Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Garmin taps QNX technology to create K2 infotainment platform

Complete digital cockpit delivers navigation, diagnostics, streaming media, smartphone integration, and voice recognition

Paul Leroux
This just in: Garmin International has selected the QNX CAR platform to power the Garmin K2, a next-generation infotainment solution for automakers.

Most people are familiar with Garmin's many portable GPS devices, from sports watches to action cameras to PNDs. But the K2 is a different animal altogether — a complete “digital cockpit” that comprises multiple digital displays, on- and off-board voice recognition, smartphone integration, and optional embedded 4G connectivity.

The K2 is designed to give drivers simple, intuitive access to navigation, vehicle diagnostics, streaming media, and realtime Web information. It's also designed with scalability in mind, so automakers can use it to address diverse market requirements and cost targets.

According to Matt Munn, managing director of Garmin’s automotive OEM group, “the QNX CAR platform has played a major role in helping us to achieve our goal of providing both world-class software reliability and flexible access to emerging consumer applications. From the proven stability and performance of the QNX architecture to the company’s worldwide industry recognition, QNX was the logical choice.”

Other key features of the K2 include a 3D-enhanced city model, a predictive services calendar, and remote personalization and control via a web portal or smartphone.

Here's the K2 at a glance:

Source: Garmin

And here's a demo of the system, filmed by Engadget at 2013 CES:

For more information on this announcement, read the press release. And for more on the K2 itself, visit the Garmin blog.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

QNX, AutoNavi collaborate to provide in-car navigation for automakers in China

Map database offers 20 million points of interest

Paul Leroux
This just in: QNX has announced that it is partnering with AutoNavi, a leading provider of digital map content and navigation solutions in China, to integrate AutoNavi’s technology into the QNX CAR platform.

AutoNavi offers a digital map database that covers approximately 3.6 million kilometers of roadway and over 20 million points of interest across China. By supporting this database, the QNX CAR platform will enable automotive companies to create navigation systems optimized for the Chinese market and users.

Said Yongqi Yang, executive vice president of automotive business, AutoNavi, “as a leading global provider of vehicle infotainment software platforms, QNX is not only a technology leader, but also a design concept innovator in enhancing vehicle flexibility — infotainment designs based on the QNX CAR Platform can be quickly customized.”

For more information on this partnership, read the press release. And to learn more about AutoNavi, visit their website.

Leading infotainment supplier in China makes the shift to QNX CAR platform

Paul Leroux
This just in: Foryou General Electronics, a global supplier of in-car infotainment systems, has chosen the QNX CAR platform to develop infotainment and navigation systems for automakers in China.

Said Steven Chen, CTO of Foryou General Electronics, ”we appreciate the modular, pre-integrated approach that the QNX CAR platform offers because it allows us to develop highly reliable, differentiated infotainment solutions for entry-level to high-end vehicles.”

A Foryou infotainment and navigation
system. Source: Foryou
Foryou chose the QNX CAR platform after comprehensive testing of competing infotainment platforms, including open source solutions.

Established in September 2002, Foryou General Electronics is a subsidiary of Foryou Group Ltd., one of the top 100 electronic information enterprises of China. Its products are sold in more than 80 countries and regions worldwide; company sales were more than US$300 million in 2012.

For more information on this announcement, read the press release.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Panasonic goes global with QNX CAR platform

Paul Leroux
In the automotive market — or any market, for that matter — a product platform must be judged by its flexibility. After all, the whole point of a platform is to help you create multiple products or product lines, each with its own distinguishing features, while reusing as many components as possible. Done right, a platform lets you target multiple price points, multiple consumer segments, and multiple geographies, in the least time and at the least cost. If that doesn’t define flexibility, I don’t know what does.

Which brings me to Panasonic Automotive Systems Company of America. They’re an international supplier of infotainment systems — Chevy MyLink and Chrysler Uconnect are just two of their products — and they need this kind of flexibility to deliver localized solutions  to their OEM customers in North America, Europe, and Japan. To help achieve it, they use the QNX CAR platform.

