As consumers demand ever-present connectivity, vehicle computers and infotainment systems have become the next embedded design challenge. These In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems combine a wide range of hardware, software, and communications components to provide features such as hands-free communications, voice-activated music selection, real-time navigation/traffic information, plus streaming multimedia and interactive gaming for passengers. Seamless connectivity is a very important part of embedded automotive electronics. For example, consumers expect automatic data links to be established between IVI systems and portable computing, cellular, or entertainment devices when within range. IVI systems may also connect to in-vehicle communications facilities such as the MOST (Media Oriented Systems Transport) bus, a high-speed, fiber-optic network optimized to transport multimedia signals within the harsh automotive environment.
The Intel® Atom™E6xx architecture provides a number of performance enhancements and features that simplify these connected IVI applications. One improvement over the previous generation architecture is the integration of the display, audio, and memory interfaces onto the CPU resulting in higher system bandwidth along with a reduced bill of materials (BOM) and board area. The Intel® Atom™E6xx series also updates the front side bus used in previous generations to a four-lane PCI Express interface giving designers the option of replacing the companion chipset with custom or third-party circuitry. The processor also incorporates the Intel® Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 600 2D/3D graphics engine which delivers a 50 percent improvement in graphics performance compared to the predecessor. To deal with the potentially rugged environments found is in-vehicle applications the Intel® Atom™E6xx series processors are available in the -40 to 85 °C extended temperature range.
A number of embedded system manufacturers have incorporated the Intel® Atom™E6xx architecture into computing devices targeting IVI applications. For example, NORCO offers the BIS-6622I embedded computer system designed for low power, fanless, and space-constrained automotive applications (see figure 1). The system features the E6xx CPU along with the EG20T Platform Controller Hub to provide 2D/3D image display with hardware decode or acceleration for multiple video compression standards including MPEG2, MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VC1, and WMV9. In addition to display interfaces for both VGA and HDMI with maximum resolutions up to 1280x1024, the BIS-6622I supports a 1.8” SATA hard disk drive, four USB 2.0 ports, and 1 GB of DDR2 RAM. Other communications features include dual Ethernet ports, an internal CAN bus connection, and optional WiFi support with an external wireless antenna. The system requires 12V DC power input , operates over the -10°C to + 50°C temperature range, and is packaged in a 4.8” x 4.8” x 1.8” enclosure with a standard VESA mount. In addition to vehicle infotainment, the BIS-6622I can also be used for digital signage, kiosk, surveillance, and point-of-sale applications.
Manufacturers can simplify the design of hardware and software for vehicle systems with a specialized development kit such as the congatec IVI reference kit shown in figure 2. This development platform is based on the conga-CA6 COM Express module which contains the Intel® Atom™E6xx series processor, system memory, solid state drive, and key I/O such as USB, Gigabit Ethernet, and CAN bus interfaces. The COM Express module connects to a 6.5” x 6.9” carrier board that provides the I/O connectors as well as additional features such as a radio tuner, Bluetooth, Parallel ATA, MOST bus, and a touch-screen interface. Expanded connectivity is supported through a PCI Express mini slot that can be used for Wi-Fi, WiMAX, or external display modules. The kit also comes with a flat panel display, power supply, CD-ROM drive, and device drivers for the automotive interfaces implemented in the on-board FPGA. The congatec IVI Reference kit is compatible with several operating systems and software including MeeGo, GENIVI, and Microsoft Windows Embedded.
With the objective of developing a standardized software architecture for vehicle applications, a group of manufacturers, suppliers, and tool developers established the AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System ARchitecture) alliance. This development partnership plans to simplify the exchange and update options for automotive software/hardware and control the growing complexity of the electrical and electronic systems in motor vehicles. Supporting this software approach, OpenSynergy introduced the COQOS-tP platform, allowing developers to implement, run, and test AUTOSAR software components directly on the Linux operating system (see figure 3). COQOS-tP consists of an AUTOSAR run time environment generator, which provides all AUTOSAR interfaces through a Linux adaptation layer.
Low power operation, high performance video-processing, and universal connectivity are key technologies in the development of advanced vehicle communications, information and entertainment systems. The Intel® Atom™E6xx series architecture provides these features through a flexible I/O architecture that simplifies IVI designs and shortens the time to market. If you are starting or have completed an in-vehicle design, please offer your suggestions and share your experience or questions via comments with fellow followers of the Intel® Embedded Community. You can keep up with the latest technical articles and product announcements at the Embedded Computing Design archives on both in-vehicle infotainment and connectivity.
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NORCO and congatec AG are Associate members of the by Intel® Embedded Alliance. OpenSynergy is a General member of the Alliance.