Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reducing driver distraction with ICTs

Inappropriate use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially mobile phones, is a chief culprit behind driver distraction and road accidents, and with automobile manufacturers scrambling to develop a “connected” driving experience, the ICT and automotive industries are becoming ever more closely entwined.

However, this integration of cars and ICTs need not come at the expense of driver safety, and there are strong grounds on which to argue that ICTs have great potential to enhance rather than diminish vehicle safety systems.

Under the banner of intelligent transport systems (ITS) the automotive and ICT communities are working towards a convergence of automobiles and ICTs that prioritizes drivers’ safety and broad consensus has it that international standards are the tools through which this will be achieved.

Over the past two years, as chairman of the ITU-T Focus Group on Driver Distraction, I have had the pleasure of leading a group tasked with laying the foundations for driver-distraction standardization work in ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

Established in February 2011, the Focus Group reached the end of its study period in March 2013 and has been instrumental in raising awareness around ITU-T activity on driver distraction and the scale of this workload, as well as in providing clear direction to ITU-T’s driver-distraction work plan. The group has also been successful in opening lines of communication with key organizations and drawing new expertise into the ITU-T standardization process.

The Focus Group’s final deliverables take the form of five technical reports that describe:

  • use cases and user interface requirements for automotive applications 
  • system capabilities for improving the safety of driver interaction with applications and services (situational awareness management) 
  • approaches that enable external applications to communicate with a vehicle

The reports are freely available here.

The conclusions put forward by the reports are being taken up by the two groups leading ITU-T’s standardization work on driver distraction, Study Group 12 (Performance, QoS and QoE) and Study Group 16 (Multimedia). New related work items calling for external coordination and collaboration may also be addressed by the Collaboration on ITS Communication Standards, a forum working to create an internationally harmonized set of ITS communication standards to enable the deployment of fully interoperable ITS products and services in the global marketplace.

Safe interaction with applications and services
The Focus Group’s work is just the beginning of an international standards effort to help drivers interact safely with applications and services — and not just apps on phones, but apps running in the cloud, in roadside infrastructure systems, and in the car itself, to name just a few locations.

The Focus Group’s Use Cases report details the use cases and user scenarios being targeted by this standards effort, but for now let’s look at Use Case 2, Scenario A (arbitration of external message), which illustrates how ITU-T is working towards a comprehensive framework for managing distraction and workload.

Keeping priorities straight
In this user scenario, a navigation maneuver is given priority over a social media ‘status update’ message. The blue call-out boxes indicate where the ITU-T Recommendations under development can enable safe interaction between the driver and applications. For instance, ITU-T Recommendation G.SAM will define mechanisms for prioritizing navigation, G.V2A will define the communications interface between the app and the driver-vehicle interface (DVI), and P.UIA will recommend characteristics of the auditory social media message.

Remember that the focus here is not on how to implement social media in the car, but rather on how best to manage workload and distraction.

Giving a navigation maneuver priority over a social media status update message

In for the long haul
Speaking from our perspective at QNX Software Systems, a subsidiary of BlackBerry, the work of the Focus Group marks the beginning of a long road ahead. Within ITU-T, QNX will continue to:

  1. Work with the relevant parties to identify solutions to the problem of technology-related driver distraction and workload. These parties include automotive, telecommunications, and consumer electronics organizations; standards development groups; academia; and government agencies.
  2. Determine which aspects of the solution should be standardized, and help drive this standardization.
  3. Align QNX product roadmaps as solutions develop.

Certainly this is a long-term strategy that will take years to realize, factoring in the rigour of ITU-T’s standards process as well as the significant amount of time needed to deploy technologies in vehicles on a meaningful scale.

Join the discussion
A workshop hosted by ITU and UNECE at ITU headquarters in Geneva, 27 June 2013, will address “Intelligent transport systems in emerging markets – drivers for safe and sustainable growth” with a view to analyzing recent advances in ITS with emphasis on improving road safety in developing countries.

This workshop includes a session dedicated to driver distraction in which I will present the outcomes outlined by the Focus Group’s technical reports to spur discussion on the likely course of corresponding ITU-T standardization work.

The workshop is free of charge and open to all interested parties, including non-members of ITU, and online ‘remote participation’ will be available to all those unable to travel to Geneva. Please join us for what will certainly be a richly informative and interactive event!

