Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A low-down look at the QNX concept cars

Paul Leroux
It’s that time of year again. The QNX concept team has set the wheels in motion and started work on a brand new technology concept car, to be unveiled at CES 2016.

The principle behind our technology concept cars is simple in theory, but challenging in practice: Take a stock production vehicle off the dealer’s lot, mod it with new software and hardware, and create user experiences that make driving more connected, more enjoyable, and, in some cases, even safer.

It’s always fun to guess what kind of car the team will modify. But the real story lies in what they do with it. In recent years, they’ve implemented cloud-based diagnostics, engine sound enhancement, traffic sign recognition, collision warnings, speed alerts, natural voice recognition — the list goes on. There’s always a surprise or two, and I intend to keep it that way, so no hints about the new car until CES. ;-)

In the meantime, here is a retrospective of QNX technology concept cars, past and present. It’s #WheelWednesday, so instead of the usual eye candy, I’ve chosen images to suit the occasion. Enjoy.

The Maserati Quattroporte GTS
From the beginning, our technology concept cars have demonstrated how the QNX platform helps auto companies create connected (and compelling) user experiences. The Maserati, however, goes one step further. It shows how QNX can enable a seamless blend of infotainment and ADAS technologies to simplify driving tasks, warn of possible collisions, and enhance driver awareness. The car can even recommend an appropriate speed for upcoming curves. How cool is that?

The Mercedes CLA 45 AMG
By their very nature, technology concept cars have a short shelf life. The Mercedes, however, has defied the odds. It debuted in January 2014, but is still alive and well in Europe, and is about to be whisked off to an event in Dubai. The car features a multi-modal user experience that blends touch, voice, physical buttons, and a multi-function controller, enabling users to interact naturally with infotainment functions. The instrument cluster isn’t too shabby, either. It will even warn you to ease off the gas if you exceed the local speed limit.

The Bentley Continental GT
I dubbed our Bentley the “ultimate show-me car,” partially because that’s exactly what people would ask when you put them behind the wheel. The digital cluster was drop-dead gorgeous, but the head unit was the true pièce de résistance — an elegantly curved 17” high-definition display based on TI’s optical touch technology. And did I mention? The car’s voice rec system spoke with an English accent.

The Porsche 911 Carrera
Have you ever talked to a Porsche? Well, in this case, you could — and it would even talk back. We outfitted our 911 with cloud-based voice recognition (so you could control the nav system using natural language) and text-to-speech (so you could listen to incoming BBMs, emails, and text messages). But my favorite feature was one-touch Bluetooth pairing: you simply touched your phone to an NFC reader in the center console and, hey presto, the phone and car were automatically paired,

The Chevrolet Corvette
I have a confession to make: The Corvette is the only QNX technology concept car that I got to drive around the block. For some unfathomable reason, they never let me drive another one. Which is weird, because I saw the repair bill, and it wasn’t that much. In any case, the Corvette served as the platform for the very first QNX technology concept car, back in 2010. It included a reconfigurable instrument cluster and a smartphone-connected head unit — features that would become slicker and more sophisticated in our subsequent concept vehicles. My favorite feature: the reskinnable UI.

The Jeep Wrangler
Officially, the Wrangler serves as the QNX reference vehicle, demonstrating what the QNX CAR Platform can do out of the box. But it also does double-duty as a concept vehicle, showing how the QNX platform can help developers build leading-edge ADAS solutions. My favorite features: in-dash collision warnings and a fast-booting backup display.

Well, there you have it. In just a few months’ time, we will have the honor of introducing you to a brand new QNX technology concept car. Any guesses as to what the wheels will look like?

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in... The lost concept car photos

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Developing safety-critical systems? This book is for you

In-depth volume covers development of systems under the IEC 61508, ISO 26262, EN 50128, and IEC 62304 standards

Paul Leroux
In June, I told you of an upcoming book by my colleague Chris Hobbs, who works as a software safety specialist here at QNX Software Systems. Well, I’m happy to say that the book is now available. It’s called Embedded Software Development for Safety-Critical Systems and it explores design practices for building medical devices, railway control systems, industrial control systems, and, of course, automotive ADAS devices.

