Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The ultimate show-me car

It's one thing to say you can do something. It's another thing to prove it. Which helps explain why we create technology concept cars.

You see, we like to tell people that flexibility and customization form the very DNA of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. Which they do. But in the automotive world, people don't just say "tell me"; they say "show me". And so, we used the platform to transform a Bentley Continental GT into a unique concept car, equipped with features never before seen in a vehicle.

Now here's the thing. This is the same QNX CAR Platform found in the QNX reference vehicle, which I discussed last week. But when you compare the infotainment systems in the two vehicles, the differences are dramatic: different features, different branding, different look-and-feel.

The explanation is simple: The reference vehicle shows what the QNX CAR Platform can do out of the box, while the Bentley demonstrates what the platform lets you do once you add your imagination to mix. One platform, many possibilities.

Enough talk; time to look at the car. And let's start with the exterior, because wow:

The awesome (and full HD) center stack
And now let's move to the interior, where the first thing you see is a gorgeous center stack. This immense touchscreen features a gracefully curved surface, full HD graphics, and TI’s optical touch input technology, which allows a physical control knob to be mounted directly on the screen — a feature that’s cool and useful. The center stack supports a variety of applications, including a 3D navigation system from Elektrobit that makes full use of the display:

At 17 inches, the display is big enough to display other functions, such as the car’s media player or virtual mechanic, and still have plenty of room for navigation:

The awesome (and very configurable) digital instrument cluster
The instrument cluster is implemented entirely in software, though you would hardly know it — the virtual gauges are impressively realistic. More impressive still is the cluster’s ability to morph itself on the fly. Put the car in Drive, and the cluster will display a tach, gas gauge, temperature gauge, and turn-by-turn directions — the cluster pulls these directions from the center stack’s navigation system. Put the car in Reverse, and the cluster will display a video feed from the car’s backup camera. You can also have the cluster display the current weather and current sound track:

The awesome (and just plain fun) web app
The web app works with any web browser and allows the driver to view data that the car publishes to the cloud, such as fluid levels, tire pressure, brake wear, and the current track being played by the infotainment system. It even allows the driver to remotely start or stop the engine, open or close windows, and so on:

The awesome (and nicely integrated) smartphone support
The Bentley also showcases how the QNX CAR Platform enables advanced integration with popular smartphones. For instance, the car can communicate with a smartphone to stream music, or to provide notifications of incoming email, news feeds, and other real-time information — all displayed in a manner appropriate to the automotive context. Here's an example:

The awesome everything else
I’ve only scratched the surface of what the car can do. For instance, it also provides:

  • Advanced voice rec — Just say “Hello Bentley,” and the car’s voice recognition system immediately comes to life and begins to interact with you — in a British accent, of course.
  • Advanced multimedia system — Includes support for Internet radio.
  • Video conferencing with realistic telepresence — Separate cameras for the driver and passenger provide independent video streams, while fullband voice technology from QNX offers expanded bandwidth for greater telepresence.
  • LTE connectivity — The car features an LTE radio modem, as well as a Wi-Fi hotspot for devices you bring into the car.

Moving pictures
Okay, time for some video. Here's a fun look at the making of the car:

And here's a run-through of the car's many capabilities, filmed by our friends at TI during 2013 CES:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is this the most jazzed-up Jeep ever to hit CES?

The fourth installment in the CES Cars of Fame series. Our inductee for this week: a Jeep that gets personal.

Paul Leroux
It might not be as hip as the Prius or as fast as the Porsche. But it's fun, practical, and flexible. Better yet, you can drive it just about anywhere. Which makes it the perfect vehicle to demonstrate the latest features of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

It's called the QNX reference vehicle, and it's been to CES in Las Vegas, as well as to Detroit, New York City, and lots of places in between. It's our go-to vehicle for whenever we want to hit the road and showcase our latest infotainment technology. It even made a guest appearance at IBM's recent Information On Demand 2013 Big Data conference, where it demonstrated the power of connecting cars to the cloud.

The reference vehicle, which is based on a Jeep Wrangler, serves a different purpose than our technology concept cars. Those vehicles take the QNX CAR Platform as a starting point to demonstrate how the platform can help automakers hit new levels of innovation. The reference vehicle plays a more modest, but equally important, role: to show what our the platform can do out of the box.

For instance, we updated the Jeep recently to show how version 2.1 of the QNX CAR Platform will allow developers to blend a variety of application and HMI technologies on the same display. In this case, the Jeep's head unit is running a mix of native, HTML5, and Android apps on an HMI built with the Qt application framework:

Getting personal
We also use the Jeep to demonstrate the platform's support for customization and personalization. For instance, here is the first demonstration instrument cluster we created specifically for the Jeep:

And here's a more recent version:

These clusters may look very different, but they share the same underlying features, such as the ability to display turn-by-turn directions, weather updates, and other information provided by the head unit.

