With automakers pushing to offer more in-car features for entertainment and communications, there is one fundamental issue with which they grapple: the fact that it takes longer to design and launch a car than it does to design and launch most consumer electronic devices.
QNX Software Systems aims to ease that burden with its QNX CAR Application Platform, a pre-integrated, standards-based solution for developing in-car infotainment products.
“The idea is to decouple the [product development] life cycle of automotive programs from consumer electronics,” said Andy Gryc, Product Marketing Manager for QNX, at the Oct. 19-20 SAE Convergence 2010 conference and exhibition in Detroit. He noted the typical automotive development program is typically three years or so, while consumer electronics can be less than six months. “Matching those product development life cycles has been a constant challenge for the automotive OEMs,” Gryc said.
The company demonstrated the software platform on a modified Chevrolet Corvette acting as a concept car at Convergence. A multimedia head unit demonstrates how in-car infotainment systems access the latest applications on mobile devices, such as maps for finding restaurants and other points of interest (POIs.) Either Apple iPod Out interfaces or those built on the Nokia Terminal Mode standard can integrate with the QNX platform. Terminal Mode is used on phones and other mobile devices. The QNX CAR Application Platform enables replicating the smartphone screen on the vehicle’s infotainment system, allowing steering wheel buttons, touch screens, and other in-car user inputs to control the phone.
Another demo feature includes a PandoraLink streaming audio for Internet radio. Additional features include Webkit browsing and a re-skinnable human-machine interface based on Adobe Flash technology. The company notes that the QNX CAR Application platform is the first automotive implementation of an iPod Out interface.
“The key point here is that the mobile device acts as the server,” explained Gryc. It feeds data to the head unit. “Updating the device is isolated to the handheld device. By removing that requirement to update the head unit frequently, you do not need dealership visits to update the system. That model is not cheap for the OEMs,” he noted.
Other features of the platform include disabling portable device functions that would distract the driver, such as video entertainment or texting. Driver aids include features such as larger fonts and a large screen for viewing and making selections. “We can tailor that device to an automotive environment,” Gryc explained.
The Corvette show car also shows a reconfigurable digital instrument cluster built on the QNX CAR Platform that features a driving mode, such information as tachometer and speedometer, and an information mode displaying weather, navigation information, or album art, among other things.