Embedded designers transform in-car technology

As the trend toward ubiquitous Internet connectivity permeates our society, automobile customers now expect this same experience while on the road. To meet this expectation and remain competitive, automobile manufacturers have turned to the embedded design community to develop In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems for seamless, real-time access to navigation information and cloud computing services. Although this expanding technology creates new opportunities, there are several unique challenges and requirements in IVI systems compared to traditional embedded designs. For example, the human-machine interface must be based more on voice and gesture recognition instead of touch-panel controls to eliminate the need for direct eye contact. Displays should be strategically located and controlled to reduce driver distractions and conform to differing state regulations. System updates must also be based on software or simple plug-ins because of the long life cycle of in-vehicle hardware. Designers can expect a host of new challenges as the IVI trend explodes and becomes a major factor in new vehicle purchasing decisions.

In the Strategies section of this issue of Embedded Computing Design, industry experts dig into the technology details and trends that surround the in-vehicle technology marketplace. For example, Giorgio Scuro, General Manager of the Automotive Business Unit at Micron Technology, takes a look at the growing market for cars and light commercial vehicles along with the memory requirements of on-board electronics. Interestingly, he asserts that “many car buyers today care more about the infotainment technologies embedded in the dashboard than what’s under the hood.” Addressing IVI systems from a different angle, David Kleidermacher, CTO at Green Hills Software, and Brad Ballard, Automotive Marketing Manager for the OMAP processor team at Texas Instruments, discuss the future of Android in vehicle applications. In a question and answer session, Rudolf Streif, leader of the Automotive Grade Linux Workgroup at the Linux Foundation, talks about techniques for in-vehicle system/software upgrades and averting unwanted intrusions, and offers his vision for the future of IVI technology. Continuing the discussion, Rick Kreifeldt, Chairman and President of the AVnu Alliance, responds to questions on the standards and certification tests in place to ensure interoperability among IVI system components.

In-vehicle applications are just one example where the complexity of embedded systems and the associated software continues to escalate. In fact, the software development task has become the largest element of the typical embedded project budget. With huge potential savings on operating software, development tools, recurring royalties, and schedules, many design teams are now evaluating free-to-download, open source software on new embedded projects. To assist in this evaluation process, this month’s Software section features an open source software article by Bill Weinberg, Senior Director at Olliance Consulting, a division of Black Duck Software. His in-depth commentary reveals resources and best practices for choosing open source software components for embedded development.

The increased complexity in embedded devices also changes the selection criterion for many system hardware components including the processor. Performance requirements, cloud connectivity, expanded user interfaces, and new high-speed I/O standards stretch the limits for embedded processors. In the Silicon section of this issue, David Katz and Rick Gentile of Analog Devices take an updated look at processor selection in the current embedded environment. They delve into a wide assortment of evaluation topics including processor performance, hardware acceleration, power management, security, safety, fault tolerance, software debugging, and development aids.

In addition to the technical design details, this issue also includes a guide to the industry’s leading embedded distributors along with a question and answer session with executives from Arrow, Avnet, and Mouser that examines the changing face of embedded computing from the distribution point of view.

If you have ideas for future articles and coverage that would help in your design efforts, please let us know. Also, if you would like to write a technical article or produce an information video that would be of interest to other designers, please send me an email with a short abstract.