In-Vehicle Infotainment Turns to the Experts
Certain technologies are key to customizing passengers’ experiences.
Considering the price of modern cars, it’s not unreasonable to expect an in-vehicle digital experience that works as well as one’s smartphone. However, the design life cycle for automobiles extends over several years, and many manufacturers in the automotive industry lag behind the sophisticated functionality of smartphones. To catch up with technology and maintain the pace, automakers must design ahead of the game. One solution that automakers look to comes from companies whose core competency is embedded hardware, software, and surrounding ecosystems of development environments, tools, and operating systems. The in-car digital experience of playing music, dealing with phone calls, and navigation is identified as In-Vehicle Experience (IVE) or In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) in the automotive industry. The market for IVI is forecasted at $33 billion by the year 2020 with a Combined Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) approaching 13.3%.[i] Bringing the richness of experiences capable of smartphones and tablets, features such as live streaming audio/video, voice recognition, and advanced connectivity options will become increasingly common.
The most promising future IVE-related platform, envisioned within self-driving vehicles, takes advantage of a temporarily captive audience. But whether IVI is implemented today or in the future, the development of sophisticated and connected infotainment platforms is labor-intensive and expensive. Thus, it makes sense that Intel® Corporation would connect with automakers and Google’s Android Operating System (OS) to create a customizable IVI platform with a familiar Android-based Human Machine Interface (HMI) framework. Intel’s Open Source Technology Center has been contributing to the Android Open Source Project since 2009, contributing nearly 50,000 patches, and working directly with the Android engineering team in the process.[ii]
Many IVIs today are not fully integrated but rather an overlay that allows the automaker to add smartphone activity without large expenditures in software development. All the same, Google Android OS has been extended to automotive IVI as a fully integrated system extending into the dashboard and is not an overlay. Engineers have optimized Android for running on an Intel automotive SoC with optimized processing security features and up-to-date software versions. The functionality extends beyond in-vehicle entertainment to instrument clusters and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). Altogether the solution, enabled by the Intel® GO™ Development Platform for In-Vehicle Experiences, provides several vital technologies for customizing IVIs for automakers. The automotive extension of Google Android is a complete operating system and not just an overlay such as Android Auto, Apple Car Play, or proprietary versions such as Toyota’s ETune, which require one’s smartphone to operate.
Whereas the number of smartphone operating systems has narrowed down to Apple, Android and a very few others, the IVI market is still fragmented, with several proprietary systems in place as well as Android and Apple solutions. The majority of car makers have provided a means for the car to act as an extension of the user’s smartphone, with limited success, as car makers have had to support the two major smartphone platforms, Apple and Android, with various applications that tie in navigation, messaging, phone calls, and other phone functions. The Intel GO development platform provides integration into other dashboard functions such as instrument cluster, HVAC controls, and ADAS in addition to traditional IVI functionality, which includes navigation, integration with the car’s audio system, and phone calls. According to Intel, “Google has extended its Android OS so that it runs seamlessly in an IVR system. It will also offer a dedicated ecosystem of apps designed for automotive.” ii Google’s integrated Android Automotive also makes it easier for automakers to design their own user interfaces. Since Google Android has been around for some time, the talent pool and ease of use of the Android operating system translates well for developing IVI and dedicated apps for automakers.
Imad Sousou, Vice President, Software and Services Group at Intel, says, “Intel has secured multiple design wins on Android Automotive, thanks to internal development expertise and efficiencies that help us achieve our industry leadership in Android. Today we are among the fastest in keeping time to market with Google on new Android releases. Our ability to scale enables Intel to support many major customers, empowering them to get products to market faster.”[iii]
Challenges to the Google Android operating system include the ever-present concerns about security, data, and privacy of users. Addressing security starts at the silicon layer on the Intel SoC and extends through the operating system and beyond. This means that the Android operating system running on the car will need to receive timely updates, just like smartphones. Data collection and privacy are similar to those facing smartphone users, as well. Use of Google-based navigation in an integrated automotive platform means that the driver’s whereabouts and travel plans can potentially be used freely by either Google or the automaker, just as data gathered through smartphone use is utilized today. Will automakers ensure that customer privacy is taken into account?
