Monday, June 30, 2014

A matter of urgency: preparing for ISO 26262 certification

Yoshiki Chubachi
Yoshiki Chubachi
Guest post by Yoshiki Chubachi, automotive business development manager for QNX Software Systems, Japan

Two weeks ago in Tokyo, QNX Software Systems sponsored an ISO 26262 seminar hosted by IT Media MONOist, a Japanese information portal for engineers. This was the fourth MONOist seminar to focus on the ISO 26262 functional safety standard, and the theme of the event conveyed an unmistakable sense of urgency: “You can’t to afford to wait any longer: how you should prepare for ISO 26262 certification”.

In his opening remarks, Mr. Pak, a representative of MONOist, noted that the number of attendees for this event increases every year. And, as the theme suggests, many engineers in the automotive community feel a strong need to get ready for ISO26262. In fact, registration filled up just three days after the event was announced.

The event opened with a keynote speech by Mr. Koyata of the Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI), who spoke on functional safety as a core competency for engineers. A former engineer at Panasonic, Mr. Koyata now works as an ISO 26262 consultant at JARI. In his speech, he argued that every automotive developer should embrace knowledge of ISO 26262 and that automakers and Tier 1 suppliers should adopt a functional "safety culture." Interestingly, his argument aligns with what Chris Hobbs and Yi Zheng of QNX advocate in their paper, “10 truths about building safe embedded software systems.” My Koyata also discussed the difference between safety and ‘Hinshitu (Quality)” which is a strong point of Japan industry.

Next up were presentations by the co-sponsor DNV Business Assurance Japan. The talks focused on safety concepts and architecture as well as on metrics for hardware safety design for ISO 26262.

I had the opportunity to present on software architecture and functional safety, describing how the QNX microkernel architecture can provide an ideal system foundation for automotive systems with functional safety requirements. I spoke to a number of attendees after the seminar, and they all recognized the need to build an ISO 26262 process, but didn’t know how to start. The need, and opportunity, for education is great.

Yoshiki presenting at the MONOist ISO 26262 seminar. Source: MONOist

The event ended with a speech by Mr. Shiraishi of Keio University. He has worked on space satellite systems and offered some interesting comparisons between the functional safety of space satellites and automotive systems.

Safety and reliability go hand in hand. “Made in Japan” is a brand widely known for its reliability. Although Japan is somewhat behind when it comes to awareness for ISO 26262 certification, I see a great potential for it to be the leader in automotive safety. Japanese engineers take pride in the reliability of products they build, and this mindset can be extended to the new generation of functional safety systems in automotive.

Additional reading

QNX Unveils New OS for Automotive Safety
Architectures for ISO 26262 systems with multiple ASIL requirements (whitepaper)
Protecting Software Components from Interference in an ISO 26262 System (whitepaper)
Ten Truths about Building Safe Embedded Software Systems (whitepaper)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

QNX-powered Audi MMI framework to support Android Auto

This just in: Audi has announced that its Audi MMI mobile media application framework, which is built on the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment, will support the new Android Auto connectivity solution.

The new feature will allow drivers to access Android-device car apps using Audi MMI displays and controls, which Audi has optimized for safe and intuitive operation on the road.

Audi states that the MMI system will still maintain its compatibility with other smartphones. Moreover, drivers will be able to switch between the Android view and Audi infotainment functions, as desired.

Audi is a long-standing customer of QNX Software Systems. Audi systems based on QNX technology include the recent Audi Virtual Cockpit and Audi Connect with Google Earth.

Audi plans to introduce Android Auto support in all-new models launched in 2015. For the complete story on Audi support for Android Auto, read the Audi press release.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

(My latest) top 12 articles on robot cars

Human error accounts for 9 out of 10 vehicle accidents. That alone is a compelling argument for building more autonomy into cars. After all, a robot car won't get moody or distracted, but will remain alert at all times. Moreover, it will respond quickly and consistently to dangerous situations, if programmed correctly. The problem, of course, is that it will respond, and you may not always be happy with the decisions it makes.

For instance, what happens if 5 children playing tag suddenly run in front of your robot car — should it opt for the greater good and avoid them, even if that puts you in mortal danger? Or should it hand over control and let you decide? Some would argue that such questions are moot, for the simple reason that autonomous cars may significantly reduce accidents overall. Nonetheless, these questions go the heart of how we see ourselves in relation to the machines we use every day. They demand discussion.

Speaking of discussion, I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these articles. I don't agree with everything they say, but they certainly got me thinking. I think they'll do the same for you.

