Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bringing the power of “and” to the car

QNX unveils a new platform at TU-Automotive Detroit and celebrates an acoustics milestone

Paul Leroux
Some people assume that, when it comes to cars, QNX is mostly about infotainment. Or telematics. Or safety. Or security. But in reality, QNX is about all of these things. So, for a better picture of what QNX brings to the car, simply replace all of those ‘or’s with ‘and’s. For an even better picture, add more things to the list. Like instrument clusters. And handsfree systems. And virtualization.

When you put all of these ‘and’s together, you begin to realize that QNX is a platform for the entire automotive cockpit. So why is that important? Well, more than ever, cars are defined by their software. In fact, automakers are now building cars in which half a dozen systems need a high-level OS. Using a single OS platform for all of those systems can consolidate development efforts, increase interoperability, encourage code reuse, reduce training costs, boost productivity, and just plain make things easier. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if that same platform is also secure, standards-based, and production-proven in over 60 million cars.

So why am I going on about this? Because this week, at TU-Automotive Detroit, QNX is showcasing the full breadth of its automotive technology. Visitors to our booth will see demonstrations of ADAS, instrument clusters, infotainment, acoustics, smartphone integration, V2X, remote SIM management — the list goes on. Highlights include the latest QNX technology concept vehicle, which boasts a voice-controlled instrument cluster (man, I’d love one of those) and acoustics technology that allows a driver to talk to back-seat passengers without having to raise his voice or turn around — even if the car is driving at highway speeds. How cool is that?

That’s me, in the driver’s seat of an SUV, speaking to my colleague Tina, who is sitting in the back row. Thanks to
QNX acoustics technology, she can hear me clearly, even though I am speaking normally and looking straight ahead.

New platform for instrument clusters
Of course, we can’t show up at a major auto event without bringing something new for developers. And so, today, we are unveiling the latest addition to our portfolio of automotive safety products, the QNX Platform for Instrument Clusters.

QNX is already a proven player in the digital cluster market. Since 2009, our OS technology has been powering clusters in brands like Alfa Romeo, Audi, Corvette, Jaguar, and Range Rover. (Check out my recent post for a retrospective on QNX-powered clusters.) The new platform builds on this experience, enabling QNX to offer a comprehensive solution for cluster developers, which includes:

  • The QNX OS for Safety, an ISO 26262-certified OS and toolchain that supports all the automotive safety integrity levels, from ASIL A to D, required for clusters and other critical systems
  • A 2D/3D graphics framework based on the OpenGL standard and set to be certified to the ISO 26262 functional safety standard
  • A software framework that protects safety-critical cluster functions from interference by other software components, enabling greater reliability and easier system-level certification
  • A reference implementation, with source code, that gives developers a jumpstart on building fully digital instrument clusters

To get the full story, check out this morning’s press release.

The digital instrument cluster in the QNX concept vehicle, which is based on a Toyota Highlander. QNX has just
unveiled a new platform that allows instrument clusters with ISO 26262 safety requirements to leverage the
full power of accelerated 2D/3D graphics.

50 million systems, you say?
Hands-free systems may be common, but delivering a high-quality hands-free experience can be notoriously difficult. Cars are noisy beasts, and the cacophony created by tires, fans, vents, and open windows can play havoc with any system that has to process voice signals.

What to do? Well, for over 50 million infotainment and telematics systems, automakers have solved the problem with QNX acoustics technology. QNX acoustics offers patented algorithms for echo cancellation, noise reduction, and other technologies to ensure crisp, clear voice communications, even in the harsh sonic environment of the car. In fact, it has become so popular that, on average, it ships in an automotive system every 2.5 seconds. (So, can you do the math and tell me how many systems that adds up to each month?)

Did I mention? The QNX acoustics portfolio does far more than process voice signals. For instance, it includes the QNX Acoustics Management Platform, which offers unified management of all acoustics in the car, enabling customers to reduce the cost, complexity, and time-to-production of audio signal-processing systems. For more details, read this morning’s press release.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Everything but the kitchen sink

Using a single SoC to drive a full-blown infotainment stack, 3D surround view, driver monitoring, smartphone connectivity, and dual HD displays.

TI and QNX have been working together in the infotainment space for a long time. The nice thing about this ongoing relationship is that lots of cool technology gets built along the way. Speaking of which, TI have put together a compelling demo that they will show at the TU-Automotive Detroit conference, on June 8 and 9. I’m pretty pumped about it and invite you to take the time to check it out.

The demo is built on the DRA75x (Jacinto 6 EP) SoC, which includes dual ARM Cortex-A15 processors, an Imagination SGX544MP2 GPU, dual TI C66x DSPs, and an IVA-HD video processing core. For starters, it runs the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment with navigation, multimedia, speech recognition — all the goodies you’ve come to expect. Not surprising, as the platform has been running on Jacinto 6 longer than on any other SoC.

One SoC, two displays, many applications
It’s what they’ve managed to pile on beyond the QNX CAR Platform that makes this demo so exciting. You may not know it but we also work closely with TI on the informational ADAS (infoADAS) front. There’s a full port of the InfoADAS stack available today on the QNX platform and it’s included in the demo. Taking 4 camera inputs and the processing power available on the C66x and SGX, TI can demonstrate full 3D surround view concurrently with everything else. If that wasn’t enough, they’ve added a fifth camera and partnered with FotoNation to add driver monitoring and identification, which runs on the second C66x.

Normally, the smartphone projection runs on ARM, but for this demo, it runs on the IVA-HD to further demonstrate the capabilities of the chip. And to top it all off, the demo drives two HD displays. One display shows the QNX CAR Platform and the other shows the 3D surround view, along with the driver monitoring and identification.

So, to summarize, on one dual-core ARM A15 part, TI is showing a full-blown high-end infotainment system, driver monitoring, the ability to see everything around the car in real time, and the ability to connect to pretty much any smartphone in the world. Take a second to think back to just 5 years ago. It’s amazing how fast this industry moves.

If you aren’t going to be at TU this year, reach out to TI. I’m willing to bet they’d be happy to show it to you…