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.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Telematics China — closing out the year with a get-together in Shanghai

Guest post by Peter McCarthy of the QNX global partnerships team

Peter McCarthy
Is it November already? Time flies when you’re busy. And on the subject of flying, I’ll soon be on a plane to Shanghai, where our friends at Telematics China are hosting what promises to be a great automotive event from December 4 to 6. The organizers have been instrumental in bringing together companies in the industry and a great support to QNX with our own automotive events.

Back in August, QNX held an automotive summit in Shanghai. The success of this event owed a lot to partners like AutoNavi, a leader in the Chinese navigation market that is bringing its digital map content and navigation software to the QNX CAR Platform. The AutoNavi folks delivered a great presentation on the future of in-vehicle services and navigation, and I am sure we will continue these discussions when we meet at the Telematics China event.

When I scroll through the list of sponsors, exhibitors, and presenters at Telematics China, I know for sure my days and nights will be busy — but more importantly, filled with conversations with all the right people. So if you’re attending the event, please reach out to your QNX contacts and make time to meet. We look forward to seeing you there.

About Peter
When he isn't talking on oversized mobile phones, Peter McCarthy serves as director of global partnerships at QNX Software Systems, where he is responsible for establishing and fostering partnerships with technology and services companies in all of the company's target industries.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The first-ever QNX technology concept car to hit CES

Paul Leroux
I bet you thought it was the Porsche. Or perhaps even the Bentley. But no, the first QNX-powered technology concept car to appear at CES was a digitally modded Prius — aka the LTE Connected Car. In fact, the car appeared at two CES shows: 2010 and 2011.

If you've never heard of the LTE Connected Car, it was a joint project of several companies, including QNX Software Systems and Alcatel-Lucent. The project members wanted to demonstrate how 4G/LTE networks could transform the driving experience and enable a host of new in-vehicle applications. This kind of thinking of may seem like old hat today, but when the car was created, telecom companies had yet to light up their first commercial LTE towers. The car was definitely ahead of its time.

One of the four infotainment
systems in the LTE Connected Car
Almost everyone saw the entertainment potential of equipping a car with a 4G/LTE broadband connection — the ability to access your favorite music, applications, videos, or social media while on the road had immediate appeal. But many people also saw the other value proposition this car presented: the ability for vehicles to continuously upload information they have gathered about themselves or surrounding road conditions, providing, in the words of WIRED's Eliot Van Buskirk, "a crowd-sourced version of what traffic helicopters do today." Awesome quote, that.

QNX provided the software foundation for the LTE Connected Car, including the OS, touchscreen user interfaces, media players for YouTube and Pandora, navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, games, and handsfree integration. But why am I blabbing on about this when I could show you? Cue the screen captures...

Google local search
First up is Google local search, which displayed local points of interest to help drivers and passengers find nearby restaurants, gas stations, movie theaters, ATMs, hospitals, and so on. And because this was an LTE-enabled car, the system could fetch these POIs from a cloud-based database:

Pandora Internet radio
For those who prefer to listen to what they like, and nothing else, the car also came with a Pandora app:

Home monitoring and control
Are you the kind of person who forgets to engage the burglar alarm before going to work? If so, the car's home automation app was just the ticket. It could let you manage home systems, such as lights and thermostats, from any of the car’s touchscreens — you could even view a live video feed from home security cameras:

Vehicle diagnostics
Now this is my favorite part. If you look below, you'll see the car's main screen for accessing vehicle diagnostics. At the upper right is the virtual mechanic app, which retrieved OBD-II codes from the vehicle bus to display the status of your brakes, tires, power train, electrical systems, fluids, and so on. (The current QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment includes an updated version of this app.)

Low oil pressure... yikes!
The virtual mechanic wouldn't fix your car for you. But it could tell you when things were going south and help you take appropriate action — before the problem escalated. In this case, it's saying that the engine oil pressure is low:

What to do? Well, if you were mechanically challenged, you could tap the fuel pump icon at the bottom of the screen to display a map of local service stations. Or you could tap on the dealership icon (Toyota, in this case) and find directions to the nearest, well, dealership:

The virtual mechanic would also let you zoom in on specific systems. For instance, in the following screen, the user has tapped the brake fluid button to learn the location of the brake fluid reservoir:

On the subject of zooming, let's zoom out for a second to see the entire car:

Moving pictures
Screen captures and photos can say only so much. For the back story on the LTE Connected Car, check out this video, which digs into the "philosophy" of the car and what the project members were working to accomplish:

An LTE Connected Car reader

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CES Cars of Fame

It’s that time of year again — and we’re not just talking about turkeys and Christmas trees. CES 2014 is right around the corner and QNX Software Systems will again be at the show, ready to unveil a new technology concept car.

