Thursday, December 27, 2012

Auto trivia, BlackBerry PlayBook tablet, and #QNXLive sessions

As we begin to look forward to a brand new year, we still have a couple of fun activities for you to keep a look out for as the holidays begin to wind down.

Friday, December 28 will be the last chance for you to win a BlackBerry PlayBook tablet in our automotive trivia sweepstakes. We’ll be tweeting out this year’s final trivia question on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, and if you respond back to @QNX_Auto with the correct answer, you will be entered into December’s drawing. More information can be found here:

Additionally, we still have two more #QNXLive Twitter sessions coming up on January 3 and January 11. On Thursday, January 3 at 1 p.m. ET, Linda Campbell, director of QNX strategic alliances, will answer your questions on the subject “Whose technology is in my car? A look at the partner technologies and capabilities found in the cars of today and tomorrow.” And then on Friday, January 11 at 1 p.m. ET live from CES 2013, Mark Rigley, director of concept development, will answer your questions on the new technology concept car that we’ll be unveiling at CES 2013.

We thank everyone who has participated in our #QNXLive sessions to date with Andy Gryc and Andrew Poliak. We had some great questions come in from @StephenBB81, @jmznvs, @BBABrian and @MitchCurtis20, and are looking forward to your additional questions. Remember, you can submit your questions now or day-of by sending a tweet to @QNX_Auto and using the hashtag #QNXLive. If your question is selected, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in addition to answering your question. More here:

Here’s to a fantastic rest of the holidays and a very prosperous 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Meet the QNX concept team: Allan Hudgins, web developer

In this installment of the concept team interview series, we catch up with one of the team’s newest members: Allan Hudgins

Allan Hudgins
Allan, tell us a bit about yourself and your role on the concept team.
I’ve been a software developer for a decade or so, having previously worked on satellite communication systems and emergency notification systems. On the concept team, I have been making use of new ‘real-time’ web technologies that make it possible to have near-instant, bi-directional communications between a web browser and a QNX-based device, over the Internet.

What do you like best about being on the concept team?
It’s a refreshing change from developing production software. The pressure and deadlines are still there, but it’s much easier to focus on coming up with the right ideas and executing on them than it sometimes is under a production-oriented process. I like how much control I have over the design of the solutions I contribute to the team’s projects. There are no mandates beyond getting things done, getting them done well, and getting them done quickly. Well, and have fun doing it!

Has there been a standout moment for you while working on the team?
On my first day at QNX I discovered that a developer had ported Node.js, a real-time web technology, to the QNX OS. I knew I could do some interesting things with Node.js, and within the next two weeks, I was able to create a demo that got everyone excited. I remember Mark Rigley telling me, “Wow, you don’t know what you’ve done!” That was pretty cool — eased the ‘new guy’ jitters for sure.

What is your biggest challenge right now? What keeps you up at night?
I’m usually thinking about how to solve the next problem — right now, it’s a feature for the technology concept car at CES. Creating scalable architectures is part of it, which is an interesting challenge when you’re leveraging a lot of very new technologies. Things don’t always work like it says on the back of the box.

What is your dream car?
Growing up, I always wanted a mini-van like my father. Now, with two kids, I’m afraid that wish might actually come true. I’ve driven the Porsche concept car – I’d like one of those. Please.

Anything particular you’re excited about right now?
The new concept car, of course! It’s beautiful, and it will be cool to see when it’s finished. Generally, though, I like the idea of a car pushing data to the cloud and the user being able to see that data in a meaningful way. For instance, by getting data gathered from other cars, the driver could see if there was a faster way to commute to work, and how long it would take. I think that’s not too far off.

Who would you like to see seated in a QNX technology concept car or reference vehicle?
I’d like to see my 15 month old in the passenger seat, but I don’t know what he’d do — play with the windows, maybe!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Open standards, open source, and why the difference matters

As Andy Gryc reported in a previous post, Paul Hansen of the Hansen Report asked six automakers whether they plan to ship products based on the GENIVI open source platform. Not one of them said yes.

This underwhelming response to open source may seem surprising, especially to people outside of the auto industry. It seems even more surprising when you consider the many companies that belong to the GENIVI Alliance — a veritable who’s who of high-tech and automotive companies, from ARM to IBM to Volvo. Why the disconnect?

A couple of reasons come to mind. First, the automotive market is exceedingly competitive. Asking automakers to collaborate on a common OS platform — the GENIVI approach — is arguably a non-starter. Also, many automakers seem to grasp that open source OSs don't necessarily address the issues that matter to them most.