Keeping with the theme of personalization, the Jeep also demonstrates how the QNX CAR Platform allows developers to create re-skinnable HMIs. Here, for example, is a radio app in one skin:

And here's the same app in a different skin:

This re-skinnability isn't just cool; it also demonstrates how the QNX CAR Platform can help automotive developers create a single underlying code base and re-use it across multiple vehicle lines. Good, that.

Getting complementary
The Jeep is also the perfect vehicle to showcase the ecosystem of complementary apps and services integrated with the QNX CAR Platform, such as the (very cool) street director navigation system from Elektrobit:

To return to the question, is this really the most jazzed-up Jeep to hit CES? Well, it will be making a return trip to CES in just a few weeks, with a whole new software build. So if you're in town, drop by and let us know what you think.

Klocwork joins QNX automotive safety ecosystem

Paul Leroux
This just in: Klocwork, a leader in development tools for creating secure software, has become an ecosystem partner for the QNX Automotive Safety Program for ISO 26262.

Klocwork joins a roster of companies, including Elektrobit, Freescale, NVIDIA, and TI, who already support the program, which is designed to help automotive companies build digital instrument clusters, ADAS systems, and other products with functional safety requirements.

Klocwork offers Insight, a source code analysis tool recently certified to the ISO 26262 and IEC 61508 functional safety standards. Insight plugs directly into the QNX Momentics Tool Suite, allowing developers to detect security and safety vulnerabilities on the fly, and to ensure their code meets functional safety standards.

"Klocwork Insight provides real-time feedback during code development, immediately alerting developers to code that may conflict with the MISRA C/C++ coding standards required by ISO 26262," said Grant Courville, director of product management at QNX. "Better yet, Insight plugs into our IDE to provide a seamless and productive development experience."

The QNX Automotive Safety Program for ISO 26262 was created to help automotive companies building functional safety products to leverage QNX Software Systems’ proven competency in certifications, safety-critical systems, and automotive software design. Key elements of the program include an example safety case based on the QNX Neutrino RTOS Safe Kernel, guidelines on safety-critical design for real-time OS-based systems, a suite of professional services, and an ecosystem of supporting vendors who offer complementary hardware, tool chains, graphics technologies, and consulting services for safety critical systems.

Read the press release.

Monday, December 9, 2013

So many cores — what to do with them all?

Multi-core processors are clearly becoming the mainstream for automotive infotainment systems. TI’s OMAP processors and their automotive derivatives use dual A15 cores, Freescale's i.MX 6 boasts up to four A9 cores, and other companies also have multi-core architectures in production or on near-term roadmaps. Quad-core A15 processors are just around the corner. As a percentage of overall die area, the CPU core is relatively small, so SoC producers can lay down multiple cores with little impact on cost. GPUs, on the other hand, represent a large percentage of the die area and, as such, are typically instantiated only once per SoC.

Realistically, infotainment systems should no longer be CPU bound. In fact, when looking at leading-edge SoCs available today, many are asking what to do with all that extra CPU just sitting there, waiting to do something. At first blush, the more obvious areas to merge are infotainment and ADAS, or infotainment and digital instrument clusters. This is, at the highest level, pretty much a no-brainer so long as the safety requirements mandated for clusters and ADAS can be achieved.

Thing is, automotive safety standards like ISO 26262 require system-level certifications. As such, the entire system needs to be certified. Already a daunting task for a standalone ADAS system or digital instrument cluster, the problem can become unmanageable when you include the full infotainment stack.

Think about your car. Your cluster does a handful of operations whereas your infotainment system runs a full navigation system, voice recognition, multimedia, device connectivity, and, in the connected case, cloud services. People don't get frustrated trying to figure out how your cluster works (I hope), and they don't give up trying to figure out how fast the car is moving. The same cannot be said for many infotainment systems shipping today. Ask your mother to pair her cell phone to her car. I dare you! The complexity involved in attempting to certify a system that combines infotainment and cluster functions is orders of magnitude higher than certifying a cluster alone.

All is not lost, however. Virtualization offers an elegant way to isolate multiple systems running on a single multi-core SoC. By using virtualization you could seek certification on the cluster without burdening yourself with the infotainment problem and collapse two formerly discrete systems onto one SoC. You would save money and probably get a promotion to boot. Just one thing: there is still only one GPU on the die and both the infotainment system and the cluster rely heavily on that single GPU.

Enter Red Bend Software, a long-time QNX CAR Platform partner for FOTA. They have taken the challenge of virtualizing the GPU head-on and successfully demonstrated the QNX CAR Platform and a Crank Software-based digital instrument cluster running on dual displays driven by a single OMAP 5 at Telematics Munich. I saw it and was impressed with how snappy performance was on the infotainment side and how smooth the needles were (60+ fps) on the cluster.

