Automotive leaders discuss the future of automotive HMI at Rightware VIP event, CES, Las Vegas

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At CES 2018, Rightware hosted a fireside chat at the Kanzi Partner Program VIP social event. As Rightware CEO Jonas Geust pointed out in his opening remarks, the group assembled could “more or less build an entire digital cockpit together.” Guest speakers were Alex Barth, VP Business Development at Mapbox, Dan Mender, VP Business Development at Green Hills Software, Andrew Poliak, VP Planning and Innovation at Panasonic US, and Rich Yeh, GM at Thundersoft America. Two major themes emerged from the conversation.

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The first theme was the impact of two converging trends: ECU & CPU consolidation on the one hand, and open application ecosystems like Android on the other. On the automotive systems side, OEMs are dealing with “the packaging constraints, the heat constraints, the cabling constraints, and the up-integration of all these features into one require all that to move into one processor,” said Andrew Poliak. However, the introduction of a high-level OS like Android into the automotive system introduces safety challenges. As Andrew continued: “most of the software will require merging, for functional safety and non-functional safety, some RTOS with Android or Linux.” Dan Mender sees these same trends, pointing out “we’re starting to see that momentum with the OEMs, where they are taking advantage of the power of the SoCs and multi-core, and consolidating those (HLOS) features into one box.” He made the point that “it really isn’t Android vs. RTOS; it really is the mixed criticality of Android WITH RTOS,” adding “we make sure it doesn’t hurt anybody.”

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The second theme was what the automotive industry can learn from the mobile industry. Reflecting on Thundersoft’s deep experience in mobile operating systems, Rich Yeh sees that “it really comes down to the pace of innovation… If you are going to take a lesson from the mobile industry in general, it’s going to be a real emphasis on how fast you can get that innovation into the car and have people experience that.” Rich sees the key areas of innovation being the user experience, connectivity, and the use of data, location, and other services. Soon, this will also include artificial intelligence, which is also coming first to mobile platforms. Alex Barth sees the biggest difference between mobile and automotive platforms over-the-air (OTA) updates. “You can’t expect to build a top-notch, competitive user experience in a vehicle if you cannot update that UX. The reason your phone doesn’t look stale is because it just got an update yesterday.” Dan agrees with the importance of OTA updates, highlighting that the safety and security concerns must be handled appropriately. “When you start focusing on that mixed-criticality again, what you want to be able to do with the OTA update is to be very selective in how you are updating, and not change the critical parts of the system.”

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Jonas closed by asking Andrew about the role of software vs. hardware and manufacturing in Panasonic’s automotive business. Andrew highlighted the importance of having a very large code base and an ecosystem of applications ready to meet OEM demands with incredibly short turn-around times in order to win deals. Tier 1s commit to massive software projects with no guarantees of volume, let alone any guarantee of winning the deal. Despite the sizeable R&D investment required for success, more and more OEMs appear to be investing directly in software development. “With the pace of innovation, the role of the Tier 1 is changing. Honestly, I think there will be 3-5 Tier 1s left after the dust settles, because the business model is changing.”

Our key takeaway from this discussion is that there is plenty of opportunity for us in the supply chain to tackle the complexity resulting from the technology-driven convergence of compute platforms, the consumer-driven demand for a smartphone-like user experience, and the industry-driven ever-increasing pace of innovation. No one company can tackle all this alone, and we are delighted to work with a strong and diverse ecosystem of over 40 partners to deliver advanced HMI solutions to market.

Thank you to our speakers and to our event sponsors e-Planet, Green Hills Software, Mapbox, Siili Solutions, Texas Instruments, and Visteon! Click to read more about Rightware at CES, including overviews of our own demonstrations and our partner demos.

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