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Software platform to drive in-car infotainment

Posted: 06 Mar 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:infotainment in-vehicle? automotive? platform software?

Scheduled for official launch in mid-April, Microsoft gave a glimpse to the upcoming release update of its Automotive software platform at the Embedded World trade show. The platform is intended to form the key element of a future in-vehicle infotainment ecosystem.

MS Auto's major differentiator in terms of technology is its greatly reduced boot time. Apparently, the company's programmers have reacted to the strict requirements from its automotive customers. For instance, 500ms after the platform has been powered, the MOST bus driver must be ready for operation. Radio receiver, display and cameras (if any) must be operating no later than 1sec after power on.

According to Reiner Gercuk, senior customer engineering manager for Microsoft's automotive business unit Europe, the objective has been achieved by radically clearing out the driver software in the first place. In addition, the software is booted from a flash memory instead of a fixed disk.

To facilitate the first steps for designers, Microsoft also provides a hardware reference design, which incorporates a complete automotive head unit including an optical disc drive, interfaces for MOST bus and CAN bus, and a multimode radio receiver that supports a number of digital transmission technologies. The reference platform also comprises a flash disk drive with a data transfer rate of 22MBps. "This is an important feature," Gercuk explained. "It helps us to significantly cut down the boot times."

The reference design uses a Freescale i.MX35 processor, which in turn is based on the ARM11 architecture. However, when available officially, the software will run on a range of additional hardware platforms including Intel's Atom. Thus, the entire x.86 software universe will be available to Windows Automotive platforms.

To illustrate the bandwidth of its Auto software ecosystem, Microsoft showed a selection of partner applications at the fair. They include a multimedia platform from automotive tier one Continental AG, a board computer for trucks from Magneti Marelli and a speech recognition application from Nuance Communications, which translates human language entries into control instructions for connected systems such as navigation or radio receiver.

Magneti Marelli's truck board computer, designed for car OEM Ford, aims at fleet management applications. Comprising a PC-like office application suite and a keyboard, the device shows similar features as an office PC plus some real-time ability, Internet connectivity and other vertical application features.

The Continental automotive multimedia system will be available in 2010 in the United States and one year later in Europe. Its functionality includes touch pad controls, Internet connection and Web radio plus the usual AM/FM broadcast reception. With its screen size much bigger than today's automotive multimedia systems and even bigger than navigation system screens, it can run games for backseat passengers, and it can display visual messages embedded in the Web or broadcast data stream.

- Christoph Hammerschmidt
Automotive Design Europe

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