This post originally appeared on the ITU Blog.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

OTA software: not just building castles in the air

Tina Jeffrey
After attending Telematics Detroit earlier this month, I realized more than ever that M2M will become the key competitive differentiator for automakers. With M2M, automakers can stay connected with their vehicles and perhaps more importantly, vehicle owners, long after the cars have been driven off dealer lots. Over-the-air (OTA) technology provides true connectivity between automakers and their vehicles, making it possible to upgrade multiple systems, including electronic control unit (ECU) software, infotainment systems that provide navigation and smartphone connectivity, and an ever-increasing number of apps and services.

Taken together, the various systems in a vehicle contain up to 100 million lines of code — which makes the 6.5 million lines of code in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner seem like a drop in the proverbial bucket. Software in cars will only continue to grow in both amount and complexity, and the model automakers currently use to maintain and upgrade vehicle software isn’t scalable.

Vehicle owners want to keep current with apps, services, and vehicle system upgrades, without always having to visit the dealer. Already, vehicle owners update many infotainment applications by accepting software pushed over the air, just like they update applications on their smartphones. But this isn’t currently the case for ECUs, which require either a complete module replacement or module re-flashing at a dealership.

Pushing for updates
Automakers know that updates must be delivered to vehicle owners in a secure, seamless, and transparent fashion, similar to how OTA updates are delivered to mobile phones. Vehicle software updates must be even more reliable given they are much more critical.

BlackBerry’s OTA solution: Software Update Management for Automotive service

With OTA technology, automakers will use wireless networks to push software updates to vehicles automatically. The OTA service will need to notify end-users of updates as they become available and allow the users to schedule the upgrade process at a convenient time. Large software updates that may take a while to download and install could be scheduled to run overnight while the car is parked in the garage, making use of the home Wi-Fi connection. Smaller size updates could be delivered over a cellular connection through a tethered smartphone, while on a road trip. In this latter scenario, an update could be interrupted, for instance, if the car travels into a tunnel or beyond the network area.

A win-win-win
Deployment of OTA software updates is a winning proposition for automakers, dealers, and vehicle owners. Automakers could manage the OTA software updates themselves, or extend the capability to their dealer networks. Either way, drivers will benefit from the convenience of up-to-date software loads, content, and apps with less frequent trips to the dealer. Dealership appointments would be limited to mechanical work, and could be scheduled automatically according to the vehicle’s diagnostic state, which could be transmitted over the air, routinely, to the dealer. With this sharing of diagnostic data, vehicle owners would better know how much they need to shell out for repairs in advance of the appointment, with less chance of a shocking repair-cost phone call.

OTA technology also provides vehicle owners and automakers with the ability to personalize the vehicle. Automaker-pushed content can be carefully controlled to target the driver’s needs, reflect the automaker's brand, and avoid distraction — rather than the unrestricted open content found on the internet, which could be unsafe for consumption while driving. Overall, OTA software updates will help automakers maintain the customers they care about, engender brand loyalty, and provide the best possible customer experience.

Poised to lead
Thinking back to Telematics Detroit, if the number of demos my BlackBerry colleagues gave of their Software Update Management for Automotive service is any indication, OTA will transform the auto industry. According to a study from Gartner ( “U.S. Consumer Vehicle ICT Study: Web-Based Features Continue to Rise” by Thilo Koslowski), 40 percent of all U.S. vehicle owners either “definitely want to get” or at least are “likely to get” the ability for wireless software updates in their next new vehicle — making it the third most demanded automotive-centric Web application and function.

BlackBerry is poised to lead in this space, given their expertise in infrastructure, security, software management, and close ties to automotive. They were leaders in building an OTA solution for the smartphone market, and now again are among the first entrants in enabling a solution that is network, hardware, firmware, OS, software, and application agnostic.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Telematics Detroit 2013: The recap

Justin Moon
The Telematics Detroit conference always provides a great opportunity to take the pulse of the automotive connectivity market and understand what key players in the industry are doing — and are planning to do in the next couple of years.

Prior to the show, I had the opportunity to participate in an executive roundtable session hosted by Ernst and Young. The focus was the future of mobile integration and how it will change the market as we know it. The roundtable brought together views from the entire ecosystem, including OEMs, tier one suppliers, software and service providers, dealerships, and, ultimately, the end consumer. It was a great session with a lot of interaction.

