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Jonathan Erickson

Dr. Dobb's Bloggers

High-Tech Automotive: Is Now the Time?

March 04, 2009

Doesn't anyone watch the news anymore? In particular news about the auto industry? Let's see, there's Ford Motor stock at a 23-year low, hoovering at less than $3.00 a share. Still, that's better than General Motors which dropped to below $2.00 a share after its auditors used the "b" word (as in "bankruptcy"). Even Toyota idled a dozen of its manufacturing plants in Japan for a few days in response to what's going on in the auto market. At least this is the kind of stuff I see when I'm brave enough to stagger over to

But maybe the big wheels in high-tech know something that I don't. (Of course, there's nothing unusal about that.) For instance, Intel is rolling out new Atom Z5xx processors for automotive in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) applications that will likely support 3D graphics, video acceleration, and operating systems including several versions of Windows and Linux.

"Intel is well known for innovation and we're excited to see them introducing new low-power consumption Intel Atom processors targeted for in-vehicle systems," said Greg Baribault, director of product management for the Automotive Business Unit at Microsoft. "Intel Atom processors and the Microsoft Auto software platform will provide scalability for the new era of advanced in-vehicle solutions."

And speaking of Microsoft... According to EE Times reports, Microsoft is scheduled to launch in mid April version 4.0 of its Microsoft Auto, a hardware/software reference platform for building into cars features such as mobile device integration, speech recognition, and infotainment. One of the features of 4.0 is a greatly reduced boot time, something that automotive manufacturers insisted on. For instance, radio receivers, displays, and cameras (if any) must be operating no less than one second after power on.

To put the IVI wheels on the road, so to speak, Intel is collaborating with automotive manufacturers and suppliers to launch the GENIVI Alliance, a non-profit industry alliance committed to driving the broad adoption of an In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) reference platform. GENIVI plans on aligning requirements, delivering reference implementations, and offering certification programs with the ultimate goal of shortening development cycles, providing quicker time-to-market, and reducing  costs for companies developing IVI equipment and software. (The way things are going in the auto industry these days, I'd say that GENIVI won't have any problems with that "non-profit" part.)

It's been said that the smart guys buy low and sell high. If that's true, then this seems like the perfect time for companies like Intel and Microsoft to get into the automotive market.


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