For the past couple of years, we’ve driven into CES with cars that explore the future of automotive technology. Each car represents an important part of QNX history and because of this, we're excited to launch CES Cars of Fame. Each week, we’ll highlight a car on our blog, Twitter account, and Facebook page that we have showcased at CES. We’ll look at what made these cars so special and at the response they generated in the media and auto industry. And you get to participate, too: at the end of the series, you can vote for your favorite car!

We’re kicking things off on Tuesday, November 19. So stay tuned to this space and to @QNX_Auto on Twitter and to the QNX Software Systems Facebook page.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Top 10 lessons learned from more than a decade in automotive

Guest post by John Wall, vice president of QNX engineering and services

Ten years ago, software accounted for about 20 to 30 percent of the effort that went into an infotainment system. Today, some would argue that it’s upwards of 90 percent. This makes sense if you ask yourself, “Where are all the red, burning issues?” They’re not on hardware, they’re on software. “Where is all the money being spent?” Software.

A big challenge in today’s automotive industry is acquiring the knowledge and experience to manage the complexity, cost, and risk of this dramatic change.

We at QNX have had the good fortune to work closely with tier one suppliers and their OEM customers since 1999. We've had their development teams live with us for months at a time — sometimes years. And we've lived with them, working as integrated teams. The end result is our customers have learned a lot about the value we offer and we have learned a great deal about addressing their requirements.

Drawing from this experience, here are my ten biggest takeaways:

1. Commitment
Not delivering is not acceptable. You get only one chance, and there’s no margin for failure. If development of an infotainment system fails meet start-of-production deadlines, the car has to ship with a hole in the dash — or not at all. And if the system performs poorly, the OEM may end up having to use it. But you can be sure that the supplier won’t be invited back.

2. Trust
Trust is a huge part of the business. People need to trust that you will do what you say and that their car line is going to ship. They need to know that you take their business seriously.

3. Realism
You need to be realistic. It isn’t worth being too optimistic. In fact, you’ll do damage with overly optimistic dates that you don’t hit.

4. Investment
There’s a ‘show me’ attitude in automotive. You have to be prepared to invest up front. We know a lot of tier ones that are building prototypes on their own dime. This is especially true if you’re courting a new customer; you’ve got to put skin in the game.

5. Reputation
It’s a small world — another important lesson. The auto industry is a tight-knit community. People move around a lot. It’s not unusual to go to a tier one supplier and see people you met six months earlier at their competitor’s. So maintaining your reputation is very important; it follows you everywhere.

6. Reliability
You can’t rest on your laurels. You need to repeatedly and consistently help customers successfully cross the finish line.

7. Honesty
You have to be honest. Often, a customer will say, “I want X” and you have to say, “Well, you can’t have X”. And you have to provide a good explanation why.

8. Relevancy
Ultimately it’s the market that decides. You can have champions within a customer's organization — even the guy who makes all the decisions — but ultimately the company has to build what consumers want. They’re a business; they will go with what sells. Your job is to anticipate market demands and offer products that are relevant to the consumer.

9. Flexibility
The market is evolving — quickly. Customers have to track moving targets, like integration with the newest smartphone models, and still get a reliable product out on time. Your products and services must give them the flexibility and adaptability they need.

10. Passion
If you don’t have it, you don’t belong in this market. Automotive is complex, it’s fast moving, and it’s too deep for anyone who thinks they can simply test the waters. Succeeding in automotive demands a phenomenal level of discipline and commitment. But if you love it, the rewards are worth it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

RealVNC, QNX team up for mobile-to-vehicle connectivity

Paul Leroux
This just in: QNX and RealVNC have announced that they are collaborating to bring RealVNC’s implementation of the MirrorLink smartphone-to-vehicle connectivity standard to the QNX CAR Platform for Infotainment.

With RealVNC’s MirrorLink-certified SDK integrated in the QNX CAR Platform, QNX can offer a variety of connectivity features for integrating cars and smartphones through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB.

“We are delighted to work with QNX on integrating VNC Automotive into the QNX CAR Platform... many tier 1 and auto OEM customers are already using the proven combination of RealVNC and QNX technologies in production programs,” said Tom Blackie, VP Mobile RealVNC.

Read the full press on the QNX website.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What's the word on HTML5?

Ten videos on HTML5 in the car. Actually, there are only nine — but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Paul Leroux
Has it been two years already? In November 2011, a group of my QNX colleagues, including Andy Gryc, launched a video series on using HTML5 in the car. They realized that HTML5 holds enormous potential for automotive infotainment, from reducing industry fragmentation to helping head units keep pace with the blistering rate of change in the mobile industry. They also realized it was important to get the word out — to help people understand that the power of HTML5 extends far beyond the ability to create web pages. And so, they invited a variety of thought leaders and industry experts with HTML5 experience to stand in front of the camera and share their stories.