  • The Psychology Of Anthropomorphic Robots (Fast Company) — Convincing people to trust a self-driving car is surprisingly easy: just give it a cute face and a warm voice.
  • The Robot Car of Tomorrow May Just Be Programmed to Hit You (WIRED) — In a situation where a robot car must hit either of two vehicles, should it hit the vehicle with the better crash rating? If so, wouldn't that penalize people for buying safer cars? A look at why examining edge cases is important in evaluating crash-avoidance algorithms.
  • The Ethics of Autonomous Cars (The Atlantic) — Will your robot car know when to follow the law — and when to break it? And who gets to decide how your car will decide?
  • IEET Readers Divided on Robot Cars That Sacrifice Drivers’ Lives (IEET) — In response to the above story, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies asked its readers whether a robot car should sacrifice the driver's life to save the lives of others. Not everyone was convinced.
  • How to Make Driverless Cars Behave (TIME) — Did you know that Stanford’s CARS group has already developed tools to help automakers code morality into their cars? Yeah, I didn’t either. On the other hand, if driverless cars lead to far fewer accidents overall, will they even need embedded morality?
  • When 'Driver' Goes the Way of 'Computer' (The Atlantic) — Many of us imagine that autonomous vehicles will look and feel a lot like today’s cars. But guess what: once the human driver is out of the picture, long-standing assumptions about how cars are designed go out the proverbial window.
  • The end of driving (as we know it) (Fortune) — In Los Angeles, people drive 300 million miles every day. Now imagine if they could spend some or all of that time doing something else.
  • A Path Towards More Sustainable Personal Mobility (Stanford Energy Club) — If you find the Los Angeles statistic startling, consider this: every year in the US, light duty vehicles travel three trillion passenger miles — that’s 3x1012. Autonomous vehicles could serve as one element in a multi-pronged approach to reduce this number and help the environment.
  • How Shared Vehicles Are Changing the Way We Get Around (StreetsBlog USA) — If access is more important than ownership, will fleets of sharable autonomous cars translate into fewer cars on the road? The answer is yes, according to some research.
  • Driving revenues: Autonomous cars (EDN) — According to Lux Research, software accounts for a large fraction of the revenue opportunity in autonomous cars. Moreover, the car OS could be a differentiating factor for auto manufacturers.
  • Autonomous Vehicles Will Bring the Rise of 'Spam Cars' (Motherboard) — Though it would be a long, long time before this ever happened, the idea isn’t as goofy as you might think.
You can find my previous top 12 robo-car articles here.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Just add jelly

I like toast. I also like peanut butter. But you know what I really like? The two of them together. Not only does the combination taste great, but making it is easy: all I need is a knife, a toaster, and a plate. Heck, sometimes, I even skip the plate!

Why am I mentioning this? Well, when designing an embedded system, you often need to source third-party hardware or software components. And when doing so, you should always make sure they follow the toast-and-peanut-butter rule: work together out of the box, with little or no fuss. That way, you can focus on adding your own special jelly and transform your peanut-butter toast into a one-of-a-kind PB&J that customers can't get enough of. (Man, I should never write when I'm hungry!)

Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons
Seriously, there is no better way to jump-start an embedded project than to choose components that already work in concert. Which is the idea behind today's announcement between Cadence and QNX Software Systems. In a nutshell, they have announced that QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control (ANC) has been ported to the Cadence Tensilica HiFi Audio/Voice DSP core.

If you're unfamiliar with QNX Acoustics for ANC, it's a software solution for reducing unwanted engine "boom" inside passenger vehicles. Compact and efficient, it can run on a processor or DSP core in the vehicle's infotainment system or audio amplifier, eliminating the dedicated hardware of conventional ANC solutions.

According to Peter McCarthy of QNX, “modern fuel-saving techniques, such as deactivating cylinders when engine load is light, can cause irritating boom noise that distracts the driver. QNX Acoustics for ANC generates targeted anti-noise over the car’s audio system to cancel out this boom for a more enjoyable ride. By combining QNX Acoustics for ANC with the widely deployed Cadence Tensilica HiFi Audio/Voice DSP core, system designers can reduce engine noise while also eliminating the costs associated with designing and prototyping a custom hardware controller module.”

For more information, read the press release and check out previous posts on QNX Acoustics for ANC.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hitting the road with CNET on Cars

Derek Kuhn
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of Brian Cooley and his CNET on Cars show. Brian brings energy, insight, and humor to his coverage of cars and car technology — he's a joy to watch. My son and I like the show so much that it has become a ritual to watch the latest episodes together.

