Channels ▼


An Architecture for In-Vehicle Infotainment Systems

Usage Model

In-vehicle infotainment platforms that are well connected, blending embedded and vehicle-independent services and content with bidirectional communication capabilities to the outside world, do not exist today. While a range of nomadic device services and proprietary embedded vehicle systems can be found in some segments, these discrete services are not operating within a comprehensive OEM defined environment. Figure 2 outlines some of the challenges.

Figure 2: In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) platform use case challenges

Global automakers have come to realize that customers desire connectivity to content and services that are not possible to achieve with existing business models and currently used embedded systems. In addition, automakers could leverage the expertise, knowledge, or business structure from other embedded platforms to provide the hardware, applications, data or communications conduits to support the breadth of needs.

There is significant momentum within the industry and major automakers are exploring ways to deliver content and services desired by customers to the vehicle. The exploration is primarily driven by the advancements and maturity of the communication technologies and protocols like cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi/WiMAX, and DSRC.

Although every automaker would like to provide content and services, they incur huge risks being first to market if other automakers do not participate. This creates the dichotomy of balancing confidential efforts with the need for industry-wide, cross-vehicle, and cross-brand solutions to capture the interest of large service providers.

Since automakers historically have engaged tier-1 suppliers to develop, integrate, and deliver components, the value chain was straightforward and limited in scope. With the need to provide a means for customers to communicate externally to the vehicle for information and entertainment systems, automakers now must become directly familiar with all of the stakeholder domains that impact this larger ecosystem.

Figure 3: In-Vehicle Infotainment platform business challenges and opportunities

There are a significant number of commodity software and hardware components that can be leveraged, leaving the OEM to focus on adding value. In order to capitalize on this potential, a strong partnership between key providers of devices, infrastructure, and applications will be essential to the acceptance of infotainment services on a broad scale. Meanwhile the solution needs to support the traditional requirements for automakers: availability, reliability, affordability, and desirable features for consumers. Therefore, the industry segment alignment needs to be developed and implemented by the key providers to distribute the cost of developing and marketing innovative connected services. As consumer and business awareness grows, more services can be offered at prices acceptable to the market.

In-Vehicle Infotainment Operating Systems

An Intel-based IVI platform can run many of the commercial generic operating systems like Linux, Microsoft Windows XP Embedded, and real-time operating systems like QNX, Windows CE, VxWorks, and Embedded Linux. Most of the operating systems that run on an Intel architecture platform will run unchanged, offering a wide choice to the car OEM.

Some embedded and real-time operating systems are optimized for the automotive environment with attributes of smaller OS footprints, sub-second boot times, and optimization for power and performance. Key examples of such operating systems are QNX Neutrino, Wind River Linux Platform for Infotainment, Moblin IVI (, Microsoft Auto, or variants of Linux from various ISVs and tier-1 customers.

OS vendors are faced with new challenges of porting the generic OS to automotive user interfaces like touch screen and voice commands to assure safer driving experiences. In addition, traditional shrink-wrap operating systems require a PC-like BIOS with high boot latencies and make them not very desirable. The key challenges that the car OEM and the automotive suppliers face is the choice of the OS and the ecosystem built around each. Too much choice is a good thing, but at the same time it is hard to settle on one over the other, as each choice has its own compelling advantages. Due to the flexibility of IVI platform, a customer may demand for an OS/application suite other than what the car OEM wants to bundle, leaving the OEM in a dilemma.

The OS vendors can help develop seamless plug-in interfaces to enable their own or third-party user interfaces, while leveraging their underlying core OS features. Making shrink-wrap operating systems to boot with IVI latencies is a challenging area and requires some innovation both by the BIOS vendors and OS vendors. The variety of operating system choices is opening up new opportunities. One such opportunity to meet the customer demands is the use of Intel Virtualization Technology offered by the Atom processor, allowing not only the car OEM but also the end customer to simultaneously run multiple operating systems and benefit from the ecosystem built around each of the Intel architecture platform operating systems. We cover more on this in the subsequent section on Intel Virtualization Technology.

Related Reading

More Insights

Currently we allow the following HTML tags in comments:

Single tags

These tags can be used alone and don't need an ending tag.

<br> Defines a single line break

<hr> Defines a horizontal line

Matching tags

These require an ending tag - e.g. <i>italic text</i>

<a> Defines an anchor

<b> Defines bold text

<big> Defines big text

<blockquote> Defines a long quotation

<caption> Defines a table caption

<cite> Defines a citation

<code> Defines computer code text

<em> Defines emphasized text

<fieldset> Defines a border around elements in a form

<h1> This is heading 1

<h2> This is heading 2

<h3> This is heading 3

<h4> This is heading 4

<h5> This is heading 5

<h6> This is heading 6

<i> Defines italic text

<p> Defines a paragraph

<pre> Defines preformatted text

<q> Defines a short quotation

<samp> Defines sample computer code text

<small> Defines small text

<span> Defines a section in a document

<s> Defines strikethrough text

<strike> Defines strikethrough text

<strong> Defines strong text

<sub> Defines subscripted text

<sup> Defines superscripted text

<u> Defines underlined text

Dr. Dobb's encourages readers to engage in spirited, healthy debate, including taking us to task. However, Dr. Dobb's moderates all comments posted to our site, and reserves the right to modify or remove any content that it determines to be derogatory, offensive, inflammatory, vulgar, irrelevant/off-topic, racist or obvious marketing or spam. Dr. Dobb's further reserves the right to disable the profile of any commenter participating in said activities.

Disqus Tips To upload an avatar photo, first complete your Disqus profile. | View the list of supported HTML tags you can use to style comments. | Please read our commenting policy.