Using virtualization to drive dual displays from a single TI OMAP 5 processor.

According to Red Bend, they have designed a GPU-sharing architecture that enables multiple guest operating systems to access hardware accelerators, including the GPU, providing isolation between the operating systems while having a minimal impact on overall performance (which probably isn't a huge deal considering how many CPU cores are going to be shipping on a single SoC in the near term). It sounds impressive, but seeing is believing.

Red Bend will next show this demo in the TI Suite at CES (N115 in the North Hall). If system consolidation is something that keeps you up at night, you should really stop by to see what they have done.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Porsche you could talk to

Paul Leroux
I have a confession to make. The day before QNX Software Systems unveiled this technology concept at car at 2012 CES, I leaked the news on the On Q blog. Mind you, the leak was unintentional. I had been editing a post that described the car and, instead of hitting Save, I hit Publish by mistake. Dumb, I know.

I immediately took down the post and informed my colleagues of the error. Fortunately, my RSS feed didn't give me away, and the launch, which had been strictly under wraps, went ahead as planned. But boy, did I feel stupid.

Now that I've got that off my chest, let's see what the hubbub was about. The car, based on a Porsche 911 Carrera, came equipped with an array of features built by the QNX concept team, including one-touch smartphone pairing, high-definition hands-free calls, rear-seat entertainment, and a digital instrument cluster.

So, you ready for a tour?

The car
Let's start with the exterior. Because man, what an exterior:

The instrument cluster
Once you got behind the wheel, the first thing you saw was the instrument cluster. But
this was no ordinary cluster. It could dynamically reconfigure itself — in response to voice commands, no less. It could even communicate with the navigation system to display turn-by-turn directions. And it was designed to honor the look-and-feel of the stock 911 cluster:

The head unit
To your right, you could see the head unit. Here is the unit's main screen, from which you could access all of the system's key functions:

And here's another screen, showing the system's media player:

The front-seat control of backseat infotainment
The Porsche also showcased how a head unit could offer front-seat control of backseat entertainment — perfect for when you need to control what your kids are watching or listening to:

The voice recognition
The Porsche was outfitted with cloud-based voice recognition, which let you enter navigation destinations naturally, without having to use artificial grammars. Check out this Engadget clip, taken at an AT&T event in New York City:

The car also included features that neither words nor pictures can capture adequately. But let me try, anyway:

One-touch Bluetooth pairing — Allowed you to pair a phone to the car simply by touching the phone to an NFC reader embedded in the center console; no complicated menus to wade through.

Text-to-speech integration — Could read aloud incoming emails, text messages, and BBM messages.

High-definition voice technology — Used 48KHz full stereo bandwidth for clear, high-fidelity hands-free calls.

The car also ran a variety of apps, including TCS hybrid navigation, Vlingo voice-to-text, Poynt virtual assistant, Weather Network, and streaming Internet radio from Pandora, Nobex, Slacker, and TuneIn.

The point
The point of this car wasn't simply to be cool, but to demonstrate what's possible in next-gen infotainment systems. More specifically, it was designed to showcase the capabilities of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. In fact, it did such a good job on that count that the platform took home the 2012 CES Best of Show award, in the car tech category:

Monday, December 2, 2013

Cyber security and connected cars

What does cyber security mean, what does it affect, why is it becoming critical, and what can you do about it? Those were some of the questions I addressed in a recent webcast on automotive cyber security, hosted by SAE International. I represented the software side of things and was accompanied by my hardware colleagues Richard Soja and Jeffrey Kelley, who work at Freescale and Infineon respectively.

I’ve hosted webinars on a variety of automotive and embedded software topics, but none with such an impressive range of participants. We had people from government organizations of several countries, not to mention automakers, tier 1 and tier 2 auto suppliers, telematics companies, mobile developers, concerned individuals, and even utility companies. And the range of questions and comments was equally diverse — from specific insights about elliptical encryption to sweeping “how does this affect society” musings.

My key takeaway: QNX isn’t alone in its concern for automotive cyber security. We have years of experience in building secure trusted systems and we’re excited to help customers build tomorrow’s secure cars. Nice thing is, the rest of the world is starting to get on board as well.

If you're interested, you can download the archived version of the webinar.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More QNX-powered cars and infotainment systems from 2011 CES

The second installment in our CES Cars of Fame series. Today, we look at several systems from the 2011 CES event, starting with this week's inductee, a BMW Z4.

Paul Leroux
I've led you astray — sort of. Last week I stated that the LTE Connected Car, the first QNX-powered technology concept car, appeared at 2011 CES. But I didn't mention that QNX technology was at the core of several other innovative vehicles and infotainment systems at CES that year.

So let me set the record straight. And the best place to start is the QNX booth at 2011 CES, where a BMW Z4 roadster was the front-and-center attraction.

