Showing posts with label Toyota Entune. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Toyota Entune. Show all posts

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.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Listen to the music

The audio CD is on its last track... Internet radio, anyone?

I don’t think anyone will disagree with me when I say that music still represents the most important element in an infotainment system. Just look at the sound system capabilities in new cars. Base systems today have at least 6 speakers, while systems from luxury brands like Audi and BMW boast up to 16 speakers and almost 1000 watts of amplification.

For nearly as long as I can remember, cars have come with CD players. For many years they’ve provided a simple way to take your music on the road. But nothing lasts forever.

Earlier this year, Ford announced it would discontinue CD players in many of its vehicle models. Some industry pundits have predicted that CD players will have no place in cars in model year 2015 and beyond. A few weeks ago, Side-Line Music Magazine reported that major labels plan to abandon the CD format as early as 2012. This revelation has created a flurry of activity on the Net, but the labels have yet to confirm it’s true.

Steady decline
The fact is, CD sales have declined steadily for the last several years, down 16 percent in 2010 alone. Digital downloads (the legal kind), on the other hand, have been growing quickly and are expected to exceed CD sales for the first time in 2012.

Where does that leave us in the car? Obviously, media device integration will be key in the coming years. QNX Software Systems has long supported Apple iPod integration and supported Microsoft’s ill-fated Zune for a while. USB connectivity is a given, and soon you’ll be able to stream music from your phone.

Radio redefined
The QNX-powered Toyota Entune system 
supports both Pandora and iHeartRadio.
But what’s more exciting is how radio is evolving in the vehicle. Along with the steering wheel, radio has been a staple of car pretty much since day one. As the connected vehicle moves to the mainstream, internet radio will become a huge part of the automotive experience.

Companies like Slacker extend the concept of radio beyond audio to include artist bios, album art, photos, reviews, and more. Pandora, through its work with the Music Genome Project, expands the musical experience by playing songs it predicts you will appreciate. iHeartRadio aggregates American radio stations for replay throughout the US. TuneIn takes it one further with a global view. Driving down highway 101 in California, you’ll be able to tune in all your favorites from around the world.

Beyond entertainment
These services are changing the way people consume music. Today, I rely on my car radio not only to entertain but also to educate by constantly exposing me to new artists and content. Internet radio in the car will expand my horizons even further. And as online music stores like 7Digital integrate their service with the internet radio stations, I’ll be able to download the song I just heard at the push of a button. Not good for CD sales, but it seems that’s the way of the future anyway.

We are, of course, working with the leaders in internet radio and online music services to bring them to a car near you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Building a hands-free future

The end of my street is governed by a three-way stop. The other morning I was backing out of my driveway when someone rolled past the stop sign and came within inches of hitting me. I stopped, glared at him, and resumed driving. Two stop signs later, the same guy squeezed past my car (in the same lane), completely oblivious to what he was doing.

Why was he driving like this? Probably because he was deeply engrossed in a conversation on his cell phone.

Where I live, using a handset while driving has been illegal for over a year. You cannot talk, you cannot text, you cannot “Facebook”, you cannot Tweet — even if you're stopped at a red light. This makes perfect sense to me. As a driver, your primary responsibility is to control the vehicle. And yet I see people texting on the freeway, talking on their cell phones, and doing who knows what else on an alarmingly regular basis.

The QNX-powered BMW
ConnectedDrive system
Society has become obsessed with mobile devices, and it will take more than legislation to change its behavior. The answer, I think, is to embrace the behavior in a way that makes it possible to interact socially while maintaining control of the car. We’ve seen great progress in hands-free/phone integration, and BMW ConnectedDrive offers an example of how drivers can access email and other smartphone services more safely.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Integrating the handset with the infotainment unit is going to change the way you interact with your car. Intelligently designed apps, combined with multi-modal human machine interfaces, will let you Tweet or update Facebook using speech recognition, keeping your eyes on the road.

Without taking your hands of the wheel, you’ll be able to call a friend and decide that you want to go to dinner, do a local search to find out what’s available, check a restaurant review on Yelp, make a reservation, text your friend back with the time and place, and aim your navigation system at the restaurant. And you’ll be able to do it using natural language. None of this “please say a name” stuff.

Seems futuristic? It’s not. People are working on it today. In fact, QNX-based systems, such as Toyota Entune, already offer a taste of this hands-free and highly personalized future.

Monday, October 24, 2011

When will I get apps in my car?

I read the other day that Samsung’s TV application store has surpassed 10 million app downloads. That got me thinking: When will the 10 millionth app download occur in the auto industry as a whole? (Let’s not even consider 10 million apps for a single automaker.)

There’s been much talk about the car as the fourth screen in a person’s connected life, behind the TV, computer, and smartphone. The car rates so high because of the large amount of time people spend in it. While driving to work, you may want to listen to your personal flavor of news, listen to critical email through a safe, text-to-speech email reader, or get up to speed on your daily schedule. When returning home, you likely want to unwind by tapping into your favorite online music service. Given the current norm of using apps to access online content (even if the apps are a thin disguise for a web browser), this begs the question — when can I get apps in my car?

Entune takes a hands-free
approach to accessing apps.
A few automotive examples exist today, such as GM MyLink, Ford Sync, and Toyota Entune. But app deployment to vehicles is still in its infancy. What conditions, then, must exist for apps to flourish in cars? A few stand out:

Cars need to be upgradeable to accept new applications — This is a no-brainer. However, recognizing that the lifespan of a car is 10+ years, it would seem that a thin client application strategy is appropriate.

Established rules and best practices to reduce driver distraction — These must be made available to, and understood by, the development community. Remember that people drive cars at high speeds and cannot fiddle with unintuitive, hard-to-manipulate controls. Apps that consumers can use while driving will become the most popular. Apps that can be used only when the car is stopped will hold little appeal.

A large, unfragmented platform to attract a development community — Developers are more willing to create apps for a platform when they don't have to create multiple variants. That's why Apple maintains a consistent development environment and Google/Android tries to prevent fragmentation. Problem is, fragmentation could occur almost overnight in the automotive industry — imagine 10 different automakers with 10 different brands, each wanting a branded experience. To combat this, a common set of technologies for connected automotive application development (think web technologies) is essential. Current efforts to bring applications into cars all rely on proprietary SDKs, ensuring fragmentation.

Other barriers undoubtedly exist, but these are the most obvious.

By the way, don’t ask me for my prediction of when the 10 millionth app will ship in auto. There’s lots of work to be done first.