Telematics Detroit, Day 1
The Bentley attracted lots of traffic
Okay, let’s go through the event checklist:
  • QNX technology concept car based on a Bentley Continental and outfitted with our latest instrument cluster and infotainment concepts. Check.
  • QNX reference vehicle based on a Jeep Wrangler, rocking a new Qt-based HMI on the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. Check.
  • How about a functional over-the-air software update demo from our colleagues at Blackberry to blow people away? OK, got that, too.
  • And let’s not forget a demo showcasing the latest in fast boot technology and Android app integration for the QNX CAR Platform. Check, and ready to go.

Inside the Jeep: a new Qt-based HMI
Now we’re set for the show. Day 1 opened with a keynote address on “Winning the Telematics Race”, presented by Thilo Koslowski of Gartner; it set the stage what for turned out to be a great show. Our booth was busy pretty much the entire day — but look at the list above… of course, it was busy! :-)

In addition to great booth traffic, I had the opportunity to participate on a panel on autonomous vehicles and the challenges they present — the discussion was very engaging and it did in fact “drive” traffic to our booth for further discussion. Meanwhile, my colleague Andrew Poliak presented a keynote on HMI trends. To my mind, his talk clearly demonstrated that we are thought leaders in this industry.

The evening brought the annual Telematics and Tonics mixer, co-hosted by QNX and several of its partners: AT&T, NVIDIA, Pandora, Tweddle, and Elektrobit. It was a huge success with well over 300 attendees — standing room only, all night. There were great discussions with great people until the wee hours of the night… really wee hours.

Telematics Detroit, Day 2
Day 2 was busy, busy, busy. Did I mention it was busy? We provided demos galore to OEMs, tier ones, partners — the works. Andy Gryc sat on a panel discussing the ultimate intuitive user interface and knocked it out of the park, as he always does.

The booth was busy until the show closed. We then we put the cars to bed in their shipping truck and headed off to the airport, tired but extremely happy nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Jivin' up the Jeep with a fresh new version of the QNX CAR Platform

by Paul Leroux

Reskinnable, reconfigurable,
and refreshed
If you haven’t already heard, we've announced version 2.1 of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment. In fact, we’re demonstrating it this week at the Telematics Detroit conference.

So what’s new in 2.1? Well, let’s start with what hasn’t changed. The platform is still based on the same, reliable QNX architecture proven in tens of millions of vehicles. (Fact: In 2012, QNX technology shipped in 11 million cars. If you put those cars end to end, they’d circle the earth — and you’d still have about 6000 miles of cars left over. That's a lot of cars.) The platform also retains its inherent flexibility, allowing infotainment system designers to use multiple app environments, connect to multiple mobile platforms, and create a wide range of systems.

Um... let me correct that statement. The new version is, in fact, more flexible. From the beginning, the QNX CAR Platform has supported both HTML5 and OpenGL ES, the two most popular open standards for mobile development. And now, with version 2.1, it also supports Android apps, as well as apps and human machine interfaces (HMIs) built with the popular Qt 5 application framework.

The QNX reference vehicle — a modded Jeep Wrangler — is the perfect, well, vehicle for showcasing these new capabilities. Take, for example, the new digital instrument cluster, which is implemented in OpenGL ES:

I enjoyed the look of the reference vehicle’s original cluster, and still do. But you know what I like about the new version? It shows how a digital cluster can deliver state-of-the-art features, yet still honor the look-and-feel of an established brand like Jeep. These features include dynamic reconfigurability and the power to display turn-by-turn directions, weather updates, and other information provided by the head unit.

Speaking of which, here is the head unit’s main screen, which serves as a one-stop information center for turn-by-turn directions, weather, music, and recent messages:

Now let’s slide over to the passenger seat for a different perspective. If you look below, you’ll see the head unit’s app tray, which shows how the QNX CAR Platform can blend a variety of apps and HMI technologies on the same display — in this case, native and Android apps running on an HMI built with the Qt 5 application framework. In case you’re wondering, the Android app icons in this image are AutoTrader and TapTu. (That's right, they can be accessed just like other apps.)

If you’ve seen images of the QNX technology concept car (you know, the Bentley!), you’re already familiar with the gorgeous 3D navigation system created by our partner Elektrobit. Well, the reference vehicle also comes with a version of Elektrobit’s nav system, seen here:

And last, here’s an image of my personal favorite, the virtual mechanic. In this case, it's displaying trip information, including duration, mileage, and average speed:

There's a lot to see in version 2.1 of the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment, but there's also a lot you can't see — such as improved power management, optimizations for faster boot time, and support for more hardware platforms, including Freescale i.MX 6Dual and i.MX 6Quad, NVIDIA Tegra 3, Texas Instruments OMAP 5, and Texas Instruments Jacinto 5 Eco.

