Bosch taps virtualization to interface with growing number of RTOSs

Image: aetropenkernel.tiff

The Open Kernel virtualization software sits between the CPU and multiple operating systems so one CPU can run many different programs.


The challenge of providing a wealth of infotainment options without driving up costs and complexity is prompting system designers to examine a range of new technologies. Robert Bosch Car Multimedia recently teamed up with Open Kernel Labs to access virtualization software that’s already being used in a number of consumer products.

Bosch is tapping OK Labs to help it deal with both the many consumer products being carried into vehicles and the increasing number of infotainment options required by OEMs. Bosch will use OK Labs’ OKL4 Microvisor, a mobile/embedded virtualization technology, for prototyping and development of in-vehicle infotainment systems.

OK Labs, which was founded in 2006 to commercialize work begun in an Australian research lab, said its software is already running on more than a billion consumer products. Bosch tapped the virtualization software to help manage the growing size and complexity of infotainment software.

That software now includes interaction with code that runs on the range of processors and operating systems found on smart phones, tablets, and other consumer products carried into the vehicle. OK Labs CEO Steve Subar noted that the virtualization software will run in conjunction with the growing number of real-time operating systems (RTOSs) used for infotainment.

“With a traditional RTOS approach, you need to stay in the supplier’s family. It’s difficult to run Android, Genivi, open Linux, and other operating environments. We eliminate that limitation,” Subar said.

He expects the number of operating systems used by myriad vehicle infotainment systems to grow rather than decline. He noted that virtualization also makes it simpler to add new operating systems as they emerge.

OKL4 Microvisor can help reduce hardware costs by letting a single controller in a radio head unit run software written for many different microprocessors. It also ensures that problematic software running on consumer devices won’t create problems that will shut down vehicle software running on the infotainment system or elsewhere.

“The virtual machine runs in its own space with memory protection,” Subar said. “If you run an angry version of Angry Birds and download a virus, there’s no risk that it can take over another part of the vehicle’s electronics.”

Andree Zahir, Vice President Automotive Navigation and Infotainment Systems at Bosch, added that, “Building IVI systems with OKL4 can benefit the Bosch technology portfolio with strong separation of consumer and core automotive subsystems on one application processor.”

OK Labs software also helps OEMs consolidate IVI (in-vehicle interconnectivity) and instant-on functionality, including CAN (controller area network) and MOST (media oriented systems transport) networking, into a single host processing unit. This hierarchy ensures that systems such as rearview cameras will be ready when needed, while software that doesn’t need immediate response can run under a less demanding timeframe.

The software also helps engineers manage the multicore processors that are becoming increasingly common in infotainment. “OKL4 offers dynamic multicore balancing, letting Tier 1s take better advantage of these processors,” Subar said.

Subar said the software should start appearing on production vehicles in 12-18 months.

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