Automotive App Platforms

In the last decade, most automakers have started to introduce a number of solutions to offer the driver a joint information and entertainment system, the so called infotainment system.

Recent examples of automotive infotainment solutions are the BMW ConnectedDrive, Daimler COMAND, Volkswagen Car-Net, Audi Connect, FIAT Blue&Me, FIAT Chrysler Uconnect, Toyota Entune, FORD SYNC, Chevrolet MyLink, Renault R-Link, or Saab IQon.

Many of these infotainment platforms extend the traditional navigation systems with internet-based, value-added services such as real-time traffic or dynamic speed limit information. In addition to that, apps are offered to the driver e.g. to use certified iPhone apps within the car, or to update the current Facebook status or retrieve Twitter news on the infotainment system. Newly offered apps include also online-routing, weather-forecast service, gas price, travel information or news, and value added customer services like for example parking or restaurant reservation.

It shall be noted that a number of the app-based infotainment platforms are proprietary and therefore third parties cannot offer additional apps. Coincidently, there are also examples of infotainment platforms that do not follow an app-based approach but are also not extendable by third parties as they operate with preinstalled software services. However, it shall be mentioned that at least one in-car infotainment system is providing its own app-store in which third party developers can provide their own apps, apps that obviously require an approval for safety, security and malware issues. This is the newly started developer platform of General Motors.

Some of the infotainment platforms are connected to car sensors and provide up-to-date information about the current condition of the vehicle; they may also enable drivers to upgrade the system with additional new functionalities making use of the in-car software-functionality.

Another example of infotainment system is extending the navigation system with the ability to access information about the vehicle's conditions.

Functionalities such as freehand-calling, which can be activated by speech, eco drive functions, searching via text or speech to look for Points of Interests (POIs), the possibility for drivers to connect their smartphone to remotely operate on a number of vehicle’s functions such as climate control and a vehicle finder are also available in various infotainment systems.

Beside of the automotive manufacturers, independent companies are providing their own infotainment system either alone or in cooperation with an automotive manufacturer. For example, Navigon and TomTom work closely together with big automotive manufacturers as well as SatNav. Tizen, the successor of MeeGo, is a Linux-based software platform for multiple devices, including in-vehicle infotainment systems. The latter has been named Tizen IVI and is supported by the Automotive Grade Linux project, which is part of the Linux foundation. The Automotive Grade Linux project is supported by several companies like Intel, Samsung, etc. In addition to that, Automatic, a smartphone app, has been recently launched; it connects a car’s on-board computer with the driver’s smartphone and monitors the driver’s driving style providing audio feedback in order to improve the driving style, an automatic crash detection to report an accident automatically to the police is also included.

A strongly growing development is the ability to connect smartphones with cars and bring mobile applications into the car. Apple officially entered the automobile infotainment market with the announcement of CarPlay. This car system connects an iPhone to the car to provide a hands-free and even eyes-free experience during driving, while enjoying music, getting updated with the latest traffic conditions, and receiving or making important phone calls. In contrast to this proprietary system pushed by Apple, the Car Connectivity Consortion introduced Mirrorlink as possible standard to integrate smartphones with the infotainment system of a vehicle. Both solutions use the smartphone as execution platform for mobile applications and use the in-car controls to interact with the driver. This interaction is realized by the use of in-car buttons, the use of the touch screen of the In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system, steering wheel buttons and the audio system built into the vehicle, including the microphone. A completely new phenomena is the investment of IT companies into automotive projects. Apple has started to hire a lot of automotive engineers to work on a secret project where rumors are from an own car development over battery engineering towards just a deeper integration of Apples technology into the car in general.

The GENIVI Alliance is a non-profit consortium whose goal is to establish a globally competitive, Linux-based operating system, middleware and platform for the automotive IVI industry. QNX Software Systems provides a commercial solution as platform for infotainment and driver assistance systems. Moreover, IVI has been harnessed by (Bose et al., 2010) for the user input and output of their Terminal Mode concept. This concept combines IVI with smartphones to provide basic applications to the vehicle. Within the Open Automotive Alliance several automakers and especially Google are working together to bring Google Android into vehicles. The alliance consists of many automakers but also of many leading technology companies as e.g. nVidia, LG or Renesas. The first cars with Android integration are planned to be launched very soon, probably by the end of 2014.

Other proprietary solutions introduced recently by automakers, OEMs and collaboration consortia are iviLink, mySPIN, RealVNC and Ford SYNC. Thereby two basic diverging concepts are pursued. On the one hand, the focus is to execute apps on the smartphone and use in car HMI (Human-Machine Interface) technologies to control the applications, e.g. steering wheel buttons, voice control or a in-car touch screen. On the other hand, a different approach is to bring a mobile phone OS (operating system) to the cars built-in IVI (in-Vehicle Infotainment system). Both concepts have in common to bring an execution platform for mobility apps into the car. With respect to SIMPLI-CITY, these new technologies are an enabler that will ease the integration of SIMPLI-CITY into a variety of different cars. The focus of all these solutions is the connection of the smartphone and the car to achieve a good usability of (smartphone) apps without disturbing the driver.

References and Further Reading

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