Flexible by design: MyLink supports
a touchscreen, voice commands,
and steering-wheel buttons.
To quote Scott Kirchner, vice president and CTO of Panasonic Automotive Systems, “we wanted a platform that would let us quickly customize our infotainment systems for a variety of markets and customer requirements — the QNX CAR platform, with its modular architecture and support for mobile connectivity standards, provides the inherent flexibility we were looking for.”

That quote comes from a press release issued just a few minutes ago. To read the release in its entirety, visit the QNX website. But before you click, remember also to visit the Chevy website, where you can find out more about the MyLink system. And did I mention? MyLink has been building quite the trophy case, what with the Best of CES 2013 Award it won in January and the CTIA Emerging Technology (E-Tech) Award it won in May.

Chevy MyLink system.
Images: Chevrolet

Thursday, August 8, 2013

From Hollerith to HTML5: the inevitable rise of the programmable car

Paul Leroux
Some people are crazy good at predicting the future. Case in point: Nicola Tesla. In 1909 he proclaimed that "everyone in the world" would one day communicate with wireless handheld devices. At the time, people must have thought he was, well, crazy. But look around you: when's the last time you weren't surrounded by people using wireless handhelds?

Over the years, the auto industry has produced many technology visionaries who share this talent for prognostication. Mind you, visionary is probably the wrong word. Many of these people didn’t simply envision the future; they tried to build it. All too often, however, the technology needed to make their ideas work was still in its infancy — or simply didn't exist yet.

For evidence, consider the ITER AVTO. Introduced in 1930, this dash-mounted navigation system used maps printed on rolls of paper. These maps were connected by a cable to the speedometer and would scroll forward in proportion to the car’s speed. It was all pretty cool, provided you didn’t make a turn — otherwise, quick, change rolls! Basically, a great idea hampered by the tech of its time:

Source: Dieselpunks

For another example, consider these “alarming” glasses, which made their debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1951. The concept was simple: monitor eye movements to determine whether the driver is falling asleep; if so, sound an alarm. Just one problem: to detect eye movement, the glasses used a thin steel wire pressed against the driver’s eyelids. It was another great idea that needed yet-to-be invented technology — in this case, inexpensive (and non-invasive) eye-tracking cameras — to work.

Source: Modern Mechanix blog

And then there’s the 1969 Buick Century Cruiser, an autonomous concept car that used punch cards to program the car’s destination. The driver would insert a card encoded with a destination, and an electronic highway center (whatever that was) would then take over and guide the car to where it was programmed to go.

Source: Car Styling 2.0 

The car was never intended to be sold, of course. To be commercially viable, it would have required technologies that simply weren't available in 1969.

But you know what? I think the Century Cruiser represents a watershed concept: that you can use software to control or enhance a car's behavior. The Century Cruiser may have used Hollerith cards, but it presaged vehicles that, in a few short years, would use programming languages like C to control ECUs and anti-lock brakes. From there, it was only a matter of time before cars would use software technologies like HTML5 to deliver everything from weather reports to smartphone integration. The software path was set, even if no one realized it yet.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Controlled openness

Paul Leroux
The title of this post sounds like a contradiction in terms. But you know what? It captures the predicament faced by every automaker today.

On the one hand, automakers need to convince mobile developers that it's worthwhile to create apps for the car. They also need to make the process of creating and monetizing car apps as easy and open as possible. Otherwise, why would a developer spend time developing a car app when a phone app could reach many more customers? (About 60 million cars shipped in 2012, compared to more than 545 million smartphones — and most of those cars can't host apps.)

On the other hand, apps can't run willy-nilly in the car. For safety's sake, automakers must impose control on when specific apps can be used, and the apps themselves must be designed or modified to minimize distraction, possibly in accordance with government-mandated rules and guidelines. That may sound like an imposition on developers, but not really. After all, developers want to create apps that will prove popular with consumers, and consumers will be far more interested in apps that can be used while the car is moving — apps that, for safety reasons, can be used only when the car is stopped will hold less appeal.

But enough from me. Recently, my colleague Andy Gryc caught up with Thilo Koslowski, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, and they discussed the notion of controlled openness for the car — along with how HTML5 fits into the picture. The cameras were rolling, so grab some popcorn, dim the lights, and check it out: