What will be the “must-have” in automotive infotainment in the next five years?

Mon, 03/10/2014 - 10:47am
ECN Staff

What will be the “must-have” in automotive infotainment in the next five years?

Sabine Jud, Marketing Manager, Automotive Business Unit, amsAG

Significant advances in Automotive IC technology over the past decade have led to smarter, safer and more eco-friendly driving. Consumers expect more safety, assistance, and convenience. They value passive safety applications such as airbags, intelligent seat belts, as well as active safety features like lane departure warning, collision avoidance, traffic sign recognition etc. All of these major advances in the car are enabled by clever IC’s and sensor solutions.
Automotive electronics are evolving with features such as 3D or rear view or side cameras to provide drivers with an improved view of surroundings and avoid accidents. ams for instance develops highly efficient power supplies for automotive controls with high-speed CAN interface, that are ideally suited for rear view applications.

Another example are Laser-based obstacle recognition systems (LIDAR) that employ an invisible laser in the rear view mirror, illuminating an area of about 8 meters/26.25 feet in front of the car. The reflected light from any obstacle in close proximity is used to measure the distance. If the distance is too small, the system initiates automatic braking also called “city-safety” or “active city stop”.

Advanced technology platforms ranging from silicon germanium (SiGe) to low-power and high-voltage CMOS, combined with strong design expertise, make these safety-critical applications a reality. Other examples include the detection presence of infants in a passenger seat, distinguishing between an adult and a rear -facing infant seat present on the passenger seat and suppresses the airbag deployment in the presence of a baby seat. This IC solution was specially designed to work under high electromagnetic disturbances (EMC) such as the operation of mobile phones. Intelligent position sensor solutions are another technology that helps increase system reliability, safety and robustness in vehicles by analyzing the effects of failure modes while ensuring functional safety in the event of predictable failures.

Kevin Keryk, Avnet Electronics Marketing,

Automotive infotainment systems of the future will benefit from a low-cost, low-power, flexible system-on-chip (SoC) architecture in order to enable a vehicle platform that adapts to evolving content delivery providers and cloud-based services.

Imagine your next vehicle capable of automatically connecting to your home Wi-Fi or Bluetooth smartphone in order to seamlessly and wirelessly access the information and content portals you use each day outside the vehicle.

Adaptive intelligence within application software will buffer content locally to your vehicle systems for consumption on your next journey.  This will offer the convenience of your favorite shows delivered from your preferred subscription based content provider (such as Hulu or Netflix).  It will also allow road trip itineraries, planned the night before with your friends or family through social media (such as Facebook or Google+), to be loaded into your vehicle navigation system.

All Programmable SoCs are enabling product differentiation with complete control of IP, and will help system designers keep up with constantly changing feature requirements often seen during vehicle lifetimes.  With consumer demands constantly changing to fit their lifestyles, I expect to see more demand for flexible vehicle platforms going forward.

Giorgio Scuro, General Manager, Automotive Embedded Solutions at Micron Technology

Many buyers today care more about the infotainment and connectivity technologies embedded in the dashboard than what is under the hood of their car. Electronics makes driving a car much easier than in the past—and more of a pleasure, too. Automatic vision systems and intelligent sensors make it possible for the electronic control unit of the car to override the driver and take full control, if need be. Moreover, electronics keeps drivers connected to the outside world.

In fact, the touch screen of a car is no longer just a tool to check the functioning of the engine or to guide the way to a given destination. Now, it can display familiar apps and programs—the same ones that you have on your smartphone or on your PC at home. Consequently, electronics can also bring new challenges in information overload and distraction for drivers. Minimizing driver distractions and improving safety are huge priorities for the industry. And, once again, electronics are leading the way to a new paradigm in automotive comfort and safety: the creation of an integrated system network with other cars (vehicle- to-vehicle[V2V]) and with roadside traffic-monitoring stations (vehicle-to-infrastructure [V2I]).

I believe that Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) will be the focal point for in-vehicle electronics in the coming years. It is particularly intriguing to note how ADAS applications are becoming increasingly integrated with infotainment systems. They share the same hardware blocks, e.g., for HMI and connectivity. This means that in many cases the microelectronics components used for on-board infotainment must fulfill very stringent requirements in order to meet the most demanding automotive quality and safety standards.

The increasing complexity of electronics systems requires more semiconductor products— specifically memory solutions—with higher density, better performance, and last but not least—better reliability. Integrated circuits used for car applications must prove their reliability in harsh environments and perform within a wide operating temperature range. This level of quality and performance may be achieved only through a dedicated approach, specifically tailored to the automotive industry.

Tim Lau, Director of Automotive Connectivity, Broadcom Corporation

Analysts predict that by 2025, 100 percent of vehicles will be connected. With a faster-than expected engineering push around autonomous vehicles underway, the evolution of car connectivity has gained sharp momentum.

While various technologies will play a role in powering the cars of 2025, two in particular will play a critical role in securely connecting cars and ultimately enabling the transition to autonomous vehicles – Bluetooth Smart Ready and automotive Ethernet. 

Bluetooth Smart Ready technology, which allows products to sip power at an incremental rate, will play a vital role in enabling connectivity between the car and wearable tech with the ability to monitor biometric indicators including driver fatigue, blood alcohol content and glucose levels.

And with the marriage of WiFi and Bluetooth Smart Ready, we anticipate a new era of vehicle-to-person (V2P), vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, commonly known as V2X. Promising quantum improvements in road and traffic safety, V2X communication will alert drivers to upcoming road hazards, accidents and traffic jams and play a vital role in enabling the autonomous vehicle.

As the connected car evolves and autonomous vehicles emerge, so do concerns about network security. By leveraging automotive Ethernet as the car’s network backbone, network security features such as device/message authentication and message encryption protect the car from malicious attacks and installation of non-service-approved devices. Deployment of low-cost automotive Ethernet also means that high-end features such as infotainment and advanced driver assistance system capabilities like surround-view parking, rear-view cameras and lane departure warnings – all critical capabilities for autonomous vehicles – can be deployed in a much broader range of vehicles, not just limited to the luxury class.

Aditya Kaul and Sivaguru Noopuran, Cypress

Human-Machine Interface designs in automotive are going through a revolution. Touch-free User Interfaces are the new trend for automotive design engineers. There are multiple ways to implement this feature and one of them is through capacitive proximity sensing. Proximity sensing is a technology through which objects such as human body or metal can be detected without touch. Capacitive based proximity sensing will supplement touchscreens as the next generation interfaces in automotive infotainment systems. Capacitive proximity sensing can enable “touch-free” interfaces in infotainment systems, keyless entry systems, lighting control, 3-D gestures etc.

Capacitive proximity sensing can be used for lighting up the display in an infotainment system. The benefit of this feature is that the display and/or the user interface could be turned-off when not in use so as to not distract while driving and lights-up or activates when the hand approaches.

Another proximity sensing application is to have 3-D gestures in the system which allows the driver to access basic functions without actually touching the screen. 3-D gestures could be a horizontal/vertical swipe in the air or detection based on the distance of the hand from the interface. The simultaneous use of two or more capacitive proximity sensors enables simple spatial gestures such as hand waving in front of the device to be detected. Proximity sensing can be used to bring up menus on a car’s display with frequently used functions, which disappear when not in use. Gestures are the most basic communication techniques known to man and have been practiced through the ages.

Capacitive proximity sensing in systems is becoming increasingly popular because of its inherent advantages like low power, low cost, and ability to integrate additional User Interface features such as touch buttons and sliders. Proximity based user interfaces and gestures will make their way in the next generation of automobiles in a big way.

Taqi Mohiuddin, Senior Director, Marketing, Evans Analytical Group

Car makers are filling today’s automobile with a growing array of electronics systems. Whether for infotainment or other purposes such as telematics, safety and engine control, more systems means more risk of failure, which is particularly dangerous in a moving vehicle. The “must have” in automotive infotainment and other systems over the coming years is the ability to ascertain the root cause of failures, their associated failure mechanisms, and how to resolve failures while also preventing future occurrences to improve safety.

Automotive electronic technology was born in the avionics world, yet it lacks the same functional safeguards, built-in redundancies, and standardized protections. Failures can occur anywhere in an increasingly complex system mix, and too frequently, manufacturers don’t fully comprehend how systems can malfunction, individually or during interaction with other systems inside and outside the vehicle. Finding and fixing failures requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach encompassing both electrical and physical analysis, and a focus on the entire system down to the IC transistor level. Specialized expertise is necessary, along with sophisticated equipment including advanced high-resolution microscopy imaging systems, and advanced software tools.

There also is the issue of counterfeit components entering the automotive supply chain, which poses additional performance, reliability and safety risks for infotainment and other systems. Screening and analysis is required, including physical inspection and deeper electrical testing of semiconductors and ICs, as well as the verification and authentication of device marking die inspection, circuit extraction, electrical functionality and performance against reliability specifications.

Automotive infotainment and other systems are delivering exciting new driver and passenger capabilities. Along with those capabilities, though, comes increased risk of electronic system failure, which must be mitigated through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary electronic system failure analysis methodology supported by specialized expertise and sophisticated equipment and toolsets.

Dan Loop, Business Development Manager, Automotive Applications Processors at Freescale Semiconductor, Inc.