BMW Z4 Roadster with ConnectedDrive
The Z4 wasn't a technology concept car, but a true production car straight off the dealer lot. It was equipped with the QNX-based BMW ConnectedDrive system, which offers real-time traffic information, automatic emergency calling, and a text-to-speech feature that can read aloud emails, appointments, text messages, and other information from Bluetooth smartphones. It's a cool system right at home in this equally cool cockpit:

Heck, the whole car was cool, from the wheels up:

Audi A8 with Google Earth
Mind you, the coolness didn't stop at the QNX booth. Just down the hall, Audi showcased an A8 sedan equipped with the QNX-based 3G MMI infotainment system, featuring Google Earth. This same model drove home with the 2011 Edmunds Breakthrough Technology award a short while later.

I don't have any photos of the Audi from the CES show floor, but if you head over to the On Q blog, you can see some snaps from an automotive event that QNX hosted in Stuttgart two months earlier. The photos highlight the A8's innovative touchpad, which lets you input destination names by tracing them with your finger.

Toyota Entune infotainment system
And now to another award-winning QNX-based system. Toyota Entune embraces a simple, yet hard-to-achieve concept: help drivers interact with mobile content and applications in a non-distracting, handsfree fashion. For instance, if you are searching for a nearby restaurant, Entune lets you ask for it in a conversational fashion; no need for specific voice commands.

You could tell the judges for the CNET Best of CES awards were impressed, because they awarded Entune first prize, in the Car Tech category — the first of three QNX-powered systems to do. QNX Software Systems went on to win in 2011 for its QNX CAR Platform and then Chevy won in 2012 for its MyLink system. Not too shabby.

A cluster of clusters
We've looked at just three of the many QNX-based automotive systems showcased at 2011 CES. For instance, QNX also demonstrated digital instrument clusters built by Visteon for the Land Rover Range Rover and for the Jaguar XJ sedan, below:

Freescale, NVIDIA, TeleNav, and Texas Instruments also got into the act, demonstrating QNX systems in their booths and meeting areas.

Do you have any memories of 2011 CES? I'd love to hear them.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Telematics China — closing out the year with a get-together in Shanghai

Guest post by Peter McCarthy of the QNX global partnerships team

Peter McCarthy
Is it November already? Time flies when you’re busy. And on the subject of flying, I’ll soon be on a plane to Shanghai, where our friends at Telematics China are hosting what promises to be a great automotive event from December 4 to 6. The organizers have been instrumental in bringing together companies in the industry and a great support to QNX with our own automotive events.

Back in August, QNX held an automotive summit in Shanghai. The success of this event owed a lot to partners like AutoNavi, a leader in the Chinese navigation market that is bringing its digital map content and navigation software to the QNX CAR Platform. The AutoNavi folks delivered a great presentation on the future of in-vehicle services and navigation, and I am sure we will continue these discussions when we meet at the Telematics China event.

When I scroll through the list of sponsors, exhibitors, and presenters at Telematics China, I know for sure my days and nights will be busy — but more importantly, filled with conversations with all the right people. So if you’re attending the event, please reach out to your QNX contacts and make time to meet. We look forward to seeing you there.

About Peter
When he isn't talking on oversized mobile phones, Peter McCarthy serves as director of global partnerships at QNX Software Systems, where he is responsible for establishing and fostering partnerships with technology and services companies in all of the company's target industries.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The first-ever QNX technology concept car to hit CES

Paul Leroux
I bet you thought it was the Porsche. Or perhaps even the Bentley. But no, the first QNX-powered technology concept car to appear at CES was a digitally modded Prius — aka the LTE Connected Car. In fact, the car appeared at two CES shows: 2010 and 2011.

If you've never heard of the LTE Connected Car, it was a joint project of several companies, including QNX Software Systems and Alcatel-Lucent. The project members wanted to demonstrate how 4G/LTE networks could transform the driving experience and enable a host of new in-vehicle applications. This kind of thinking of may seem like old hat today, but when the car was created, telecom companies had yet to light up their first commercial LTE towers. The car was definitely ahead of its time.

One of the four infotainment
systems in the LTE Connected Car
Almost everyone saw the entertainment potential of equipping a car with a 4G/LTE broadband connection — the ability to access your favorite music, applications, videos, or social media while on the road had immediate appeal. But many people also saw the other value proposition this car presented: the ability for vehicles to continuously upload information they have gathered about themselves or surrounding road conditions, providing, in the words of WIRED's Eliot Van Buskirk, "a crowd-sourced version of what traffic helicopters do today." Awesome quote, that.

QNX provided the software foundation for the LTE Connected Car, including the OS, touchscreen user interfaces, media players for YouTube and Pandora, navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, games, and handsfree integration. But why am I blabbing on about this when I could show you? Cue the screen captures...

