vehicles on the side of the road or in pursuit.
The Hazard Enhanced Location Protocol, or HELP, works with Texas startup Emergency Safety Solutions to send messages from disabled vehicles over the cellular network to Chicago-based HAAS Alert's Safety Cloud. HAAS has worked with Stellantis on EVAS and packages the geolocation information received to send the alert to Stellantis vehicles when they are about 20 seconds away from the emergency or disabled vehicle. That's about a quarter of a mile at highway speeds.
Stellantis hopes to decide whether to deploy the disabled vehicle alerts within three to six months, said Mamatha Chamarthi, head of global software business management. Like EVAS, which is now available on 1.8 million vehicles over the past year, Stellantis vehicles would receive HELP through an over-the-air update.
"We put trust in our cars that we will move safely from point A to point B," Chamarthi said. "1.2 million people get killed in car crashes every year (worldwide), and it's a foundational responsibility that we have as an automotive company and at Stellantis to return as many customers happy back to their families. We provide comfort. We provide peace of mind through connected services."
Additionally, the company is testing emergency lights on its vehicles that blink faster to indicate a disabled vehicle. When an occupant turns on the emergency lights, an option on the screen would allow the user to indicate the stationary vehicle is disabled and turn on the faster-blinking lights. This then would transmit the information to the Safety Cloud.
Sensors also automatically would allow the vehicle to transmit the information to the cloud in the event of a collision or a tire blowout. The system can recognize more than just disabled Stellantis vehicles, Chamarthi said.
It's not a perfect system. During a demonstration with the help of the Auburn Hills Fire Department, a Dodge Charger didn't receive an alert during a first test of the emergency-vehicle system. In a second test, it, however, did work, and the system also worked in tests with the emergency vehicle in motion and with a Jeep Wrangler in the disabled vehicle mode being tested.
Tens of thousands of emergency vehicles in the United States are equipped with the technology to send alerts, said Jeremy Agulnek, HAAS's senior vice president of connected vehicles. Major manufacturers of fire trucks and ambulances are building the vehicles with the technology standard too.
If Stellantis does roll out the alerts, customers will automatically get the update. To get other standard safety and security package features for up to 10 years, Stellantis owners have to enroll themselves in connected services with their vehicle identification numbers at no additional cost.
These features include automated SOS calls, emergency roadside assistance, and notifications, texts or emails when a vehicle goes over a certain speed the owner designates, is used after a specified time, or travels outside a designated boundary. Through Stellantis' connected services app, owners also can put the vehicle in the slow-moving valet mode.
The feature came in use for Chamarthi's own family when her children parked the family's Dodge Durango SRT 392 in a parking garage in downtown Chicago. When they arrived in the garage at 6 a.m. the next day, the vehicle was gone. Chamarthi called Sirius XM, which was able to work with law enforcement to recover the vehicle, though "it had a few bullet holes."
"No one should experience this feature ever, but unfortunately, we produce some of the hottest, coolest cars that are some of the most-stolen," Chamarthi said. "This story, though it started with high levels of anxiety ended on a happy note, because it was recovered. ... This is a promise we are making to our customers and ourselves that safety should not be a subscription. Safety shouldn't be an option. Safety should be nonnegotiable, because that's the foundational trust our customers have in our cars and Stellantis."
Meanwhile, demand for subscriptions for which customers do pay, such as navigation, electric-vehicle charging and satellite radio, is on the rise, said Yves Bonnefont, Stellantis' chief software officer. In 2022, revenues in this area increased 20% globally from 2021 as Stellantis seeks nearly $22 billion (20 billion euro) in revenue from this business annually.
In the United States, subscription payments range from $12 to $24 per month, Chamarthi said, noting in the mass market, customers want optionality, while luxury customers want more included. How much Stellantis expects customers are willing to pay for services depends on the segment, Bonnefont said.
"Are you passionate, and you want to give your car increased capability?" Bonnefont said. "People have very, very different appetites for spending in their cars."