Allow me to explain. Automotive companies entertain the option of using open source for several reasons. They want to avoid vendor lock-in. They want to leverage a large developer community. They want to access a rich toolset. And, in many cases, they hope to avoid the costs of runtime licensing.

Yes, open source can help address these requirements. But more often than not, open standards offer a better route to achieving what automakers really need.

Vendor neutral, OS neutral, hardware neutral
Take the goal of avoiding vendor lock-in. An open standard is, by definition, vendor neutral. It is typically the product of a collaborative and transparent process free of domination by a single company or interest group. Likewise, it isn’t controlled or maintained by a single, self-interested entity. HTML 5, for instance, isn’t owned by any one company, but is a standard embraced by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, QNX, and others.

HTML5 isn't just vendor neutral; it's also OS and hardware neutral. By using it as an HMI and application environment, automakers gain the freedom to choose the best OS platform for the job at hand, and the option to migrate across platforms, if required. In other words, HTML5 enables automakers to use the platform that can offer fastest boot speed, the highest reliability, the best mobile device integration, or the best performance on automotive silicon — things that can reduce costs and improve the user experience. (To put this another way, the underlying OS platform is anything but a commodity — a fact demonstrated every day in the mobile device world.)

An open source platform may or may not share these characteristics. Even though developers can access the source code, a single entity may still control the technology’s roadmap and licensing terms. In effect, the platform can constitute a single point of failure for the automaker — exactly what automakers try to avoid. Compare this to an open standard, which is defined collaboratively and then supported over a long period of time. POSIX, with its 20+ year history, comes to mind.

Also, open standards like HTML5 are unencumbered by the protective licensing terms often associated with open source OSs — terms that can lead to greater system costs and complexity. For instance, the GNU Public License (GPL) that governs use of the Linux OS ensures that any modifications to the original program are released as open source. That's a problem for any OEM that doesn’t want to “open source” its technology; for instance, vehicle bus information. It is also incompatible with the certifications and licenses of consumer device manufacturers whose licensing terms are designed to prevent integration of their code with GPL code bases; iPod support and integration is a good example. Such technologies must, as a result, be separated into another virtualized OS or onto external hardware modules. The result is a more expensive and more complex system — another thing that automakers try to avoid.

Delivering the goods
Of course, all this hinges on whether a standard like HTML5 can deliver the goods. And from my perspective, it does. For instance, it can provide all the capabilities of a traditional HMI toolkit, including a rendering engine, content authoring and packaging tools, and sophisticated graphic transitions. But unlike proprietary solutions, it can also help automakers:

  • tap into a vast pool of apps and developers
  • integrate with mobile devices
  • build user interfaces that incorporate virtually any delivery model
  • customize the UX and simplify access to mobile apps
  • customize apps and the UX for context: park, creep, drive, etc.

In addition, HTML5 can, with the right platform, work in concert with other HMI technologies (Adobe AIR, OpenGL ES, Qt, etc.) and blend seamlessly with those technologies on same display. As a result, system designers can choose the most appropriate technology for each application.

Incorporating open source
So is open source a total non-starter in automotive? Absolutely not.

In fact, many standards incorporate open source. Let us once again consider HTML 5. While it is built on an open standard, many HTML5 implementations are developed using open source solutions. For instance, many of the current, industry-leading HTML5 solutions are built on Webkit, an open source solution governed by the Lesser GNU Public License or LGPL.

The point is, the most successful solutions will combine the best that open standards, open source, and proprietary platforms have to offer. But if you were mandate an “open” solution, an open standard would be the best to rally behind.

If you're interested in this topic, we recommend you listen to the webinar that Andrew gave last week, "In-vehicle product differentiation: open standards vs open source." — Ed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

TI’s Jacinto 5 automotive processor selected for Audi's “MIB High” infotainment system

Well, it couldn't happen to a nicer technology partner. Yesterday, Texas Instruments announced that the QNX-based MIB High system, the next-generation infotainment platform for Audi vehicles, is the first automotive system to incorporate the TI Jacinto 5 automotive infotainment processor. According to the TI press release, the Jacinto 5 plays a key role in the system’s architecture, which consist of a multimedia applications unit and a highly integrated radio-and-car-control unit.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Jacinto 5, it’s an automotive-qualified multicore processor based on an ARM Cortex-A8 core. The processor integrates a variety of automotive peripherals and connectivity options.