Google local search
First up is Google local search, which displayed local points of interest to help drivers and passengers find nearby restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, ATMs, hospitals, and so on. And because this was an LTE-enabled car, the system could fetch these POIs from a cloud-based database:

Pandora Internet radio
For those who prefer to listen to what they like, and nothing else, the car also came with a Pandora app:

Home monitoring and control
Are you the kind of person who forgets to engage the burglar alarm before going to work? If so, the car's home automation app was just the ticket. It could let you manage home systems, such as lights and thermostats, from any of the car’s touchscreens — you could even view a live video feed from home security cameras:

Vehicle diagnostics
Now this is my favorite part. If you look below, you'll see the car's main screen for accessing vehicle diagnostics. At the upper right is the virtual mechanic app, which retrieved OBD-II codes from the vehicle bus to display the status of your brakes, tires, power train, electrical systems, fluids, and so on. (The current QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment includes an updated version of this app.)

Low oil pressure... yikes!
The virtual mechanic wouldn't fix your car for you. But it could tell you when things were going south and help you take appropriate action — before the problem escalated. In this case, it's saying that the engine oil pressure is low:

What to do? Well, if you were mechanically challenged, you could tap the fuel pump icon at the bottom of the screen to display a map of local service stations. Or you could tap on the dealership icon (Toyota, in this case) and find directions to the nearest, well, dealership:

The virtual mechanic would also let you zoom in on specific systems. For instance, in the following screen, the user has tapped the brake fluid button to learn the location of the brake fluid reservoir:

On the subject of zooming, let's zoom out for a second to see the entire car:

Moving pictures
Screen captures and photos can say only so much. For the back story on the LTE Connected Car, check out this video, which digs into the "philosophy" of the car and what the project members were working to accomplish:

An LTE Connected Car reader

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CES Cars of Fame

It’s that time of year again — and we’re not just talking about turkeys and Christmas trees. CES 2014 is right around the corner and QNX Software Systems will again be at the show, ready to unveil a new technology concept car.

For the past couple of years, we’ve driven into CES with cars that explore the future of automotive technology. Each car represents an important part of QNX history and because of this, we're excited to launch CES Cars of Fame. Each week, we’ll highlight a car on our blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page that we have showcased at CES. We’ll look at what made these cars so special and at the response they generated in the media and auto industry. And you get to participate, too: at the end of the series, you can vote for your favorite car!

We’re kicking things off on Tuesday, November 19. So stay tuned to this space and to @QNX_Auto on Twitter and to the QNX Software Systems Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 10 lessons learned from more than a decade in automotive

Guest post by John Wall, vice president of QNX engineering and services

Ten years ago, software accounted for about 20 to 30 percent of the effort that went into an infotainment system. Today, some would argue that it’s upwards of 90 percent. This makes sense if you ask yourself, “Where are all the red, burning issues?” They’re not on hardware, they’re on software. “Where is all the money being spent?” Software.

A big challenge in today’s automotive industry is acquiring the knowledge and experience to manage the complexity, cost, and risk of this dramatic change.

We at QNX have had the good fortune to work closely with tier one suppliers and their OEM customers since 1999. We've had their development teams live with us for months at a time — sometimes years. And we've lived with them, working as integrated teams. The end result is our customers have learned a lot about the value we offer and we have learned a great deal about addressing their requirements.

Drawing from this experience, here are my ten biggest takeaways:

1. Commitment
Not delivering is not acceptable. You get only one chance, and there’s no margin for failure. If development of an infotainment system fails meet start-of-production deadlines, the car has to ship with a hole in the dash — or not at all. And if the system performs poorly, the OEM may end up having to use it. But you can be sure that the supplier won’t be invited back.

2. Trust
Trust is a huge part of the business. People need to trust that you will do what you say and that their car line is going to ship. They need to know that you take their business seriously.

3. Realism
You need to be realistic. It isn’t worth being too optimistic. In fact, you’ll do damage with overly optimistic dates that you don’t hit.

4. Investment
There’s a ‘show me’ attitude in automotive. You have to be prepared to invest up front. We know a lot of tier ones that are building prototypes on their own dime. This is especially true if you’re courting a new customer; you’ve got to put skin in the game.

5. Reputation
It’s a small world — another important lesson. The auto industry is a tight-knit community. People move around a lot. It’s not unusual to go to a tier one supplier and see people you met six months earlier at their competitor’s. So maintaining your reputation is very important; it follows you everywhere.

6. Reliability
You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to repeatedly and consistently help customers successfully cross the finish line.

7. Honesty
You have to be honest. Often, a customer will say, “I want X” and you have to say, “Well, you can’t have X”. And you have to provide a good explanation why.

8. Relevancy
Ultimately it’s the market that decides. You can have champions within a customer's organization — even the guy who makes all the decisions — but ultimately the company has to build what consumers want. They’re a business; they will go with what sells. Your job is to anticipate market demands and offer products that are relevant to the consumer.

