Smart phone, equally smart head unit

Yesterday, I introduced you to the digital instrument cluster in the new QNX concept car, a specially modified Chevrolet Corvette. Today, let’s look at the car's multimedia head unit, picture here:

Among other things, the unit demonstrates how car infotainment systems can access a host of applications on smart phones and other mobile devices, such as maps for finding restaurants and geosocial apps for locating friends. In fact, the head unit supports two modes of mobile-device interaction:

  • Terminal Mode — Replicates the smart phone screen on the head unit and allows steering wheel buttons, touchscreens, and other in-car user inputs to control the smart phone. Also enables the head unit to access new mobile phone applications as they become available.

  • Apple iPod Out — Enables the head unit to display content from an iPhone or iPod touch, including music menus and album art, and to support new iPod features without software changes. Also allows users to view an interface they are familiar with.

  • These descriptions only scratch the surface of how these technologies work. For instance, the specification for Terminal Mode, which is still in development, includes provisions to reduce driver distraction, such as mechanisms that lock out unsafe apps while the car is in motion. (QNX has produced a couple of videos on these two technologies; I will provide links later this week.)

    The head unit isn’t a one-trick pony. It also offers:
    • a reskinnable user interface (HMI) based on Adobe Flash

    • Pandora streaming audio, Webkit browsing, and Google Maps with local search

    • iAnywhere Bluetooth and hands-free calling

    • A virtual mechanic that gets OBD-II trouble codes from the vehicle CAN bus and displays them in an interactive graphic
    The virtual mechanic is especially cool. As I've mentioned elsewhere, it doesn't fix your car for you, but it can tell you when things are going south and help you take appropriate action, before the problem escalates. In fact, it can even help you find the nearest gas station or dealership.

    Like the digital instrument cluster, the head unit for the concept Corvette was built with the QNX CAR application platform, which you can learn more about here.


    Ryan Parton said...

    Hey Paul!

    What kind of hardware is powering this? Do you guys write all the drivers to control everything?

    Paul N. Leroux said...

    Hi Ryan! It's running on a Freescale i.MX51 applications processor. I'm pretty sure we wrote all the drivers.