What's more, I haven't shown you any of the new, pre-integrated partner apps that have been added to the platform, including HearPlanet, Parkopedia, Soundtracker, and wcities eventseekr. But no worries, I plan to reveal more in coming posts.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out the press release we issued this morning.

BlackBerry demonstrates new mobile computing service for automakers

This just in: BlackBerry has announced a new service for  automakers that will let them manage and deliver “over-the-air” (OTA) software updates to vehicles. Leveraging BlackBerry’s global and secure infrastructure, which already  delivers software updates to millions of BlackBerry devices around the world, the Software Update Management for Automotive service facilitates machine-to-machine (M2M) communication between the automaker and the vehicle, allowing the automaker to easily provide software updates to vehicles in the field.

BlackBerry is previewing the new service this week at the Telematics Detroit conference, where QNX Software Systems is also demonstrating the latest version of its QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment (more on that in my next post).

“BlackBerry is helping facilitate a rapid convergence between mobile computing and the auto industry as automakers seek to connect with customers wherever they may be,” said David J. Smith, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Mobile Computing at BlackBerry. “At Telematics Detroit we are previewing how BlackBerry can help automakers connect with customers... BlackBerry’s Software Update Management for Automotive service can transform the vehicle experience by enabling automakers to deliver new, compelling capabilities to their customers, long after the initial sale.”

More details about the BlackBerry's OTA solutions will made available in the coming months. In the meantime, check out the press release and visit

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Behind the scenes at the QNX concept garage

It seems like every technology concept car QNX produces is bigger and better than the last one, which is just how we like it. That also means each year countless hours are spent dreaming up and implementing ideas. Luckily for us, we’ve got an absolutely amazing concept design team who go above and beyond to create these demos. Luckily for them, the team’s got a cool garage to work in.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens.

The garage can be a serene place after a milestone is reached. In this photo, the Jeep and Bentley await transport to the Telematics Detroit conference.

Mike Shane only looks like he’s trying to break into the car. In reality, he’s shining some light on the latest challenge to roll into the garage.

Tyler Elliott works on the remote monitoring demo portion of the Bentley, making sure the windows and locks behave as planned not only in the garage but also on the show floor.

Like most of his colleagues, Alexandre James splits his time in the garage between the computer and the vehicles. Here he helps test the Bentley’s stereo audio capabilities.

The open concept of the garage makes it easy to share challenges and draw upon everyone's expertise. Here Justin Moon, a former member of the concept team, talks with colleagues about the DLP.

True Nguyen, a UX designer “borrowed” from the engineering team to work on the Jeep and Bentley UIs, fits right in with the garage regulars.

James Henderson from Design First moves in and out of the garage as needed. Here he is deep in thought as he works on the new dash that will eventually house the large display.

The garage has a small alcove with couches and whiteboards away from the vehicles; the guys from Crank Software make good use of the space to check in their code.

Mark Rigley, the team’s fearless and passionate leader, toasts everyone’s hard work before each technology concept car makes its maiden voyage out of the garage.

Who says real men don’t drink rosé? After countless hours in the garage, a celebration is always a welcome break.

Another end-of-project tradition – team photo with the concept car.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Chevy MyLink drives home with CTIA Emerging Technology Award

by Paul Leroux

There's nothing better than going home with first prize. Except, perhaps, doing it twice. Back in January, the QNX-based Chevy MyLink system earned a Best of CES 2013 Award, in the car tech category, for its intuitive user experience, smartphone connectivity, and instrument-cluster integration. And just recently, MyLink pulled another coup: it took first place in the "Automotive, LBS, Navigation & Safe Driving" category of the 2013 CTIA Emerging Technology (E-Tech) Awards.

If you're new to the E-Tech Awards, they honor innovation in wireless products and services. A panel of industry experts, reporters, and analysts conduct the online judging, which selects winners based on functionality, technological importance, and overall “wow” factor.

Congratulations to our friends at Chevrolet! And kudos for bringing such a successful system to market.

For more information on the awards, read the blog post from CTIA. For more information on Chevy MyLink, visit the Chevrolet channel on YouTube.

Image source: Chevrolet