Over the years, Brian has gotten behind the wheel of several QNX technology concept cars. For example, at 2013 CES, he got up close and personal with our concept car based on a Bentley Continental. And just last month, he took our latest concept car, based on a Mercedes-Benz CLA45, for a drive through the streets of San Francisco.

While I was in SF, Brian and I discussed the rise of 4G connectivity in vehicles and the benefits it will bring — including a better user experience and the ability to keep the car fresh with over-the-air updates. Brian included our conversation in his recent segment on 4G in the car — check out the video, below. The episode begins with a review of the new Audi A3, which, I am proud to say, also uses an infotainment system powered by QNX technology.

What are your thoughts on 4G connectivity in the car? I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A cool (and connected) cluster

"The more we get connected,
Connected, connected,
The more we get connected,
The happier we’ll be."

Okay, I'll admit it, that's a little over the top. But even if connectivity can't make you happy, it can still breathe a great deal of enjoyment and productivity into your life. And when you build connectivity into devices that have previously stood alone, you open the door to all kinds of exciting possibilities. Case in point: the new digital instrument cluster for the QNX technology concept car.

Here's the cluster at a glance — click to see a bigger version:

Admit it: you'd love to wrap your hands around that steering wheel. I know I would. The Mercedes CLA45 is a sweet ride, and it inspired the QNX concept team to pull out all the stops when designing the new cluster with our partner Rightware, a specialist in UI tools for cars.

Four-point check
Okay, let's hop in and take a closer look. But before we put the car in gear, did your driving instructor ever tell you to do a four-point check? You know, where you make sure your lights, brakes, and other systems are working properly? You do remember to do that, don't you? The cluster makes the task a little easier by checking lights, tire pressures, fluids, and the HVAC system automatically:

Ease off the pedal, buddy
Time to put the car in gear. But before we do, let me tell you about the Plymouth safety speedometer. Designed to curb speeding, it alerted the driver whenever he or she leaned too hard on the gas. In theory, it was a great idea. In practice, it wasn't. You see, the year was 1939. And given the limitations of 1939 technology, the Plymouth safety speedometer couldn't take driving conditions or the local speed limit into account. So the speedometer always displayed warnings at the same speeds, no matter what the speed limit.

Connectivity to the rescue! Some modern navigation systems include information on local speed limits. By connecting the digital instrumental cluster to the navigation system in the car's head unit, the concept team was able to pull this information and display it in real time on the cluster, creating a modern (and much more useful) equivalent of Plymouth's 1939 invention.

Look at the image below. You'll see the local speed limit surrounded by a thick red circle, alerting the driver that they are breaking the limit — the fulfillment of an idea that has been 75 years in the making. Mind you, this isn't the only information that the cluster pulls from the head unit. It can also display turn-by-turn directions, trip information, album art, and other content normally relegated to the center display:

Should you answer?
Oh, hold on, the cluster is alerting us to an incoming call. You can ignore it, or you can answer by pushing a button on the steering wheel. And because this is the QNX technology concept car, it's no ordinary phone call. The car is equipped with QNX Acoustics for Voice, which supports Wideband Plus speech to deliver almost four times the bandwidth of a standard narrowband call. Translation: The person on the far end of call sounds like they're sitting right next to you.

Looking back
Okay, it's been a great drive, but time to head home. And in this case, home is the QNX garage. The garage doors are pretty narrow, and you need to back in carefully, so it's great to know that the cluster also provides a convenient window for the car's rear-view camera:

Meanwhile, in the real world...
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a Buck Rogers scenario. Because the same combination of QNX and Rightware technology is already powering innovative systems like the Audi virtual cockpit. If you haven't yet seen the Audi system in action, check it out:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Guest post by Matt Watson, TI product line manager, on the new Jacinto 6 Eco processor

Matt Watson
Whenever I hear someone mention the word “scale,” several images come to mind. The first one is the thing I avoid stepping on for fear of its shocking readout. The second is what happens to my tender, east Texas skin whenever I venture to high altitudes — which is anything higher than a Houston overpass.

Since my colleagues at QNX were nice enough to let me post on their blog, I should avoid pursuing those activities further for fear of never being invited back. [Matt, you are *always* welcome here — Ed.] Instead, I’ll focus on how TI and QNX, together, are bringing incredible performance scalability to our customers in the automotive infotainment space through the new DRA72x “Jacinto 6 Eco” processor. This processor builds on the successful foundation of the “Jacinto 6” family and offers significant value to a very wide range of in-vehicle systems. This value takes three forms:

  • software reusability and hardware pin-compatibility with “Jacinto 6,” resulting in faster time to market
  • the ability to leverage the same integration capabilities as “Jacinto 6” for a lower BOM
  • scalability to bring elements and features of high-end infotainment down to the entry-to-mid segment in a cost-effective manner
QNX and TI have been collaborating for over 12 years, specifically on the “Jacinto 6” platform for more than 2 years, to help bring industry-leading performance, integration, and scalability to the automotive market. Due to its similarity with “Jacinto 6”, “Jacinto 6 Eco” allows customers to leverage a mature base of TI silicon and QNX software solutions to hit the ground driving.