9. Flexibility
The market is evolving — quickly. Customers have to track moving targets, like integration with the newest smartphone models, and still get a reliable product out on time. Your products and services must give them the flexibility and adaptability they need.

10. Passion
If you don’t have it, you don’t belong in this market. Automotive is complex, it’s fast moving, and it’s too deep for anyone who thinks they can simply test the waters. Succeeding in automotive demands a phenomenal level of discipline and commitment. But if you love it, the rewards are worth it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

RealVNC, QNX team up for mobile-to-vehicle connectivity

Paul Leroux
This just in: QNX and RealVNC have announced that they are collaborating to bring RealVNC’s implementation of the MirrorLink smartphone-to-vehicle connectivity standard to the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

With RealVNC’s MirrorLink-certified SDK integrated in the QNX CAR Platform, QNX can offer a variety of connectivity features for integrating cars and smartphones through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB.

“We are delighted to work with QNX on integrating VNC Automotive into the QNX CAR Platform... many tier 1 and auto OEM customers are already using the proven combination of RealVNC and QNX technologies in production programs,” said Tom Blackie, VP Mobile RealVNC.

Read the full press on the QNX website.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's the word on HTML5?

Ten videos on HTML5 in the car. Actually, there are only nine — but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Paul Leroux
Has it been two years already? In November 2011, a group of my QNX colleagues, including Andy Gryc, launched a video series on using HTML5 in the car. They realized that HTML5 holds enormous potential for automotive infotainment, from reducing industry fragmentation to helping head units keep pace with the blistering rate of change in the mobile industry. They also realized it was important to get the word out — to help people understand that the power of HTML5 extends far beyond the ability to create web pages. And so, they invited a variety of thought leaders and industry experts with HTML5 experience to stand in front of the camera and share their stories.

All of which to say, if you're interested in the future of HTML5 in the car, and in what thought leaders from companies such as OnStar, Audi, Gartner, Pandora, TCS, and QNX have to say about it, you've come to the right place. So let's get started, shall we?

Interview with Steve Schwinke of OnStar
Andy Gryc catches up with Steve Schwinke, director of advanced technology for OnStar, who is bullish on the both the short- and long-term benefits of HTML5:

Interview with Mathias Haliger of Audi
Derek Kuhn of QNX sits down with Mathias Haliger, head of MMI system architecture at Audi AG, who discusses the importance of HTML5 to his company and to the industry at large:

The analyst perspective: Thilo Koslowski of Gartner
Andy gets together with Thilo Koslowski, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, to discuss the notion of controlled openness for the car — and how HTML5 fits into the picture:

Interview with Tom Conrad of Pandora
Andy meets up with Tom Conrad, CTO at Pandora, to get his take on the benefits of standardizing on HTML5 across markets:

Interview with Michael Camp of TCS
Andy Gryc sits down with Michael Camp, director of engineering for in-car telematics at TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), to get a software supplier's perspective on HTML5:

Interview with Matthew Staikos
Andy talks with Matthew Staikos, former web-technology manager at BlackBerry, about the impact of HTML5 on hardware options, memory usage, and app stores:

The myth buster interview
Andy and Kerry Johnson get together to discuss how HTML5 apps can deliver snappy performance, run without a Web browser, and even work without an Internet connection:

Interview with Sheridan Ethier
Andy drops in on Sheridan Ethier, manager of the QNX CAR Platform development team, to get a developer's perspective on HTML5:

Kickoff video
And last but not least, here is the video that started it all. Andy Gryc gives his take on why he believes HTML5 is destined to become the foundation for next-gen automotive apps:

Blooper video
Did I say last but not least? Sorry, I have one more video that you just have to see:

Monday, November 4, 2013

What happens when autonomous becomes ubiquitous?

Seventeen ways in which the self-driving car will transform how we live.

Let’s speculate that at least 25% of cars on the road are autonomous — and that those cars are sufficiently advanced to operate without a human driver. Let’s also assume that the legal issues have been sorted out somehow.

How would this impact society?

