Automakers and electronics companies continue to raise the bar in terms of intelligence and connectivity for the car.
By Dale Ford, Contributing Editor
Just as automotive exhibitors and presentations have dramatically raised their profile at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), they also captured a share of the limelight at the Mobile World Congress (MWC). Auto manufacturers, equipment suppliers, and chip companies provided exciting visibility into the technologies that are reshaping infotainment systems.
Below is a short list of key technologies demonstrated at MWC. Some were previously unveiled at CES, but received an additional boost at MWC:
- Artificial intelligence (AI)
- Tight integration of connectivity, telematics, and infotainment functionality
- Personal assistants (Amazon, Google, Microsoft and others)
- The cloud and 5G
These technology highlights are reshaping design methodologies applied to infotainment systems.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Mercedes-Benz presented its new A-Class model and demonstrated its new Mercedes-Benz User Experience, or MBUX, smart multimedia system (Fig. 1). The MBUX was exhibited at CES as well, but captured strong attention again at MWC. Among other exciting features, the MBUX incorporates an AI recommendation system.
This system is a learning, smart, and connected platform that leverages the power of Nvidia’s GPU technology. It learns driver preferences and presents them through a “Suggestions” shortcut. The intelligence of the system is designed to grow over time as the smart assistant, which is built using AI technology, can be improved through software and feature updates pushed from the cloud.
A number of other exhibitors also promoted the benefits of AI in their product offerings. KT Corp.’s new GiGA Drive platform incorporates a speech-powered artificial-intelligence function. Working together with SoundHound Inc., KT developed AI services that support specific search commands and provide driving directions to a destination that account for traffic conditions. These are just two highlights among many demonstrations of AI in infotainment systems at MWC this year.
Tight Integration of Connectivity, Telematics, and Infotainment Functionality
Qualcomm Technologies championed its success in securing 25 new telematics and infotainment design wins in 2017 worth $3 billion, including $1 billion in infotainment. Building on its Snapdragon automotive platform (Fig. 2), Qualcomm advertises its wins at 14 of the top 25 global automaker brands. The company’s MWC demonstration included a concept car featuring 5G and Gigabit LTE use cases, next-generation cluster and infotainment configurations, and cellular-V2X demonstrations. Its success highlights the critical benefits of a tightly integrated connectivity, telematics, and infotainment platform.
Cypress Semiconductor boosted its success in enabling a Wi-Fi hotspot supporting up to eight devices at one time in the 2018 Audio A8. The Alpine communications unit was designed by e.solutions, a joint venture of Audi and Elektrobit. Cypress’ chip combines 802.11ac and Bluetooth connectivity in its chip. This plays a key role in the new Audi infotainment solution.
Personal Assistants , the Cloud, and 5G
BMW described its design philosophy for bringing personal assistants to its cars. Rather than design its own platform, the company is working with leaders in this space—Amazon, Google, and Microsoft—to bring the best features of each to its BMW platform. Each of these personal assistants would be employed based on their individual strengths: Amazon’s Alexa for e-commerce, Google for search, and Microsoft’s Cortana for search plus productivity. In this way, BMW plans to combine the best of each engine in its BMW Connected platform.
Speech recognition combined with a driver’s cloud profile would inform how the overall digital assistant platform functions. With the coming of 5G networks, the infotainment system will be able to communicate with the cloud at much higher speeds.
To borrow (and modify) an ad slogan from many years ago: These infotainment systems are not your father’s car stereo!