QNX’s role in the MIB High was revealed in 2011, when announced that QNX Software Systems had been chosen to supply the system’s OS and multimedia engine. See my blog post on that announcement, where I explain why the architecture of MIB High is so cool.

And if you’d like to check out the MIB High first hand, may I suggest you take one of these for a test drive.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Meet Justin Moon, product manager turned concept designer

We recently met Mark and Jon from the QNX concept development team. This week we meet up with Justin Moon, who is on secondment from his product management job to the team behind the cars. Justin works on a variety of things, from concept design to realization to system architecture and a host of other things that change daily – which is exactly how he likes it.

Justin has been working with QNX concept cars from the very beginning, something you can tell right away when speaking with him. Couple his love of cars and tech with an atmosphere of fun, variety and exemplary teamwork and - well, they may have trouble getting him off secondment!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Have an auto question for QNX? Have it answered in a LIVE Twitter session

Have a question that you have been dying to ask us? Well here’s your chance. Leading up to CES 2013 we will hold a series of LIVE Twitter sessions with our automotive experts on topics from the connected car and beyond, and we want to hear from you! In January, we’re even going to give you the opportunity to ask about the new technology concept car that we’ll be unveiling at CES 2013 — more to come on that later.

Each session will have a specific topic and QNX automotive expert but the questions they answer will be up to you. We’re kicking things off on Wednesday,  December 12 at 1 pm ET with Andy Gryc, product marketing manager on the topic of the connected car landscape – past, present and future. In this session, Andy will look at what can be done today and what the future may bring for consumers and the connected car.

Additional topics and experts include:
  • Tuesday, December 18 at 1 pm ET: Andrew Poliak, director, business development, automotive - Automotive technology around the world - a look at the cars and technology features around the world.
  • Thursday, January 3 at 1 pm ET: Linda Campbell, director, strategic alliances - Whose technology is in my car? A look at the partner technologies and capabilities found in the cars of today and tomorrow.
  • Friday, January 18 at 1 pm ET: Mark Rigley, director of the concept development team answers questions about the new QNX technology concept car unveiled at CES 2013.

You can submit your questions now or day-of by sending a tweet to @QNX_Auto and using the hashtag #QNXLive. If your question is selected, we’ll be sure to give you a shout-out in addition to answering your question.

So get your questions ready and stay tuned to @QNX_Auto for our upcoming live Twitter sessions!

Oh, and in case you're wondering who I am and what I'm doing here .... I'm the social media marketing manager at QNX, and I look forward to seeing your questions - and hearing our experts' answers.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Volvo to ship self-driving cars in 2014

Yes, you read that right. According to an article published yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, the Swedish car maker has stated that, within two years, it will launch cars that can drive themselves at speeds of up to 31 miles per hour. It's all part of an ambitious plan to produce "accident free" vehicles by 2020.

I knew that some automakers were planning to roll out their first autonomous vehicles in the relatively near future. It seems that one automaker has decided to eliminate the "relatively".

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Who will foot the legal bill for your self-driving car?

If a self-driving car gets in an accident and hurts someone, who is at fault? This isn’t an academic question. Unless automakers get a consistent answer as to whom will be held accountable, and when, the era of autonomous vehicles may be off to a rocky start.

Ideally, automakers would like to see regulations set at the federal level: one set of rules for each entire country, rather than different rules for each province, state, county, or region. That may or may not happen. For instance, only a small number of states in the U.S. allow self-driving cars to be tested on their roadways, but already, the laws governing liability vary from state to state. (I assume that, in the European Union, such laws would be consistent from country to country — please comment if I assume incorrectly.)

This inconsistency is but one of the legal roadblocks to a self-driving future, according to a recent article published by For instance, the article also discusses how an automaker may be subject to liability claims if it simply designs a vehicle in a way that allows someone to install driverless technology.

Will all this put a stop to self-driving cars? Don’t count on it. People will inevitably demand cars with autonomous capabilities, if a recent survey is anything to go by. And automakers will get in the game if for no other reason than to stay competitive and attract customers (which, when you think of it, is the raison d’être of any business).

In fact, automakers may have little choice. According to Law360, some automakers have been subject to lawsuits because they didn’t install electronic stability control in their vehicles, a technology known to save thousands of lives annually. If some self-driving technologies can indeed reduce accidents, as research suggests, then automakers may, in effect, be forced to deploy them. And call me naïve, but I assume that governments could likewise be held accountable if they implement laws that slow the deployment of accident-reducing technology.

My take? It seems to be in everyone’s interest to make the self-driving car happen.

Read the full Law360 article here. Registration is required, but is fast and painless.