The book:
  • covers the development of safety-critical systems under ISO 26262, IEC 61508, EN 50128, and IEC 62304
  • helps developers learn how to justify their work to external auditors
  • discusses the advantages and disadvantages of architectural and design practices recommended in the standards, including replication and diversification, anomaly detection, and so-called “safety bag” systems
  • examines the use of open-source components in safety-critical systems
Interested? I invite to you to visit the CRC Press website, where you can view the full Table of Contents and, of course, order the book.

Looking forward to getting my copy!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

From ADAS to autonomous

A new webinar on how autonomous driving technologies will affect embedded software — and vice versa

Paul Leroux
When, exactly, will production cars become fully autonomous? And when will they become affordable to the average Jane or Joe? Good questions both, but in the meantime, the auto industry isn’t twiddling its collective thumbs. It’s already starting to build a more autonomous future through active-control systems that can avoid accidents (e.g. automated emergency braking) and handle everyday driving tasks (e.g. adaptive cruise control).

These systems rely on software to do their job, and that reliance will grow as the systems become more sophisticated and cars become more fully autonomous. This trend, in turn, will place enormous pressure on how the software is designed, developed, and maintained. Safety, in particular, must be front and center at every stage of development.

Which brings me to a new webinar from my inestimable colleague, Kerry Johnson. Titled “The Role of a Software Platform When Transitioning from ADAS to Autonomous Driving,” the webinar will examine:
  • the emergence of high-performance systems-on-chip that target ADAS and autonomous vehicle applications
  • the impact of increasing system integration and autonomous technologies on embedded software
  • the need for functional safety standards such as ISO 26262
  • the emergence of pre-certified products as part of the solution to address safety challenges
  • the role of a software platform to support the evolution from ADAS to autonomous driving

If you are tasked with either developing or sourcing software for functional safety systems in passenger vehicles, this webinar is for you. Here are the coordinates:

Wednesday, October 7
1:00pm EDT

Registration Site

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

One OS, multiple safety applications

The latest version of our certified OS for ADAS systems and digital instrument clusters has a shorter product name — but a longer list of talents.

Paul Leroux
Can you ever deliver a safety-critical product to a customer and call it a day? For that matter, can you deliver any product to a customer and call it a day? These, of course, are rhetorical questions. Responsibility for a product rarely ends when you release it, especially when you add safety to the mix. In that case, it’s a long-term commitment that continues until the last instance of the product is retired from service. Which can take decades.

Mind you, people dedicated to building safety-critical products aren’t prone to sitting on their thumbs. From their perspective, product releases are simply milestones in a process of ongoing diligence and product improvement. For instance, at QNX Software Systems, we subject our OS safety products to continual impact analysis, even after they have been independently certified for use in functional safety systems. If that analysis calls for improved product, then improved product is what we deliver. With a refreshed certificate, of course.

Which brings me to the QNX OS for Safety. It’s a new — and newly certified — release of our field-proven OS safety technology, with a twist. Until now, we had one OS certified to the ISO 26262 standard (for automotive systems) and another certified to the IEC 61508 standard (for general embedded systems). The new release is certified to both of these safety standards and replaces the two existing products in one fell swoop.

So if you no longer see the QNX OS for Automotive Safety listed on the QNX website, not to worry. We’ve simply replaced it with an enhanced version that has a shorter product name and broader platform support — all with the same proven technology under the hood. (My colleague Patryk Fournier has put together an infographic that nicely summarizes the new release; see sidebar).

And if you’re at all surprised that a single OS can be certified to both 61508 and 26262, don’t be. As the infographic suggests, IEC 61508 provides the basis for many market-specific standards, including IEC 62304, EN 5012x, and, of course, ISO 26262.

Learn more about the QNX OS for Safety on the QNX website. And for more information on ISO 26262 and how it affects the design of safety-critical automotive systems, check out these whitepapers: