Slug bug and license plate bingo no longer cut it as prime sources of in-vehicle entertainment for today's digitally savvy, social media-happy generation of car buyers.
To attract customers and achieve greater brand differentiation, automakers are looking to the software community for innovative, upgradable architectures that provide compelling multimedia functionality, connecting vehicles to personal devices and the cloud of Internet services.
Moblin.org, an Intel-founded community project that creates and shares software optimized for Intel® Atom™ processors, is extending Internet connectivity to mobile gadgets that fit in your pocket as well as your dashboard. Designed for the Intel® architecture, Moblin enables PC and Web services in Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs), netbooks, and In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems. As open source software, the Moblin stack is particularly beneficial for IVI system developers challenged by competitive automotive supply chain and procurement processes.
"Open source platforms not only remove redundancy and waste in the software development process by standardizing horizontal layers of the solution, but also offer a landing zone for developers to apply innovation at a higher layer and sell products across makes, brands, models, and configurations," says Joel Andrew Hoffmann, strategic market development manager for Intel's IVI Group and director and marketing chair of the GENIVI Alliance, a cross-industry consortium working to develop and promote an open source IVI platform.
GENIVI's strategy is to use Moblin as the baseline code within its reference implementation. Moblin's strategy is to use GENIVI as the primary contributor to requirements and automotive components. Based on the Linux kernel, the Moblin IVI stack includes IVI middleware components such as consumer electronics device manager, connectivity to buses such as CAN and Media-Oriented Systems Transport (MOST), and other platform-specific drivers.
With well-defined interfaces between the software and hardware components, the standards-based IVI platform supports key application functionality and offers subsecond cold boot times, helping achieve an instant power-on user experience when the ignition is started.
In collaboration with Intel, BMW, and Magneti Marelli, Intel® Embedded and Communications Alliance (Intel® ECA) Associate member Wind River Systems contributed to Moblin and GENIVI by creating a core set of IVI features in several areas including fast boot, systems infrastructure, power state management, multimedia, graphics and HMI framework, consumer electronics connectivity, and software update framework, says Alexander Kocher, Wind River's VP of automotive solutions. The company's commercial version of the stack - the Wind River Platform for Infotainment - is augmented with automotive-specific technology that customers can adapt to their target hardware.
"While thrilled at the opportunity to take advantage of the innovation rate of open source, many of the Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs still seek the predictability and assurance of a commercial product when creating IVI devices," Kocher says.
Microsoft, an Intel ECA Associate member, also offers an automotive infotainment platform that supports Atom. Built on the Windows Embedded 6.0 core, Microsoft Auto 4.0 incorporates common head unit functionality, enabling automakers and suppliers to integrate portable electronic devices and add services such as turn-by-turn directions, 911 assistance, news and weather updates, and vehicle health reports. With an integrated middleware stack and hardware reference design, the platform provides a robust, easily upgradeable environment for creating multimedia-rich IVI systems.
Another Microsoft automotive-grade software framework, Windows Automotive 5.0, offers a more customizable platform for developing multiple device models simultaneously. The Windows CE 5.0-based platform includes guidelines, configuration samples, and tools that optimize performance and shorten user interface development time.
Whereas Microsoft Auto is widely used by U.S. and European automakers who are focused on standard platforms, Windows Automotive is popular in the Japanese market, where suppliers typically prefer to develop complex in-car systems from the ground up, says Microsoft automotive business unit product manager Velle Kolde. Both development platforms are helping boost business for automakers and suppliers across the globe by connecting drivers and passengers with the latest applications, Internet-based services, and technologies available to improve the overall driving experience.
"By providing the automotive industry with a stable, reliable, and low-cost platform to build on along with a rich set of tools, we can help give them the leg up needed to reduce time to market," Kolde says.
To help automakers get their IVI designs out of the lab and into production, Intel ECA Associate member QNX Software Systems offers Connected Automotive Reference (CAR), a free application platform that integrates technology from a broad ecosystem to create extensible references for infotainment units and digital instrument clusters. With source code available through Foundry27.com, QNX's community portal for software developers, the QNX CAR architecture provides a reusable base that can support a variety of new capabilities supplying connectivity within the vehicle and to the cloud.
Equipped with the QNX Neutrino RTOS and QNX Momentics Tool Suite, the CAR platform can help developers find and remove bugs quickly during the development phase as well as maintain the consistent performance and reliability that automakers expect, says Andy Gryc, QNX automotive product marketing manager. QNX CAR also incorporates middleware components such as multimedia, databases, hands-free echo cancellation, an HMI framework, and an application store.
"By using these pre-integrated packages, developers can focus on adding value in the areas that truly differentiate their product," Gryc says. "Given that most companies are serious about belt-tightening, saving massive developer effort is a welcome strategy."
While the QNX CAR program helps automotive teams develop products in less time with less risk, another QNX program called OEM Innovation Labs (OIL) gives automotive OEMs low-cost access to QNX technologies for prototyping next-generation product concepts. Through OIL, research groups can work with QNX tools, middleware, and technology partners prior to full-scale production.
Intel participates in the OIL program by cosponsoring these labs and providing access to Intel® processor-based hardware platforms. In addition to offering technical expertise and resources through this program, Intel is supplying automakers with a standards-based, scalable platform in collaboration with its ecosystem of hardware vendors. Tune in next week for an overview of the Low-Power Intel IVI Reference Design and insight into how it can help overcome design challenges that are particularly pesky in automotive applications.
Until then, I'd like to hear your comments on these IVI software stacks. What other benefits can be realized using these platforms? Why choose open source over commercial architectures and vice versa? How is your company integrating these products into automotive system designs? Inquiring minds within the embedded community want to know.
OpenSystems Media®, by special arrangement with Intel® ECA