VehicleLink is an application for Android and iOS devices which, when installed, allows the phone to act as another data source for the CVG. The Pravala software, running on the CVG, is able to control how application data, either running on the in-car systems (infotainment) or running through devices connected to the CVG over Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB cable, access the network.
The ability for the vehicle to leverage the data provided by user-supplied smartphones has several advantages:
- Data Cost Control: Users and OEMs have the flexibility to control data cost on the embedded LTE radio – user content like Netflix, YouTube, etc. can be streamed over the smartphone, while the embedded radio can be reserved for vehicle-critical data such as mapping and updates.
- Carrier Diversity: The vehicle is able to communicate over multiple carriers when critical data needs to be transmitted, such as a crash notification – if the user smartphone is on a different operator than the embedded radio there is a greater likelihood of the data being successfully transmitted
- Future-Proof: As users obtain smartphones with faster mobile radios (5G and beyond) the vehicle will be able to utilize these connections, in addition to the onboard radio that may be on a slower technology. The ubiquity and backwards compatibility of USB, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi as the smartphone/vehicle interconnect will ensure that the car is able to communicate with the cloud using the fastest technology without needing changes to the embedded radio.
Is this tethering?
While the behaviour of VehicleLink shares some similarities with tethering, there are several fundamental differences between the two. VehicleLink has been successfully tested on multiple carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, both of which block tethering without subscribing to tethering as an additional service.
The first major difference is that multiple VehicleLink devices can operate simultaneously, because the CVG is not connecting to a hotspot being advertised by a single phone. Instead, each phone is connected to the car’s hotspot, and the VehicleLink application running on each phone advertises itself to the car hotspot. This enables the CVG to select which VehicleLink devices it will choose to use. It also simplifies deployment – users do not need to enable ‘tethering’ mode on their devices – the phones are simply connecting to the CVG Wi-Fi hotspot, just like any other Wi-Fi hotspot.
The second major difference is that all data sent from a VehicleLink-enabled phone is generated by the VehicleLink application itself, whereas with tethering the operating system just forwards packets from one interface to another. As a result, with VehicleLink the data is being generated by the phone itself – it isn’t just forwarding packets along.