Forging New Partnerships to Develop Infotainment Applications for Smart Cars

Maxim is now working with Qualcomm, Cypress Semi with Pioneer, Immersion with Toyodenso, and Google with Hyundai.


By Murray Slovick, Contributing Editor

Maybe you should file this conclusion in your “Commander Obvious” folder, but it’s no secret thatinfotainment has become one of the fastest-growing segments of automotive electronics. The newest prognostication that aligns with a generally rosy picture is from market research firm Fact.MR, whose analysis projects demand for auto infotainment will increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.4% during the period of forecast (2017-2026). Fact.MR further expects the global auto infotainment market value to be worth $36 billion (USD) during the period of assessment.

With competitors leaping over one another to gain a toehold in this hot market, tech suppliers who don’t want leftovers to dine on are looking to establish business partnerships with other leading companies serving the automotive industry. Several have already delivered a statement of intent.

Earlier this year, for example, Harman International along with Daimler developed an augmented-reality (AR) navigation system that will get incorporated in all Mercedes Benz A-class vehicles. This system offers turn by turn directions along with AR visuals to keep drivers well-informed and in control while driving autonomous or semi-autonomous cars.

Last month, Ford and Chinese tech giant Baidu signed a letter of intent calling for joint development of technology related to infotainment systems and connectivity. Under the agreement with Ford, Baidu will supply its DuerOS conversational AI platform for future infotainment systems in order to enable more sophisticated voice recognition and other features.

Maxim and Qualcomm

And just recently, Maxim Integrated announced it is working with carmakers and Tier-1 suppliers to integrate its Automotive Safety Integrity Level (ASIL) solutions using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 Automotive Platform into automotive infotainment applications.

Maxim’s ASIL-rated power management, USB charging, next-generation gigabit multimedia serial link (GMSL) serializer and deserializer (SerDes), remote tuner, and software-defined radio (SDR) technologies all have been optimized to work with the Snapdragon 820 Automotive Platform.

The Snapdragon 820 platform is an automotive-grade solution custom-built with cores designed for heterogeneous computing. It runs on Qualcomm Technologies’ 64-bit Kryo CPU, Adreno GPU, and Hexagon DSPs. The Snapdragon 820 is also designed whereby the infotainment system can receive software updates.

Nakul Duggal, vice president of product management at Qualcomm Technologies, noted in a press statement: “The Snapdragon 820 Automotive Platform was designed to offer automakers a solution that supports a superior and fast connected experience that consumers expect today. To have our solutions optimized to work with Maxim’s products is a testament to our commitment to continue offering leading solutions for our customers—both in feature-rich technologies and safety advances.”

According to Maxim, among the advantages provided by its technology include:

  • Power management: To provide the voltage and power monitoring needed to manage power at the point of load in each device, which becomes necessary as increasing numbers of control modules, sensors, and actuators are distributed throughout the vehicle
  • USB port support: Fast-charge detection supports both high-speed (480 Mb/s) and full-speed (12 Mb/s) USB operation, allowing consumers to recharge their USB devices while driving. Short-to-battery and short-to-ground protection is included.
  • Next-generation GMSL SerDes: Supports the high-data-rate, complex interconnect, and data-integrity requirements of future automotive infotainment applications
  • Remote tuner and SDR: Architecture simplifies head unit design while improving radio signal quality and reducing cost, weight, and power consumption.

Cypress and Pioneer

In another announcement, Cypress Semiconductor Corp. said that Pioneer Corp. has integrated Cypress’ Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Combo solution into its flagship in-dash navigation AV receiver (see figure). The solution enables passengers to display and use their smartphone’s apps on the receiver’s screen via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto without degradation caused by switching back and forth between bands.

The Pioneer AVH-W8400NEX infotainment in-dash receiver uses Cypress’ CYW89359 Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution. (Source: Cypress)

The Cypress Wi-Fi and Bluetooth combo solution uses Real Simultaneous Dual Band (RSDB) technology. It includes a coexistence engine that enables optimal performance for dual-band 2.4- and 5-GHz 802.11ac Wi-Fi and dual-mode Bluetooth/Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) simultaneously. The CYW89359’s RSDB architecture enables two unique data streams to run at full throughput simultaneously by integrating two complete Wi-Fi subsystems into a single chip. The CYW89359 is fully automotive-qualified with AECQ-100 grade-3 validation.

Immersion/Toyodenso and Google/Hyundai

Also in July, Immersion Corp., a developer and licensor of touch feedback technology, signed a license agreement with Tokyo, Japan-based Toyodenso Co., Ltd. Moreover, Google jumped into Korea’s in-car infotainment market through partnerships with Hyundai Motor Group, the country’s top auto-making group, and Kakao, Korea’s leading mobile messaging app operator.

The Immersion deal provides Toyodenso with access to Immersion’s patented haptic technology for use in its automotive solutions. Haptics brings heightened realism and feedback mechanisms to in-vehicle touch interfaces. When used in automotive systems such as entertainment, navigation, and climate control, haptics can create a more intuitive experience and reduce driver distractions. In addition, haptics offers designers flexibility to create unique, highly customized interior design throughout the car.

Google’s launch of its in-car infotainment application Android Auto in South Korea brings with it the voice-activated AI platform Google Assistant. This enables drivers to access the features via voice commands and keep their eyes on the road, the company said.

The Korean version of Android Auto also operates on Kakao’s navigation app KakaoNavi rather than Google’s own navigation app. The reason is due to security concerns; the Korean government prohibits high-precision maps from being taken out of the country. Korea has insisted that Google can take map data out of the country only if it deletes security-sensitive sites like government buildings and military bases.

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