New apps for in-car entertainment will use the same chips found in smartphones. That integration of technology may well change driving forever, says Gary Atkinson.
In 2007, 160 million cars were on the road in China alone. That number will have grown to over two billion by 2014, according to predictions.
The huge growth in China may not be replicated as aggressively elsewhere across the world, but with growth in mind, many automotive manufacturers will be attempting to drive vehicle demand through the development of new applications for in-vehicle-infotainment (IVI).
These applications will run using semiconductors that are most commonly seen today powering connectivity and performance in home-based, handheld or portable consumer devices. This technology integration could change the driving experience forever.
Lower power microcontrollers
Alongside the increasing use of high-performance chips, lower power microcontrollers (MCUs) have been widely used to help drive or run a variety of automotive functions. MCUs do the invisible jobs powering, for example, seat-belt systems, air bags and non-navigation applications.
MCUs have a vital role in automotive design and will continue to do so. Toshiba has announced plans to use new microcontroller technologies to help with its automotive safety systems, with the aim of producing new high-quality displays.
As well as the safety functions powered by MCUs, there are also innovative ways in which the latest technology can be used to offer an enhanced driving experience.
Consumers now demand constant connectivity from their personal devices, allowing them the ability to download applications for a more personalised user experience. The challenge is now for automotive manufacturers to transfer these desired features into today's and tomorrow's vehicles.
The two already work together with such features as hands-free for making calls safely while on the move. We are now ready for the next step — the really smart car.
Voice and in-dash car controls
We have already seen smart cars aimed at mass-market audiences. Last year Ford revealed its upgrade to the Ford Sync AppLink software. Due to appear in the Ford Fiesta in the summer of 2011 in the US, it will allow BlackBerry and Android users to access and control their applications using voice and in-dash car controls.
Ford is also launching a developer network so Sync applications can be built into new or existing applications. This is a move that is likely to excite developers as they will be able to take advantage of a standardised platform to more easily develop in-car applications.
The automotive industry is heavily focused on pursuing standards with bodies such as the Genivi alliance — which includes large automotive manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover, BMW and Renault — helping to drive the adoption of open-source software in IVI.
Genivi hopes that through the development of shared platforms and software, life will...