Jacinto 6 Eco running the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment and Crank Storyboard Suite

We’ll see you on the road! To view more blogs from the TI team, please be sure to check out Behind The Wheel.

Editor's note — Here's a little more about Matt:

Matt Watson is the product manager for the TI audio and automotive infotainment processors at Texas Instruments. At TI, Matt has also held roles managing software development for audio, multimedia, and infotainment groups over the last 12 years. Prior to joining TI, Matt held positions at Dolby Laboratories (focusing on low-bit rate audio coding) and Motorola Semiconductor (developing software for floating-point audio digital signal processors).

Crisper, clearer in-car communication — Roger that

Tina Jeffrey
Over the years, Telematics Detroit has become a premier venue for showing off advancements in automotive infotainment, telematics, apps, cloud connectivity, silicon, and more. If the breadth of QNX technology being demonstrated at the show this week is any indication, the event won’t disappoint. Among the highlights is our next-generation acoustics processing middleware — QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 — which has been architected to deliver the highest-quality audio for hands-free and speech recognition systems, enabling the ultimate acoustics experience in the car.

What is QNX Acoustics for Voice?
QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 is the successor to the QNX Aviage Acoustics Processing Suite 2.0. The new product includes a set of libraries — standard and premium — that offer automakers ultimate flexibility for voice processing in the harsh audio environment of the car.

The standard library provides a full-featured solution for implementing narrowband and wideband hands-free communications, operating at 8 kHz and 16kHz sample rates, respectively. It also includes innovative new features for performing echo cancellation, noise reduction, adaptive equalization, and automatic gain control. Perhaps the most valuable feature, especially for systems constrained by limited CPU cycles, is the high efficiency mode, which can process wideband and higher-bandwidth speech with substantially less CPU load. The net result: more processing headroom for other tasks.

The premium library includes all the standard library functionality, plus support for Wideband Plus, which expands the frequency range of transmitted speech to 50 Hz - 11 kHz, at a 24kHz sample rate. The introduction of Wideband Plus fulfills the higher voice quality and low noise requirements demanded by the latest smartphone connectivity protocols for telephony, VoIP services, and speech recognition. Let me recap with a table:

Supported capabilities
Standard library
Premium library
Narrowband audio: 300 – 3400Hz (8kHz sample rate)
Wideband audio: 50-7000Hz
(16kHz sample rate)
Wideband Plus audio: 50Hz – 11kHz (24kHz sample rate)

High efficiency mode
(Wideband only)
VOIP requirements for new smartphone connectivity protocols

Cloud-based speech recognition requirements for new smartphone connectivity protocols


Why is high-quality speech important in the car?

Simply put, it improves the user experience and can benefit passenger safety. Also, new smartphone connectivity protocols require it. Let’s examine two use cases: hands-free voice calling, and speech recognition.

In a voice call, processing a larger bandwidth of speech and eliminating echo and noise from various sources, including wind, road, vents, fans, and tires, dramatically increases speech intelligibility — and the more intelligible the speech, the more natural the flow of conversation. Also, clearer speech has less impact on the driver’s cognitive load, enabling the driver to pay more attention to the task at hand: driving.

Speech recognition systems are becoming a primary way to manage apps and services in the car. Voice commands can initiate phone calls, select media for playback, search for points of interest (POI), and choose a destination.

Technological advancements in pre-processing voice input to remove noise and disturbances helps speech recognizers detect commands more reliably, thereby achieving higher recognition accuracy. Early speech recognition systems, by comparison, were unintuitive and performed poorly. Drivers became so frustrated that they stopped using these systems and resorted to picking up their smartphones, completely eliminating the safety benefits of speech recognition.

QNX Acoustics for Voice 3.0 is a comprehensive automotive voice solution that includes industry-leading echo cancellation, noise reduction, adaptive equalization and automatic gain control.

If you happen to be at Telematics Update in Novi Michigan this week, be sure to drop by our booth to sit in our latest concept car — a specially modified Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG — and experience our acoustics technologies first hand.