Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A question of getting there

The third of a series of posts on the QNX CAR Platform. In this installment, we turn to a key point of interest: the platform’s navigation service.

From the beginning, we designed the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment with flexibility in mind. Our philosophy is to give customers the freedom to choose the hardware platforms, application environments, user-interface tools, and smartphone connectivity protocols that best address their requirements. This same spirit of flexibility extends to navigation solutions.

For evidence, look no further than our current technology concept car. It can support navigation from Elektrobit:

from Nokia HERE:

and from Kotei Informatics:

These are but a few examples. The QNX CAR Platform can also support navigation solutions from companies like AISIN AW, NavNGo, TCS, TeleNav, and ZENRIN DataCom, enabling automakers and automotive Tier 1 suppliers to choose the navigation solution, or solutions, best suited to the regions or demographics they wish to target. (In addition to these embedded solutions, the platform can also provide access to smartphone-based navigation services through its support for MirrorLink and other connectivity protocols — more on this in a subsequent post.)

Under the hood
In our previous installment, we looked at the QNX CAR Platform’s middleware layer, which provides infotainment applications with a variety of services, including Bluetooth, radio, multimedia discovery and playback, and automatic speech recognition. The middleware layer also includes a navigation service that, true to the platform’s overall flexibility, allows developers to use navigation engines from multiple vendors and to change engines without affecting the high-level navigation applications that the user interacts with.

An illustration is in order. If you look the image below, you’ll see OpenGL-based map data rendered on one graphics layer and, on the layer above it, Qt-based application data (current street, distance to destination, and other route information) pulled from the navigation engine. By taking advantage of the platform’s navigation service, you could swap in a different navigation engine without having to rewrite the Qt application:

To achieve this flexibility, the navigation service makes use of the QNX CAR Platform’s persistent/publish subscribe (PPS) messaging, which cleanly abstracts lower-level services from the higher-level applications they communicate with. Let's look at another diagram to see how this works:

In the PPS model, services publish information to data objects; other programs can subscribe to those objects and receive notifications when the objects have changed. So, for the example above, the navigation engine could generate updates to the route information, and the navigation service could publish those updates to a PPS “navigation status object,” thereby making the updates available to any program that subscribes to the object — including the Qt application.

With this approach, the Qt application doesn't need to know anything about the navigation engine, nor does the navigation engine need to know anything about the Qt app. As a result, either could be swapped out without affecting the other.

Here's another example of how this model allows components to communicate with one another:
  1. Using the system's human machine interface (HMI), the drivers asks the navigation system to search for a point of interest (POI) — this could take the form of a voice command or a tap on the system display.
  2. The HMI responds by writing the request to a PPS “navigation control” object.
  3. The navigation service reads the request from the PPS object and forwards it to the navigation engine.
  4. The navigation engine returns the result.
  5. The navigation service updates the PPS object to notify the HMI that its request has been completed. It also writes the results to a database so that all subscribers to this object can read the results.
By using PPS, the navigation service can make details of the route available to a variety of applications. For instance, it could publish trip information that a weather app could subscribe to. The app could then display the weather forecast for the destination, at the estimated time of arrival.

To give developers a jump start, the QNX CAR Platform comes pre-integrated with Elektrobit’s EB street director navigation software. This reference integration shows developers how to implement "command and control" between the HMI and the participating components, including the navigation engine, navigation service, window manager, and PPS interface. As the above diagram indicates, the reference implementation works with both of the HMIs — one based on HTML5, the other based on Qt — that the QNX CAR Platform supports out of the box.

Previous posts in the QNX CAR Platform series:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A need for speed... and safety

Matt Shumsky
Matt Shumsky
For me, cars and safety go hand in hand. Don’t get me wrong, I have a need for speed. I do, after all, drive a 2006 compact with 140 HP (pause for laughter). But no one, and I mean no one, wants to be barreling down a highway in icy conditions at 120 km/hr without working brakes, am I right?

So this begs the question, what’s the best way to design a software system that ensures the adaptive cruise control system keeps a safe distance from the car ahead? Or that tells the digital instrument cluster the correct information to display? And how can you make sure the display information isn’t corrupted?

Enter QNX and the ISO 26262 functional safety standard.

QNX Software Systems is partnering with LDRA to present a webinar on “Ensuring Automotive Functional Safety”. During this webinar, you’ll learn about:
  • Development and verification tools proven to help provide safer automotive software systems
  • How suppliers can develop software systems faster with an OS tuned for automotive safety

Ensuring Automotive Functional Safety with QNX and LDRA
Thursday, November 20, 2014
9:00 am PST / 12:00 pm EST / 5:00 pm UTC

I hope you can join us!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Building (sound) character into cars

Tina Jeffrey
Modern engines are overachievers when it comes to fuel efficiency — but they often score a C minus in the sound department. Introducing a solution that can make a subtle but effective difference.

Car engines don’t sound like they used to. Correction: They don’t sound as good as they used to. And for that, you can blame modern fuel-saving techniques, such as the practice of deactivating cylinders when engine load is light. Still, if you’re an automaker, delivering an optimal engine sound is critical to ensuring a satisfying user experience. To address this need, we’ve released QNX Acoustics for Engine Sound Enhancement (ESE), a complementary technology to our solution for active noise control.