While drivers are excited about the many ways their cars are becoming more like their various consumer devices (phones, tablets, touch screens), this is really only the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, I also think this is great, but as an engineer the really interesting part to me is how the network infrastructure in vehicles is evolving to provide the foundation for entirely new innovations that are being conceptualized. To me it is like an Internet of Things for within the car itself that connects to the broader Internet of Things through built-in or brought-in connectivity. In the coming years, the car’s internal systems will continue to evolve into a network with infotainment and telematics systems as the aggregation point for all of the vehicle information.  This sharing of relevant data inside and outside the car is really going to be the biggest trend for drivers in the next five years, enhancing the driving experience and increasing the safety of the vehicle.

The next big leap in infotainment functionality will come from intelligently and safely connecting every ECU in the vehicle to this network, allowing OEMs to build more automotive specific applications that add value to the driving experience. OEMs will better understand how the vehicle is behaving so that they can improve their designs.  Insurance companies will be able to get information about how the car is driven by the people they insure. Meanwhile, there is data related to the operation of the vehicle that can be communicated between ECUs and with the driver. For example, how cool will it be when your car is connected to the smart grid, ensuring the most cost efficient time for charging?  Or when your infotainment system informs you that you left your phone at your desk before you back out of the garage?

Cees Links, CEO & Founder of Greenpeak Technologies

Within a few years from now, wireless technologies such as WiFi and ZigBee will be an integral part of the automotive experience.

As you pull into your garage, your automobile will be able to connect to your private WiFi network and communicate its maintenance statistics and provide the car owner with an immediate read-out of status and actions required. Later that week, when you take your car to your favorite repair/maintenance facility, the internal data will transmit to the facility’s system and provide the mechanics with not only what needs to be done, but even an alert regarding past operational incidents that may have shortened the lifetime of the vehicle. IE – slamming your car into a curb and throwing the wheels out of alignment or driving with the parking brake on for an extended period.

So why wireless? It is more than just convenience.

One of the key challenges for car manufacturers is optimizing fuel use – the lighter the car, the less gas needed. But all the new stuff on board from the radar sensors in the bumpers to the infotainment in every chair – it all requires cables, and cables being weight. Modern cars today easily have five miles of cable on board… and this number is growing. Every gadget, every light, every sensor, every controller and every servo – it is wired back to the main controller. But not for long. The car industry is looking at wireless to reduce internal wiring, and not only decreasing the weight, but also making it easier to add options later, instead of in the factory, as well as simplifying refurbishment.

ZigBee, an open worldwide standard for sense and control networks in the smart home, is currently integrated in many home set-top boxes and gateways, allowing security devices, thermostats, lights and other devices to be connected to the internet while running on coin cell batteries with a life time exceeding the life of the device it is in.

A logical step is that many of the car sensors will be wirelessly interconnected via ZigBee – especially those that are not critical and will report to the driver’s dashboard as well as to the car’s central control and data storage center.
Just like in homes and factories, soon car makers will be able to eliminate many of the cables and wires that contribute to the weight of a vehicle, and in that way, reduce costs, improve gas mileage and improve the user interaction.

Noah Reding, National Instruments Automotive and Aerospace Product Manager

The idea of an autonomous vehicle is what many automotive engineers dream about and wake up with a passion to drive toward, especially as this concept moves closer to reality. With vehicles continuing to evolve and becoming smarter, safer, and more sophisticated, infotainment systems are at the crux of this evolution and play an integral role. An absolute “must-have” for these systems will be the seamless integration of a wide variety of I/O types.

Automotive electronics continue to advance in that they do far more than simply connect to in-vehicle networks like CAN and basic temperature sensors. Today, these electronics must also send and receive RF signals, video data, and audio waveforms. This means vehicles will need to communicate wirelessly with other vehicles and infrastructures while simultaneously keeping passengers entertained through Bluetooth connectivity to their phones and multimedia satellite broadcast signals. Ultimately, this is the very definition of infotainment where key information and entertainment converge. A more short-term example of this trend can be seen in the mandate that vehicles must include rear view cameras as a safety precaution. This means the same center console system that currently tunes the radio and plays music must now feature a video screen to display the rear view camera feed.

As a result, a significant challenge for automotive engineers is the need to design and test infotainment systems with a variety of I/O types in mind. The requirement to ensure vehicle safety brings with it a learning curve to understand how new types of I/O need to be tested, including RF communications and video streams. There is no doubt that infotainment systems will continue to change rapidly, which means it will be increasingly important to adopt flexible test platforms that can adjust to a variety of I/O to keep pace with new standards.

