AUBURN HILLS, MI – A hearing-impaired employee of automaker Stellantis’ U.S. operations had a scary driving experience involving the sudden presence of an emergency vehicle she hadn’t heard coming.
It prompted her to submit a suggestion to a company program that rewards employees’ innovative ideas.
“That’s how this system was developed,” Trpko Blazevski, a Stellantis digital-innovation manager, tells Wards, referring to the company’s emergency-vehicle alert system (EVAS).
Now a standard feature on the automaker’s Uconnect infotainment system in the U.S. and Canada, EVAS visually and auditorily notifies drivers of an active nearby emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance or fire truck.
The system is on nearly 2 million Chryslers, Dodges, Rams and Jeeps in North America. Those include vehicles dating to model year 2018.
Rigging the older models was done through over-the-air updates, says Stellantis Software Officer Yves Bonnefont.
He and colleagues speak during a media demonstration of the system at the Stellantis Technology Center (the former Chrysler Technology Center) here.
Bonnefont says Stellantis has grand plans for future software platforms, including “smart cockpits” that use artificial intelligence for human-machine interaction.
“But we asked what we could do today for customer safety,” he says, The automaker took that hearing-impaired employee’s idea and ran with it.
“Customers think about safety,” says Mamatha Chamarthi, head of Stellantis Global Innovation and Digital Partnerships. “It’s our obligation to return people back to their families. At no charge.”
Bonnefont adds: “The widespread deployment of EVAS in North America demonstrates how Stellantis is harnessing the power of V2X (vehicle to everything) connectivity and in-vehicle technology to make mobility safer for our customers.”
He says Stellantis is the first global automaker to make V2X digital alerting a standard safety feature. Stellantis now has 2,000 software employees and 1,000 people in its training program.
The company is looking to expand its capabilities to include driver alerts for roadside tow trucks and disabled vehicles as well as work zones, arrow boards and other equipment on roadways.
EVAS alerts are conveyed through a cloud platform from HAAS, a Stellantis partner firm.
EVAS works only if the emergency vehicles are equipped to transmit signals.
“Tens of thousands of emergency vehicles are EVAS-equipped, but we’re working at getting more added to the platform,” Jeremy Agulnek, HAAS’s senior vice president-connected vehicles, tells Wards. That includes retrofitting vehicles currently in fleets.
“It’s about creating a network, an eco-system,” Agulnek says.
Attending the technical demonstration are Fire Chief Adam Massingill and Assistant Fire Chief Trevin Robinson of the Auburn Hills Fire Department.
Their department’s vehicles contain the EVAS system they laud as helping to protect the safety of civilian drivers and first responders alike.
“This is huge for us,” Massingill says. “Any first responder knows the challenges of responding quickly when roadways are busier than ever, and driver distraction is out there.”
Virtually every day, police vehicles and the like are involved in traffic accidents because the other driver didn’t sufficiently see the flashers or hear the sirens.
“YouTube has hundreds of videos of people crashing into emergency vehicles,” Robinson notes.