The why
We first demonstrated our ESE technology at 2014 CES
in the QNX technology concept car for acoustics.
Many people assume, erroneously, that ESE is about giving cars an outsized sonic personality — such as making a Smart ForTwo snarl like an SRT Hellcat. While that is certainly possible, most automakers will use ESE to augment engine sounds in subtle but effective ways that bolster the emotional connection between car and driver — just like engine sounds did in the past. It boils down to creating a compelling acoustic experience for drivers and passengers alike.

ESE isn’t new. Traditionally, automakers have used mechanical solutions that modify the design of the exhaust system or intake pipes to differentiate the sound of their vehicles. Today, automakers are shifting to software-based ESE, which costs less and does a better job at augmenting engine sounds that have been degraded by new, efficient engine designs. With QNX Acoustics for Engine Sound Enhancement, automakers can accurately preserve an existing engine sound for use in a new model, craft a unique sound to market a new brand, or offer distinct sounds associated with different transmission modes, such as sport or economy.

The how
QNX Acoustics for Engine Sound Enhancement is entirely software based. It comprises a runtime library that augments naturally transmitted engine sounds as well as a design tool that provides several advanced features for defining and tuning engine-sound profiles. The library runs on the infotainment system or on the audio system DSP and plays synthesized sound synchronized to the engine’s real-time data: RPM, speed, throttle position, transmission mode, etc.

The ESE designer tool enables sound designers to create, refashion, and audition sounds directly on their desktops by graphically defining the mapping between a synthesized engine-sound profile and real-time engine parameters. The tool supports both granular and additive synthesis, along with a variety of digital signal processing techniques to configure the audio path, including gain, filter, and static equalization control.

The value
QNX Acoustics for Engine Sound Enhancement offers automakers numerous benefits in the design of sound experiences that best reflect their brand:

  • Ability to design consistent powertrain sounds across the full engine operating range
  • Small footprint runtime library that can be ported to virtually any DSP or CPU running Linux or the QNX OS, making it easy to customize all vehicle models and to leverage work done in existing models
  • Tight integration with other QNX acoustics middleware libraries, including QNX Acoustics for Active Noise Control, enabling automakers to holistically shape their interior vehicle soundscape
  • Dedicated acoustic engineers that can support development and pre-production activities, including porting to customer-specific hardware, system audio path verification, and platform and vehicle acoustic tuning
If you’re with an automaker or Tier One and would like to discuss how QNX Acoustics for ESE can address your project requirements, I invite you to contact us at

In the meantime, learn more about this solution on the QNX website.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Japan update: ADAS, wearables, integrated cockpits, and autonomous cars

Yoshiki Chubachi
Yoshiki Chubachi
Will the joy of driving be a design criterion for tomorrow’s vehicles? It had better be.

A couple of weeks ago, QNX Software Systems sponsored Telematics Japan in Tokyo. This event offers a great opportunity to catch up with colleagues from automotive companies, discuss technology and business trends, and showcase the latest technology demos. Speaking of which, here’s a photo of me with a Japan-localized demo of the QNX CAR Platform. You can also see a QNX-based digital instrument cluster in the lower-left corner — this was developed by Three D, one of our local technology partners:

While at the event, I spoke on the panel, “Evolving ecosystems for future HMI, OS, and telematics platform development.” During the discussion, we conducted a real-time poll and asked the audience three questions:

1) Do you think having Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will augment a vehicle brand?
2) Do you expect wearable technologies to be integrated into cars?
3) If your rental car were hacked, who would you complain to?

For question 1, 32% of the audience said CarPlay and Android Auto will improve a brand; 68% didn't think so. In my opinion, this result indicates that smartphone connectivity in cars is now an expected feature. For question 2, 76% answered that they expect to see wearables integrated into cars. This response gives us a new perspective — people are looking at wearables as a possible addition to go with ADAS systems. For example, a wearable device could help prevent accidents by monitoring the driver for drowsiness and other dangerous signs. For question 3, 68% said they would complain to the rental company. Mind you, this raises the question: if your own car were hacked, who would you complain to?

Integrated cockpits
There is growing concern around safety and security as companies attempt to grow more business by leveraging connectivity in cars. The trend is apparent if you look at the number of safety- and security-related demos at various automotive shows.

Case in point: I recently attended a private automotive event hosted by Renesas, where many ADAS and integrated cockpit demos were on display. And last month, CEATEC Japan (aka the CES of Japan) featured integrated cockpit demos from companies like Fujitsu, Pioneer, Mitsubishi, Kyocera, and NTT Docomo.

For the joy of it
Things are so different from when I first started developing in-car navigation systems 20 years ago. Infotainment systems are now turning into integrated cockpits. In Japan, the automotive industry is looking at early 2020s as the time when commercially available autonomous cars will be on the road. In the coming years, the in-car environment, including infotainment, cameras and other systems, will change immensely — I’m not exactly sure what cars in the year 2020 will look like, but I know it will be something I could never have imagined 20 years ago.

A panel participant at Telematics Japan said to me, “If autonomous cars become reality and my car is not going to let me drive anymore, I am not sure what the point of having a car is.” This is true. As we continue to develop for future cars, we may want to remind ourselves of the “joy of driving” factor.