  • The elderly could maintain their independence. Even if they have lost the ability to drive, they could still get groceries, go to appointments, visit family and friends, or just go for a drive.
  • Cars could chauffer intoxicated folks safely home — no more drunk drivers.
  • Municipalities could get rid of buses and trains, and replace them with fleets of vehicles that would pick people up and drop them off exactly where they want to go. Mass transit would become individual transit.
  • Car sharing would become more popular, as the cost could be spread among multiple people. Friends, family members, or neighbors could chip in to own a single car, reducing pollution as well as costs. The cars would shuffle themselves to where they are needed, depending on everyone’s individual needs.
  • Fewer vehicles would be produced, but they would be more expensive. This could drive some smaller automakers out of business or force more industry consolidation.
  • Cities could get rid of most parking lots and garages, freeing up valuable real estate for homes, businesses, or parks.
  • Taxi companies would either go out of business or convert over to autonomous piloted vehicles. Each taxi could be equipped with anti-theft measures, alerting police if, say, the taxi detects it is being boarded onto a truck.
  • We could have fewer roads with higher capacities. Self-directed cars would be better equipped to negotiate inter-vehicle space, being more “polite” to other vehicles; they would also enable greater traffic density.
  • Instead of creating traffic jams, heavy traffic would maintain a steady pace, since the vehicles would operate as a single platoon.
  • Autonomous cars could completely avoid roads under construction and scatter themselves evenly throughout the surrounding route corridors to minimize the impact on detour routes.
  • There would be no more hunting for parking spots downtown. Instead, people could tell their cars to go find a nearby parking spot and use their smartphones to summon the cars back once they’re ready to leave.
  • Concerts or sporting events would operate more smoothly, as cars could coordinate where they’re parking. The flow of vehicles exiting from events would be more like a ballet than a mosh pit.
  • Kids growing up with autonomous cars would enjoy a new level of independence. They could get to soccer games without needing mom or dad to drive them. Parents could program the car to drive the children to fixed destinations: sports game and home.
  • School buses could become a thing of the past. School boards could manage fleets of cars that would pick up the children as needed by geographic grouping.
  • You could send your car out for errands, and companies would spring up to cater to “driverless” cars. For example, you could set up your grocery list online and send your car to pick them up; a clerk would fill your car with your groceries when it shows up at the supermarket.
  • Rental car companies could start offering cars that come to you when you need them. Renting cars may become more popular than owning them, since people who drive infrequently could pay by the ride, as opposed to paying the capital cost of owning a vehicle.
  • Cars would become like living rooms and people would enjoy the ride like never before — reading, conversing, exercising, watching TV. Some people may even give up their home to adopt a completely mobile existence.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

My top moments of 2013 — so far

Paul Leroux
Yes, I know, 2013 isn’t over yet. But it’s been such a milestone year for our automotive business that I can’t wait another two months to talk about it. And besides, you’ll be busy as an elf at the end of December, visiting family and friends, skiing the Rockies, or buying exercise equipment to compensate for all those holiday carbs. Which means if I wait, you’ll never get to read this. So let’s get started.

We unveil a totally new (and totally cool) technology concept car
Times Square. We were there.
It all began at 2013 CES, when we took the wraps off the latest QNX technology concept car — a one-of-a-kind Bentley Continental GT. The QNX concept team outfitted the Bentley with an array of technologies, including a high-definition DLP display, a 3D rear-view camera, cloud-based voice recognition, smartphone connectivity, and… oh heck, just read the blog post to get the full skinny.

Even if you weren’t at CES, you could still see the car in action. Brian Cooley of CNET, Michael Guillory of Texas Instruments, the folks at Elektrobit, and Discovery Canada’s Daily Planet were just some of the individuals and organizations who posted videos. You could also connect to the car through a nifty web app. Heck, you could even see the Bentley’s dash on the big screen in Times Square, thanks to the promotional efforts of Elektrobit, who also created the 3D navigation software for the concept car.

We ship the platform
We wanted to drive into CES with all cylinders firing, so we also released version 2.0 of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. In fact, several customers in the U.S., Germany, Japan, and China had already started to use the platform, through participation in an early access program. Which brings me to the next milestone...

Delphi boards the platform
The first of many.
Also at CES, Delphi, a global automotive supplier and long-time QNX customer, announced that version 2.0 of the QNX CAR Platform will form the basis of its next-generation infotainment systems. As it turned out, this was just one of several QNX CAR customer announcements in 2013 — but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We have the good fortune to be featured in Fortune
Fast forward to April, when Fortune magazine took a look at how QNX Software Systems evolved from its roots in the early 1980s to become a major automotive player. Bad news: you need a subscription to read the article on the Fortune website. Good news: you can read the same article for free on CNN Money. ;-)

A music platform sets the tone for our platform
In April, 7digital, a digital music provider, announced that it will integrate its 23+ million track catalogue with the QNX CAR Platform. It didn't take long for several other partners to announce their platform support. These include Renesas (R-Car system-on-chip for high-performance infotainment), AutoNavi (mobile navigation technology for the Chinese market), Kotei (navigation engine for the Japanese market), and Digia (Qt application framework).

We stay focused on distraction
Back in early 2011, Scott Pennock of QNX was selected to chair an ITU-T focus group on driver distraction. The group’s objective was serious and its work was complex, but its ultimate goal was simple: to help reduce collisions. This year, the group wrapped up its work and published several reports — but really, this is only the beginning of QNX and ITU-T efforts in this area.