All of which to say, if you're interested in the future of HTML5 in the car, and in what thought leaders from companies such as OnStar, Audi, Gartner, Pandora, TCS, and QNX have to say about it, you've come to the right place. So let's get started, shall we?

Interview with Steve Schwinke of OnStar
Andy Gryc catches up with Steve Schwinke, director of advanced technology for OnStar, who is bullish on the both the short- and long-term benefits of HTML5:

Interview with Mathias Haliger of Audi
Derek Kuhn of QNX sits down with Mathias Haliger, head of MMI system architecture at Audi AG, who discusses the importance of HTML5 to his company and to the industry at large:

The analyst perspective: Thilo Koslowski of Gartner
Andy gets together with Thilo Koslowski, VP Distinguished Analyst at Gartner, to discuss the notion of controlled openness for the car — and how HTML5 fits into the picture:

Interview with Tom Conrad of Pandora
Andy meets up with Tom Conrad, CTO at Pandora, to get his take on the benefits of standardizing on HTML5 across markets:

Interview with Michael Camp of TCS
Andy Gryc sits down with Michael Camp, director of engineering for in-car telematics at TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), to get a software supplier's perspective on HTML5:

Interview with Matthew Staikos
Andy talks with Matthew Staikos, former web-technology manager at BlackBerry, about the impact of HTML5 on hardware options, memory usage, and app stores:

The myth buster interview
Andy and Kerry Johnson get together to discuss how HTML5 apps can deliver snappy performance, run without a Web browser, and even work without an Internet connection:

Interview with Sheridan Ethier
Andy drops in on Sheridan Ethier, manager of the QNX CAR Platform development team, to get a developer's perspective on HTML5:

Kickoff video
And last but not least, here is the video that started it all. Andy Gryc gives his take on why he believes HTML5 is destined to become the foundation for next-gen automotive apps:

Blooper video
Did I say last but not least? Sorry, I have one more video that you just have to see:

Monday, November 4, 2013

What happens when autonomous becomes ubiquitous?

Seventeen ways in which the self-driving car will transform how we live.

Let’s speculate that at least 25% of cars on the road are autonomous — and that those cars are sufficiently advanced to operate without a human driver. Let’s also assume that the legal issues have been sorted out somehow.

How would this impact society?

  • The elderly could maintain their independence. Even if they have lost the ability to drive, they could still get groceries, go to appointments, visit family and friends, or just go for a drive.
  • Cars could chauffer intoxicated folks safely home — no more drunk drivers.
  • Municipalities could get rid of buses and trains, and replace them with fleets of vehicles that would pick people up and drop them off exactly where they want to go. Mass transit would become individual transit.
  • Car sharing would become more popular, as the cost could be spread among multiple people. Friends, family members, or neighbors could chip in to own a single car, reducing pollution as well as costs. The cars would shuffle themselves to where they are needed, depending on everyone’s individual needs.
  • Fewer vehicles would be produced, but they would be more expensive. This could drive some smaller automakers out of business or force more industry consolidation.
  • Cities could get rid of most parking lots and garages, freeing up valuable real estate for homes, businesses, or parks.
  • Taxi companies would either go out of business or convert over to autonomous piloted vehicles. Each taxi could be equipped with anti-theft measures, alerting police if, say, the taxi detects it is being boarded onto a truck.
  • We could have fewer roads with higher capacities. Self-directed cars would be better equipped to negotiate inter-vehicle space, being more “polite” to other vehicles; they would also enable greater traffic density.
  • Instead of creating traffic jams, heavy traffic would maintain a steady pace, since the vehicles would operate as a single platoon.
  • Autonomous cars could completely avoid roads under construction and scatter themselves evenly throughout the surrounding route corridors to minimize the impact on detour routes.
  • There would be no more hunting for parking spots downtown. Instead, people could tell their cars to go find a nearby parking spot and use their smartphones to summon the cars back once they’re ready to leave.
  • Concerts or sporting events would operate more smoothly, as cars could coordinate where they’re parking. The flow of vehicles exiting from events would be more like a ballet than a mosh pit.
  • Kids growing up with autonomous cars would enjoy a new level of independence. They could get to soccer games without needing mom or dad to drive them. Parents could program the car to drive the children to fixed destinations: sports game and home.
  • School buses could become a thing of the past. School boards could manage fleets of cars that would pick up the children as needed by geographic grouping.
  • You could send your car out for errands, and companies would spring up to cater to “driverless” cars. For example, you could set up your grocery list online and send your car to pick them up; a clerk would fill your car with your groceries when it shows up at the supermarket.
  • Rental car companies could start offering cars that come to you when you need them. Renting cars may become more popular than owning them, since people who drive infrequently could pay by the ride, as opposed to paying the capital cost of owning a vehicle.
  • Cars would become like living rooms and people would enjoy the ride like never before — reading, conversing, exercising, watching TV. Some people may even give up their home to adopt a completely mobile existence.