IVI middleware ushers in era of open source for auto industry

October 1, 2011 OpenSystems Media

3While vehicle infotainment capabilities are evolving rapidly, technology advancements can be stymied by lack of reusable software code. Joel shares how the GENIVI Alliance addresses basic infotainment functionality requirements through its open-source middleware compliance program, allowing OEMs to focus on developing their own automotive system innovations.

ECD: What is the GENIVI Alliance, and how does it help developers?

HOFFMANN: The GENIVI Alliance is a nonprofit consortium of automakers and their suppliers designed to align requirements, compliance, and software development of In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) middleware in the context of open-source Linux (see Figure 1). IVI middleware differentiates an IVI software stack from a general-purpose Linux Operating System (OS). The GENIVI founders developed a working example that convinced otherwise conservative automakers that the era of open software development has arrived for this industry.

This follows many other industries, including telephony switches, nearly every consumer device such as Android phones, and of course massive servers and compute engines used in industry research, development, and production. All of these touch the automotive industry, but GENIVI is the first to place open-source technology in the vehicle itself.

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Figure 1: Current software development projects within the GENIVI Alliance ecosystem are laying the foundation for a reusable, open-source IVI platform.

ECD: What are the latest IVI technologies, and what can we expect in the near future?

HOFFMANN: Basic infotainment functionality such as GPS navigation, media player, multichannel audio mixing, complex network routing, multiple tuners, diagnostics, and storage are considered basic requirements today. The innovation zone surrounds safety, security, and expandability. GENIVI focuses on the basics and leaves innovation up to individual members. This protects profitability in the supply chain while accelerating these innovations to market, nearing the pace of consumer electronics development.

Imagine rain/ice sensors that look ahead half a mile or more to know where you are going, not just where you are right now. Those same sensors will be used to help you find a parking space with a 220 V power outlet if needed. While sitting in the lot, the car will contact you if a predator comes along or if another car bumps into you, capturing a photo of the license plate in the process.

GENIVI enables all of this by gradually neutralizing the cost of developing the software basics. Previously, each car model and program lacked software code that could be reused in the next generation. OEMs did not like being held captive to a single supplier, and so their purchasing requirements would change vendors from year to year, breaking the continuity. Building on a GENIVI compliant basis, OEMs will develop their own added value and establish intellectual property they can own and reuse.

ECD: The GENIVI Alliance gave the first live demo of the Multi-Architecture Middleware Platform, the “Apollo baseline,” at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. What other projects are in the works, and when are they planned for release?

HOFFMANN: Apollo was a proof point to confirm that GENIVI middleware could be built into a complete head unit with the help of additional applications provided by the Linux Foundation MeeGo project. GENIVI recently released its Specification 1.0 to members, incorporating all technical requirements agreed upon by present OEM and Tier 1 members. Accompanying the specification is a registration program whereby members can submit products for approval. This is the primary deliverable of the alliance, as members build their solutions around the specification according to the complete set of requirements for a development program.

ECD: How do IVI developers balance device functionality with driver safety?

HOFFMANN: In the near future, expect your IVI system to be able to communicate with you more safely, not requiring distraction from driving, while being responsive to commands you issue directly by touch or subtly by a quick head movement or eye wink. Expect the IVI system to know what’s happening inside and outside the car based on a range of sensors (cameras) that assemble a composite view of your surroundings and will interrupt you if driving conditions change.

These technologies exist in the open-source space but need to be hardened to meet the rigorous automotive requirements for quality, reliability, and durability. After all, the software contained in the car you drive out of the dealership lot often does not change for 10 years. Car owners are not accustomed to the idea of software updates that could potentially affect the drivability of their vehicles.

ECD: Is there a certification standard or process for IVI products?

HOFFMANN: Not so much a certification process, but rather a compliance program (see Figure 2). Since the IVI industry is fragmented, this is likely the first program of its kind. GENIVI systems architects review the member application against the requested GENIVI specification and approve products that meet the requirements. OEMs are assured by members with compliant products that when they specify “must be GENIVI compliant,” they will receive a system that not only will cost less to implement and support over time, but also can be built upon by a range of suppliers.

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Figure 2: The GENIVI compliance program process provides standardizations allowing developers to deliver systems that will run on all GENIVI compliant products.

The processes for improvement within GENIVI as well as externally in the open-source projects that support it promise to provide continuous improvement and the highest-quality software available. GENIVI members actively play a role in improving the specification, functions, and code. This is an ambitious effort compared to most standards-only groups since code development is an integral part of the GENIVI process. However, the benefits are clear in time to market and cost savings for the automotive industry. The time is right for such an innovation.

Joel Andrew Hoffmann is board director of the GENIVI Alliance as well as the business analyst for Intel’s Automotive Solutions Division. He represents Intel’s founding charter role in the GENIVI Alliance as a director on the board and chair of the marketing council. He is responsible for Intel’s Connected Car Services initiative and acts as a liaison with Intel Research, exploring and integrating new usage models and user experiences for IVI with the division’s next-generation platforms. Prior to Intel, he was involved in computing and networking with AT&T, Banyan Systems, and as an independent consultant.

GENIVI Alliance 925-275-6634 help@genivi.org www.genivi.org

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