We help develop a new standard
Goodbye fragmentation; hello
standard APIs.
Industry fragmentation sucks. It means everyone is busy reinventing the wheel when they could be inventing something new instead. So I was delighted to see my colleague Andy Gryc become co-chair of the W3C Automotive and Web Platform Business Group, which has the mandate to accelerate the adoption of web technologies in the car. Currently, the group is working to draft a standard set of JavaScript APIs for accessing vehicle data information. Fragmentation, thy days are numbered.

We launch an auto safety program
A two-handed approach to
helping ADAS developers.
On the one hand, we have a 30-year history in safety-critical systems and proven competency in safety certifications. On the other hand, we have deep experience in automotive software design. So why not join both hands together and allow auto companies to leverage our full expertise when they are building digital instrument clusters, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), and other in-car systems with safety requirements?

That’s the question we asked ourselves, and the answer was the new QNX Automotive Safety Program for ISO 26262. The program quickly drew support from several industry players, including Elektrobit, Freescale, NVIDIA, and Texas Instruments.

We jive up the Jeep
A tasty mix of HTML5 & Android
apps, served on a Qt interface,
with OpenGL ES on the side.
If you don’t already know, we use a Jeep Wrangler as our reference vehicle — basically, a demo vehicle outfitted with a stock version of the QNX CAR Platform. This summer, we got to trick out the Jeep with a new, upcoming version of the platform, which adds support for Android apps and for user interfaces based on the Qt 5 framework.

Did I mention? The platform runs Android apps in a separate application container, much like it handles HTML5 apps. This sandboxed approach keeps the app environment cleanly partitioned from the UI, protecting both the UI and the overall system from unpredictable web content. Good, that.

The commonwealth’s leader honors our leader
I only ate one piece. Honest.
Okay, this one has nothing to do with automotive, but I couldn’t resist. Dan Dodge, our CEO and co-founder, received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his many achievements and contributions to Canadian society. To celebrate, we gave Dan a surprise party, complete with the obligatory cake. (In case you’re wondering, the cake was yummy. But any rumors suggesting that I went back for a second, third, and fourth piece are total fabrications. Honestly, the stories people cook up.)

Mind you, Dan wasn’t the only one to garner praise. Sheridan Ethier, the manager of the QNX CAR development team, was also honored — not by the queen, but by the Ottawa Business Journal for his technical achievements, business leadership, and community involvement.

Chevy MyLink drives home with first prize — twice
There's nothing better than going home with first prize. Except, perhaps, doing it twice. In January, the QNX-based Chevy MyLink system earned a Best of CES 2013 Award, in the car tech category. And in May, it pulled another coup: first place in the "Automotive, LBS, Navigation & Safe Driving" category of the 2013 CTIA Emerging Technology (E-Tech) Awards.

Panasonic, Garmin, and Foryou get with the platform
Garmin K2 platform: because
one great platform deserves
August was crazy busy — and crazy good. Within the space of two weeks, three big names in the global auto industry revealed that they’re using the QNX CAR Platform for their next-gen systems. Up first was Panasonic, who will use the platform to build systems for automakers in North America, Europe, and Japan. Next was Foryou, who will create infotainment systems for automakers in China. And last was Garmin, who are using the platform in the new Garmin K2, the company’s infotainment solution for automotive OEMs.

And if all that wasn’t cool enough…

Mercedes-Benz showcases the platform
Did I mention I want one?
When Mercedes-Benz decides to wow the crowds at the Frankfurt Motor Show, it doesn’t settle for second best. Which is why, in my not so humble opinion, they chose the QNX CAR Platform for the oh-so-desirable Mercedes-Benz Concept S-Class Coup√©.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time QNX and Mercedes-Benz have joined forces. In fact, the QNX auto team and Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America have collaborated since the early 2000s. Moreover, QNX has supplied the OS for a variety of Mercedes infotainment systems. The infotainment system and digital cluster in the Concept S-Class Coup√© are the latest — and arguably coolest — products of this long collaboration.

We create noise to eliminate noise
Taking a sound approach to
creating a quieter ride.
Confused yet? Don’t be. You see, it’s quite simple. Automakers today are using techniques like variable cylinder management, which cut fuel consumption (good), but also increase engine noise (bad). Until now, car companies have been using active noise control systems, which play “anti-noise” to cancel out the unwanted engine sounds. All fine and good, but these systems require dedicated hardware — and that makes them expensive. So we devised a software product, QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control, that not only out-performs conventional solutions, but can run on the car’s existing audio or infotainment hardware. Goodbye dedicated hardware, hello cost savings.

And we flub our lines on occasion
Our HTML5 video series has given companies like Audi, OnStar, Gartner, TCS, and Pandora a public forum to discuss why HTML5 and other open standards are key to the future of the connected car. The videos are filled with erudite conversation, but every now and then, it becomes obvious that sounding smart in front of a camera is a little harder than it looks. So what did we do with the embarrassing bits? Create a blooper reel, of course.

Are these bloopers our greatest moments? Nope. Are they among the funniest? Oh yeah. :-)