Brian Pluckebaum, Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Renesas Electronics America

Interest in automotive infotainment technology is growing rapidly and is pushing toward a higher level of integration like an “integrated cockpit.” This drives a number of requirements from the infotainment system that weren’t previously considered including functional safety, improved controls to avoid driver distraction, and improved graphics.

Functional safety implementations are necessary to meet demands in the instrumentation realm to assure driver information is received in real-time. However, they are not the only “safe”-related items that will be key factors in infotainment.
With the additional content and displays, such as larger center stack and driver information (HUD, traffic and road conditions, etc.), driver distraction becomes a larger concern. At Renesas, we also see a push toward the implementation of improved voice recognition and gesture recognition.

Voice recognition is a constantly improving technology and has progressed from simple commands to natural speech. However, it’s different for each person; pronunciation and articulation makes voice recognition difficult.

Combining improved voice recognition with gesture controls will help aid drivers in accessing content without diverting their attention from the road. By using improved voice recognition, drivers may navigate content by speaking to their car. Combined with gesture controls, the user can move content to a more convenient viewing position for easier access.

Infotainment graphics will play a key role for the connected car and is the main focus for consumers. The variety of display sizes, shapes, and resolution requirements are growing. Higher HD video resolution graphics and larger WVGA improves the experience in a car.

Constant improvements are necessary to achieve a look and feel that consumers find appealing and will help drive usage and a safer driving experience. Renesas expects to see requirements for 4K displays by mid-2020. With the consumer displays moving toward 2K and 4K, it is important infotainment systems have a power graphics core to address the higher resolutions. Renesas is focused on providing the latest graphics technology with our R-Car SoC lineup.

Lokesh Duraiappah, Marketing Manager, Broadcast Audio/Automotive, Silicon Labs

With the expansion of Internet connectivity at home, at work and on the go, consumers expect this same ubiquitous connectivity in their cars. This is leading to the development of 4G LTE cellular modems for automotive infotainment units with Wi-Fi hotspots for video and audio streaming. The challenge to this scenario is that electromagnetic spectrum is finite and thus not free. Wireless service providers will charge for data links and also how much data is consumed. Terrestrial radio and TV broadcast are accessible without subscription and are very efficient in broadcasting the same content to many, with AM/FM radio being the standard broadcast technology receiver in the car.

AM/FM analog radio is alive and well with more people discovering new music and receiving local news on their favorite FM stations than perhaps any other medium in their cars. While being a very successful broadcast technology, analog modulation technology limits AM/FM radio in two ways: sound quality and content level. With analog modulation the transmitted audio signal suffers sound quality from channel impairments such as multi-path interference and environmental noise. Additionally multiple services cannot be transmitted on the same channel. A 200 kHz channel in FM is used to transmit only one service today in the US, for example. Digital radio technologies such as HD Radio in the US and DAB/DAB+ in Europe and other regions address these gaps by multiplexing several services onto the same channel and employing digital modulation techniques such as OFDM. HD Radio can provide up to five audio services within the same 200 kHz channel in the FM band. We expect to see digital radio become a standard feature in cars in the coming years to complement AM/FM radio, offering more content and with better sound quality along with the many other wireless communications technologies. The benefit is that digital radio will be subscription free and augment the listener’s choice of entertainment and news sources.

Tom Trill, VP Corporate Development and Marketing, Spansion
Today’s consumers expect simple, seamless interaction with the devices they use on a daily basis and this sentiment is no different from the experience they expect in their automobiles. Infotainment systems have become the hub for entertainment and management in the car, but what we’re seeing on the market today is only the beginning. The must have in five years will consist of a deeply connected experience, pushing the sophistication of embedded automotive technology further than anything we’ve seen before.
Cars of the future will be connected to everything around them including consumer devices, traffic signals and pavement-embedded sensors, and even other cars on the road. It will take a lot to bring this so called ‘network on wheels’ to life, and a lot of progress will be made in the next five years, so long as automakers put an increased focus on building smart systems that enable reliable data connections and ultra-speedy user interfaces. What’s needed is an integrated, unified and connected car IT fabric that supports all auto applications, internal and external to the car. What’s more, is all of this will be on a “hands-free heads-up display.” That’s truly going be the “must have” five years from now. One can imagine an in-cabin immersive user interface that puts vehicular and comfort control and a suite of infotainment and telematics information at the “eyelids” as opposed to at the “fingertips” all being controlled by voice, touch and gesture recognition.
There are several hurdles that automakers must overcome to achieve this lofty goal in this time span. Security, connectivity, affordability, integration and interoperability are some of the most critical challenges facing the sector. The good news is that work is being done on the embedded level now to solve these challenges with innovation in MCU, power management and Flash memory technologies – essential building blocks to this ‘IoT puzzle.’

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