Feb 26, 2019
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
An in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system is a collection of hardware and software modules installed in a vehicle that provides digital information systems and entertainment functionality. Over the last 20 years, in-vehicle infotainment has evolved from analog to digital systems, to touch screens and connectivity, and now to smart, configurable high-definition displays. This video from CES 2018 shows the potential of next-generation infotainment functionality including configurable clusters, heads-up displays incorporating augmented reality to identify objects, dangers, and places of interest, video feeds that replace mirrors, visual intelligence, and a plethora of display screens throughout the vehicle.
As in-vehicle infotainment has evolved, so too have the developers who make it all come alive. Traditionally, development of infotainment for automobiles, was the domain of just a few key players (e.g., automotive equipment OEMs). The last five to six years, has witnessed the entry of other types of high-tech companies, such as those listed as members of the Autotech Council. However, infotainment is still a relatively young industry compared to other disciplines. So, in this blog, we’ll introduce some of the history, requirements, trends, and solutions from Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. (QTI) that developers should know about when exploring development opportunities with in-vehicle infotainment.
Traditionally there were a few types of in-vehicle infotainment solutions such head unit apps, smartphone integrations, remote controls (i.e., smart phone-to-vehicle communication over the cloud), and Bluetooth dongles connected to the vehicle’s onboard diagnostic (OBD-II) system. In order to get these solutions into vehicles, developers had limited options which included partnering with or working for a car manufacturer to preinstall them, publishing to mobile app stores (e.g. Android auto), or building a custom infotainment solution in conjunction with an automotive manufacturer.
This is all changing, as developers outside of the automotive industry see the potential for new infotainment solutions as cars become smarter, more sophisticated, and more autonomous than previous automotive cockpit generations. Today, it’s not uncommon to see developers from software and hardware start-ups to fortune 500 high-tech companies vying for a piece of the automotive technology industry.
Vehicle-based transportation presents many unique challenges and requirements for in-vehicle infotainment developers. The first of course is safety. Users, especially drivers, must be able to safely use/view solutions when driving at high speeds, while systems must not jeopardize control of the vehicle. Likewise, the operating environment also presents challenges, especially for hardware developers. G-forces, extreme temperatures, water, and moisture are just a few considerations that hardware developers contend with in their automotive technology designs. Also, the ability to travel at high speeds can make it difficult to maintain connectivity as the handoffs between cell sites aren’t always set up for high bandwidth. On top of this, hardware, especially that which is integrated with vehicle control systems, must include fail-safe mechanisms and satisfy strict safety regulations.
And unlike mobile or PC development, where users replace their hardware every few years, the lifecycle of a car and its infotainment systems tends to be much longer thanks to factors like large price tags and multi-year warranties. This means that users may not be able or willing to upgrade aspects of their infotainment system as frequently as they do with devices like their smartphones.
In the past, these challenges and requirements meant that relatively few apps were feasible for in-vehicle usage, which made infotainment a very niche discipline. The current, most popular “core” apps include maps/GPS, calling, notifications, radio, and voice control. However, next-generation infotainment is poised to expand on this.
The current trend in infotainment includes support for multiple ultra-high-definition displays and cameras, artificial intelligence integration, and of course advanced audio-visual systems. And with the rollout of 5G, cellular vehicle-to-everything communication (C-V2X) will make vehicles evermore integrated with each other and the surrounding environment (e.g., elements of smart cities) while helping to maintain a high level of connectivity in moving vehicles.
All of this adds its own unique challenges and requirements including the need for strong mobile compute capabilities, complex concurrency, isolation from real-time and safety-critical systems, increased wiring and integration complexity, and power efficiency.
To help developers meet these challenges and requirements, QTI offers three automotive platforms designed for developing automotive solutions:
Developers can use these platforms as the basis for sophisticated infotainment systems and application development. Developers can also utilize a number of existing Snapdragon tools such as the Snapdragon Heterogeneous Compute SDK, Snapdragon Neural Processing SDK for AI, and Snapdragon Profiler to bring functionality like AI, machine vision, and voice recognition in-vehicle, to create personalized experiences for all occupants. Moreover, these platforms provide developers the opportunity to improve other aspects of the driving experience such as safety-consciousness, security, and fuel economy.
In addition, if you are writing applications for the connected car around services like telephony, location, and C-V2X, the Qualcomm Telematics SDK provides an opportunity for development of applications that run on telematics control units (TCU). The SDK offers high-level C++11 software APIs that abstract the modem services your applications need to perform tasks like making voice calls, sending and receiving SMS messages, setting up data connections, and getting location fixes. For a refresher, please review our blog on developing for the connected car.
Like other forms of technology development, in-vehicle infotainment is undergoing rapid change. This has really begun to accelerate in the last five to six years as the demand for evermore sophisticated and timely in-car technology grows, and automotive platforms like the Snapdragon 820 and 602, and Automotive Cockpit platforms bring more capabilities to the vehicle. For a complete overview on our efforts in the automotive space, we encourage you to review our QTI automotive web page to get up to speed.
Now that we’ve brought you up to speed on infotainment development, we’d love to hear about what you’d like to create for automotive in-vehicle infotainment.