OnStar, QNX broaden role of operating systems

  • 20-Sep-2011 09:00 EDT
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QNX software helped OnStar trim costs and enter the consumer market with the FMV.


Real-time operating systems (RTOSs) are expanding their role in infotainment, giving systems designers a platform that lets them extend capabilities and expand into new markets. OnStar’s entrance into the consumer market earlier this year highlights this trend. Tthe company recently announced that OnStar FMV, an aftermarket rearview mirror, uses software made by QNX Software Systems.

RTOSs have seen expanded use over the past few years as radios expanded their role into infotainment systems that pull portable consumer products and features like navigation together. OnStar leveraged the software’s scalability when it entered the consumer market with OnStar FMV early this year.

“When you start selling more consumer-oriented products in the aftermarket, there’s a different price point to consider,” said Andrew Poliak, QNX’s Worldwide Auto Sales Director. “This deal illustrates that products can go from the high levels of automotive grade requirements to the pricing levels of consumer products.”

OnStar began using QNX’s Neutrino RTOS in 2006 and now includes it in all new products, Poliak said. A number of other automakers run software made by QNX, which claims to be in more than 20 million vehicles worldwide. Other RTOS suppliers such as Microsoft, Intel’s Wind River, and Green Hills Software are also targeting the infotainment segment.

Poliak noted that RTOSs are expanding their role in other interior systems. High-end infotainment systems were among the initial applications, where they helped handle connectivity with a range of consumer devices.

“Low-end radios now require connectivity, and instrument clusters are going from analog systems to reconfigurable displays so they need more capabilities,” Poliak said. “In some cases, a single multicore device will handle, say, the instrument cluster and a center stack display using an RTOS to handle various tasks in each environment.”

OnStar FMV also uses the QNX Aviage acoustic processing suite, which lets the system hear the driver’s voice clearly in noisy automotive interiors. A major development for this software is an automatic calibration feature that makes it easy to employ voice recognition in any vehicle.

OEMs typically tune voice-recognition systems for each vehicle to achieve optimal performance. That’s not possible with aftermarket kits, which will be installed in a range of vehicles.

“Aviage automatically measures audio latency and goes through a self-tuning function to optimize voice-recognition performance,” Poliak said.

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