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Automotive Infotainment

Electronics sells vehicles. It is simple as that. Whether it comes to improving the safety of a vehicle through the Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) or the infotainment systems, more studies show that it is this functinality that moves a car out of the showroom.

One of the main challenges with infotainment is how to match the experience in the vehicle that users enjoy on their smart phone. Users are used to touch screens and the occassional system reboot on a phone. A vehicle system has significantly different reliability and safety constraints. Touch screen interfaces are replaced with voice interaction and use of the in-car controls to manage content.

An early example of an ARM powered platform in this domain is the Ford Sync and our partners are hard at work with a broad set of even more exciting platforms that will roll out in the coming years. The proliferation of the ARM architecture in mobile applications has led to the availability of many ingredients necessary to build energy-efficient, extremely low cost telematics and  infotainment platforms. ARM is investing with its partners to standardize the basic software building blocks, to enable the car manufacturers and their supplier to focus on areas of value add and differentiation around the user interface. We are heading towards a future that incorporates simpler user interfaces in the car that provide seamless access to content as a driver moves from their home, to the car and to the office.

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One of the benefits for car manufacturers to switch to electronics for the dashboard and infotainment area of the vehicle is the ability to reprogram a platform to give a different look and feel across the range of vehicles.

With the increased safety and reliability concerns associated with designs in this domain (imagine the issues associated with legal action on non-functional elements of a car or even the return rate of $40,000 vehicles that exhibit unreliable operation of the infotainment systems), one of the primary challenges is how to stay as current on technology as possible. ARM's viewpoint is that this will require a migration to more modular designs, using secure gateways to ensure that the services inside the vehicle can be accessed reliably from authenticated users of smartphone technology.

One of ARM's main focuses in this space is in creating a common set of software building blocks that can be used by all ARM partners. ARM is a board member of the Genivi consortium which focuses on standardizing Linux tool and distributions of the OS, enabling car manufacturers and their suppliers to focus on their areas of value add, which is typically around the user interface. Of course, one of ARM's strong beliefs is in encouraging choice at all levels of the value chain. Therefore, ARM fully supports the activities of QNX and its ecosystem (currently the largest IVI solution as measured by deployed platforms) and Microsoft's initiatives in this area.


ARM technology delivers four main benefits in this area:
  1. The broad range of software compatible, energy-efficient ARM application processors enables end users to deploy a common look and feel across the range of low, mid- and high-end navigation and rear-seat multimedia systems. After a period of single core platforms, ARM is seeing increased use of multicore (up to Cortex-A15 processor) configurations for next generation platforms
  2. The breadth of software such as browsers and plug-ins optimized for the ARM architecture for deployment in smartphones, can be used as the basis for automotive platforms, giving car manufacturers and their suppliers a proven starting point from which to focus on differentiated functionality and value add
  3. ARM's family of graphics processing engines deliver an enhanced GUI experience from one proven supplier. This ensures strong interoperation between the processor and graphics subsystems. ARM is exploring common software programming environments such as OpenCL and the Heterogenous System Architecture (HSA) to enable software to be written in a flexible way that does not require the developer of the application to care about the specifics of the underlying hardware platform
  4. The use of ARM high performance kits of Physical IP provide a quick time to market for silicon designs wishing to extract maximum performance and/or power benefits, with minimum use of internal design resources. For these types of applications, silicon partners are looking at process nodes between 28nm and 90nm depending on functionality, schedule and cost targets.

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