Scott Stegert explores the state of the automobile infotainment industry and identifies the emerging trends.
New functions, flexibility, and updates throughout the entire lifecycle of a vehicle — all at an attractive price. These are the requirements of today’s automotive manufacturers and end users for infotainment systems. The new car radio platform from Continental rises to these challenges with a sophisticated concept and intelligent architecture.
The market trend for in-vehicle infotainment is clear. The US market research company IHS Automotive predicts that, by 2020, 25.4 million vehicles will be equipped with audio infotainment systems — a steep increase compared to 2014, when IHS counted only 14.4 million vehicles with such systems. Customers and manufacturers are increasingly expecting features such as smartphone connectivity via CarPlay and Android Auto to be standard features. Increasingly larger (touch) screens in the cockpit, app functions and a connection to the cloud will soon be considered as standard features. Despite these increased requirements, customers and OEMs expect lower prices for such products.
Automotive manufacturers appreciate flexible solutions that can easily be adapted to various vehicle models, trim levels, and markets. Here, another challenge is posed by the varying standards for digital and satellite radio across the world and the rapid technical development within the consumer electronics market with regard to mobile devices. The infotainment system of the future must be able to adapt to changing market requirements and user behaviour, while remaining reliable, easy to use, and ideally upgradeable via a software update.
Support of various market
segments and regions
Continental is rising to these diverse challenges with a new radio platform, which fits into a flat panel housing only
40 mm in depth, therefore giving automotive manufacturers maximum flexibility for interior design. The platform also supports a colour touchscreen and, depending on the target market, can receive AM/FM, DAB/DAB+/DMB, DRM, and HD radio via software-defined radio technology. It also supports smartphone connectivity via MirrorLink, CarPlay, Android Auto and Baidu CarLife. In addition, it enables speech input and text-to-speech output, and is equipped with Bluetooth, iPod/USB connection, and an SD card slot to support multimedia players. A rear-view camera can also be connected thanks to a video-in interface and an Ethernet-based audio/video bridge (AVB) supports the connection of a surround-view ECU to the system classified as an entry platform in the multimedia field. Apps, cloud services and even the integration of a navigation system are major features of this platform.
The platform was developed by Continental with four core requirements in mind:
A good example of the seamless adaptation to developing market requirements is smartphone integration on the platform. With a capacitive touchscreen in resolutions of up to 1280 x 720 (HD), support for USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and hardware-based H.264 decoding, all technical requirements for the support of “mirroring concepts” are met. MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto specifications are implemented according to the protocols defined by the respective license holders, notably Apple and Google. This allows smartphone-based apps to access the touchscreen of the head unit, the transfer of audio signals in both directions, and the support of smartphone-based navigation functions as well as other applications when they become available.
Meeting market requirements
A wide selection of features combined with best possible cost optimisation, broad-based scalability for a variety of markets and models, reducing the number of variants to target markets across the world thanks to software-defined radio, maximum freedom for interior design due to flat panel design, and future viability to implement new functions or services via software updates or upgrades throughout the lifetime of the vehicle — these are the main advantages of the new radio platform. With its new flexible radio platform design, Continental is perfectly equipped for the challenges of the next radio generations.
The author is Head of Segment Asia for Continental’s Infotainment and Connectivity (IC) Business Unit.
Automotive manufacturers appreciate flexible solutions that can easily be adapted to various vehicle models, trim levels, and markets. The infotainment system of the future must be able to adapt to changing market requirements and user behaviour, while remaining reliable, easy to use, and ideally upgradeable via a software update.
New in-vehicle radio platform from Continental
Continental has developed a progressive vehicle radio platform, which allows control of numerous individual functions on one processor, ultimately reducing hardware to a minimum.
“Complexity for vehicle entertainment is increasing rapidly. With our new radio platform we can now offer a solution, which not only copes with a vast variety of functions, but is highly cost effective and usable for vehicle manufacturers worldwide,” said Johann Hiebl, head of the Continental business unit Infotainment & Connectivity.
The main approach behind Continental’s radio platform is simple: Replace cost intensive hardware with software, wherever possible. To achieve this reduction the Continental radio platform is built on a highly optimised system on chip (SoC). It has a multi core processor at the heart of the platform that is handling all human machine interface, connectivity and audio-post processing related functions, as well as an integrated vehicle controller and a digital signal processor (DSP) that is enabling the core radio technology of the new platform — the Software Defined Radio (SDR).
The SDR integrates analogue and digital radio standards such as AM/FM, DAB/DAB+/ DMB, DRM and HD radio worldwide on a single hardware. New standards can be enabled by software update as they become available in different regions, for example Chinese Digital Radio (CDR) in China.
With audio coming today typically from broadcast, as well as from drivers’ or passengers’ digital devices connected via Bluetooth or USB/iPod connection, Continental’s new radio platform does not include a CD player. Thanks to the reduction of hardware components achieved by using an optimised SoC, it features a 40 mm deep flat panel design head unit, supporting capacitive touchscreen, HD resolution and class D amplifiers. For vehicle manufacturers, this flat panel approach allows for great freedom when it comes to interior design.
Drivers on the other hand can enjoy a great variety of functions and connected services in a safe way, since the platform is capable of mirror applications and content from smartphones via different standards such as MirrorLink, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or Baidu Carlife.