CES 2017: BlackBerry QNX SDP 7.0 drives safety-critical automotive ECU consolidation forward

January 11, 2017 OpenSystems Media

Each year, the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center is one of the most exciting places for CES-goers, as it houses (most of) the automotive technology the show has to offer. Here, the Faraday Future car was on display, alongside concept vehicles from almost every innovative auto manufacturer and tier one. But for techies, the real fun comes at booths where existing production vehicles have been retrofitted with the latest in silicon and software, giving attendees the ability to discover the underlying automotive technologies of tomorrow operating inside the real-world cars of today. Such is the case every year at the QNX Software (now BlackBerry QNX) booth.

The day before CES 2017 officially opened, BlackBerry QNX announced its latest safety-critical operating system (OS) for automotive, the QNX Software Development Platform 7.0 (QNX SDP 7.0). A 64-bit OS with 32-bit support, QNX SDP 7.0 provides a taste of the software suites that will be needed to support the consolidation of electronic control units (ECUs) into subsystem domain controllers in the future, and also retains the microkernel architecture of the QNX Neutrino real-time operating system (RTOS) to enable multi-level, policy-based control of ISO 26262 ASIL D-rated systems. As a result, separate domains are able to run on the same hardware using virtual machines (VMs) and automotive-grade hypervisors that isolate safety-critical functions from non-safety-critical ones, for example, an in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system and digital instrument cluster.

This precise demo was on display at the BlackBerry QNX booth, where Grant Courville, Senior Director of Product Management at BlackBerry QNX invited me inside a 2016 Jaguar XJ concept car equipped with a digital cockpit design running QNX SDP 7.0. The digital cockpit of the retrofitted Jag was powered by an Intel x86-64 processor (the ARMv8 architecture is also supported, along with 32-bit system on chips (SoCs)), and aside from showcasing the latest in IVI and safety notification features available with QNX SDP 7.0, the demo showcased the OS’s ability to simultaneously run the instrument cluster on hardware and the IVI platform in a VM, and to do so safely. Even in the event of the infotainment system crashing, the BlackBerry QNX hypervisor ensured that each system remained safely isolated so that the instrument cluster could continue operating without a hitch.

Beta versions of QNX SDP 7.0 are available now for evaluation, with the fully commercialized product scheduled to hit the streets this quarter. Check out some of the advanced features for yourself from within the Jaguar XJ in the video below.

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Brandon Lewis, Technology Editor
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