Smart Phone on Wheels
In May 2017, Volvo announced “a premium partnership with Google” to develop an Android-based infotainment and connectivity solution “in-car infotainment and connectivity solution based on Android, offering access to a wide array of apps and services” that will launch on new Volvo models in the next two years, according to a press release from Volvo.[iv] Audi announced similarly. Google Android holds the largest global share of smartphones, is open source, and has excellent prospects of extending to in-cab, non-safety critical functions in vehicles. The benefits of an excellent IVI include the enormous convenience of our car presenting as a true smartphone. If you get into your car and forget your phone, it will not be a problem. Software development on the Android platform would be in the hands of software developers rather than car manufacturers. Automakers can leverage the Google Android ecosystem. Google Android holds the largest market share in the smartphone segment, and therefore is familiar to a majority of users and application developers alike. Finally, there is an obvious extension of IVE into autonomous vehicles. In late 2017, Intel announced at the Los Angeles auto show “a collaboration with the entertainment company Warner Bros. to develop in-cabin, immersive experiences in autonomous vehicle settings.”[v] According to Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, “the rise of the AV industry will create one of the greatest expansions of consumer time available for entertainment we’ve seen in a long time. As passengers shift from being drivers to riders, their connected device time, including video viewing, time will increase. In fact, recent transportation surveys indicate the average American spends more than 300 hours per year behind the wheel.”iv
It is no secret that Intel has a great interest in the future of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs). It is also clear that the IVI market exists across a highly fragmented landscape of multiple operating systems, ecosystems, and customer experiences extending from excellent to extremely poor. Those of us driving with a poor, albeit “modern” IVI, may continue to use smartphones affixed with a suction cup to the dash in spite of having large touchscreens mounted in-vehicle. Mainstream competitors for IVI platforms are Apple Car Play, Automotive Grade Linux, and Google Android.
Intel has plans to drive entertainment in autonomous vehicles and is positioning to be the global leader in this area. Nevertheless, Intel adds value today by partnering with Google to create a much less costly and more competent solution to In-Vehicle Infotainment.
Lynnette Reese is Editor-in-Chief, Embedded Intel Solutions and Embedded Systems Engineering, and has been working in various roles as an electrical engineer for over two decades. She is interested in open source software and hardware, the maker movement, and in increasing the number of women working in STEM so she has a greater chance of talking about something other than football at the water cooler.
[i] “In-Car Infotainment Market by Type (OEM and Aftermarket) and Components (Hardware and Software) – Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2015 – 2022.” Allied Market Research, Apr. 2016, www.alliedmarketresearch.com/press-release/in-car-infotainment-market.html.
[ii] “Reduce Development Costs with Familiar, Intuitive Android.” 2017, www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/brief/automated-driving-android-v8-business-brief.pdf.
[iii] (Intel), Imad S. “Intel Helping to Drive New Google Android* Experiences.” Intel® Software, Intel, 3 Jan. 2018, software.intel.com/en-us/blogs/2018/01/03/intel-helping-to-drive-new-google-android-experiences.
[iv] “Volvo Cars Partners with Google to Build Android into next Generation Connected Cars.” Volvo Car Group Global Media Newsroom, 15 May 2017, www.media.volvocars.com/global/en-gb/media/pressreleases/208072/volvo-cars-partners-with-google-to-build-android-into-next-generation-connected-cars.
[v] Krzanich, Brian. “Autonomous Driving Is Today’s Biggest Game Changer.” Intel Newsroom, 29 Nov. 2017, newsroom.intel.com/editorials/autonomous-driving-todays-biggest-game-changer/.