GENIVI Alliance Opens (Car) Door Even Further with New Compliance 2.0 Spec

Linux-based and fully open, Compliance 2.0 products interoperate and provide "mandatory" system functions in automotive IVI.

By Chris Ciufo, Senior Editor


The Europe-based non-profit GENIVI Alliance exists to create and nurture the broad adoption of an open source In-Vehicle Infotainment platform based on Linux. What was regarded by embedded hardware and software companies with mild interest a couple of years ago now appears very solid. GENIVI wields substantial influence over what might be the next battlefield for embedded electronics: your car. June's release of the greater-than-100-pages GENIVI Compliance 2.0 specification borrows from military "specmanship" by either mandating or making optional many elements of a GENIVI-compliant system. The spec essentially defines "Shall", "Will", and "May" language says Joel Hoffman, head of marketing for GENIVI, but he's also Intel's Strategic Development Manager responsible for portions of the company's IVI market segment. So Intel has skin in this game.

GENIVI Compliance 2.0 specifies more "required components" than version 1.0, and even moves some previously "optional" components to Required status. Specifically, 2.0 defines 29 Required components, including 23 which are "explicitly stated [as Required]," says Hoffman. Previous components that might've been in the "May include" category have been eliminated, conceivably because a vendor would include those features as part of their system differentiators. While declining to provide a complete list of required components for our interview, Hoffman cited two examples of Required components: AudioManager and systemd.

According to GENIVI, "'Systemd' is an emerging technology for improving startup efficiency and control. In-vehicle infotainment users (drivers and passengers) expect the system to be functioning within seconds after turning the key, unlike well-known mobile devices such as smartphones that may take minutes to start up from full power-off. Unlike phones and PCs, cars cannot leave the infotainment system in a suspended state because the vehicle battery will run down potentially preventing the car from starting." By enforcing systemd, drivers can be assured that their GENIVI-based infotainment head unit, though packed with features more like an Android- or iOS-based smartphone, will be no more burden on the battery than an AM/FM radio with built-in digital clock. And it'll turn on just as quickly, too.

Next-generation IVI systems will go way beyond today's relatively primitive audio/nav systems. Mid-grade automobiles such as Toyota's 2012 Camry couple Bluetooth and USB audio connectivity to smartphones to manage playlists and music libraries (Figure 1). High-end luxury cars such as Audi's S4 include 3D navigation, lane departure, and multi-angle camera views via the in-dash head unit. But even Ford's F250/350 includes a back-up camera which is "so 2010". Future IVI systems will provide multi-screens, WiFi hotspots, voice- and gesture-recognition, real-time interactive navigation (think Google Maps, Street View, and Garmin's traffic overlays plus other database mash-ups), multi-player games with Skype-like video chats, voice-enabled emails/SMS/and Search (Apple's Siri comes to mind here, but beyond today's rudimentary beta functionality), and PC/smartphone App synchronization.


Figure 1: 2012 Toyota Camry in-dash IVI system pairs with Bluetooth. (Courtesy: YouTube.com; video by www.toyota-city.com in Minneapolis, MN).

All these features, many of which are being driven by Chinese system integrators anxious to cash in on China's growing auto market where cars are frequently barely sold with a radio, are based upon Linux distributions. Multi-sourced, sometimes incompatible Linux distros make it challenging for auto manufacturers to pull together a functioning system. GENIVI Compliance 2.0 focuses on the middleware needed to assure smooth integration across manufacturers, brands, models and even generations of cars and OEM vendors. The overall Compliance 2.0 specification lists 67 components when the "optional" ones are included.


Figure 2: Partial list of GENIVI's 165 member companies. (Courtesy: GENIVI.org).

From proprietary to multi-sourced?
But, you argue, will auto manufacturers really embrace an open standard like GENIVI that could provide dozens or hundreds of competing vendors? After all, the IVI system is bolted into a car and will probably stay there for its life - it's not like choices for open-source tires or windshield wipers. "GENIVI allows them to use the latest and greatest technology," says GENIVI/Intel's Hoffman, "and more vendors means more choice." Since roughly 60 percent of the car's software is the IVI head unit, some standardization and rules enforcement is a good thing. GENIVI provides an opportunity for the auto companies to save some of the estimated $50 - $100 million investment needed for a new head unit. And standardization allows reuse across models or an automaker's entire fleet.

But it's not just about cost savings. Increasingly, the IVI system is "at the intersection of consumer behaviors," says Hoffman. Gen X'ers see more value in their $200 smartphone than they do in their $20,000 car. I got first-hand experience of this when my twenty-something daughter chose her Mazda 3 based upon the auto-pairing Bluetooth music integration feature not even found on the latest BMW 3 Series. The phone/audio combo sold the car.


Figure 3: The Tizen Project aims to embed Linux on cell phones, but portions of it mimics GENIVI's In-Vehicle Infotainment without the need for membership. (Courtesy: www.tizen.org).

GENIVI's Hoffman says that GM's latest Cadillac showcases a Linux-based IVI system that's similar to GENIVI. GM is also a visible Tier 1 OEM participant in GENIVI.

Judging by the strong 165-plus member industry participation in GENIVI, it's making waves from Detroit to Stuttgart to Tokyo (Figure 2). Along with Compliance 2.0, GENIVI announced several new Compliance 2.0 platforms from Accenture/Samsung; Mentor Graphics; MontaVista; Renesas and Wind River. These add to the 19 platforms from 9 members who had previously announced 1.0 compliance.

Intel and Mentor Graphics
Still, I had to ask why Intel was involved in GENIVI. The simple answer is that Atom-based processors fill the bill really well for IVI systems with HD graphics, WiFi, and other network connectivity options. Add a Gobi cellular modem from Qualcomm, and the IVI system resembles an embedded PC. Yet it seems Intel's also hedging their bets with the Tizen Project, a ”totally open-sourced version of GENIVI" that requires no membership, says Intel's Hoffman (Figure 3). Tizen, like GENIVI, is closely aligned with the open-source Linux Foundation. But unlike GENIVI, Tizen is embedded Linux that targets smartphones and other embedded devices. This is Intel's second shot at that market after abandoning MeeGo last year.

As we went to press, Mentor Graphics took the wraps off of their Compliance 2.0 IVI solution called Mentor Embedded IVI Base Platform. It integrates graphics, communication, multimedia libraries, system infrastructure, management functions, and Linux drivers for hardware such as Freescale's Sabre and SabreLite IVI platforms. Mentor also announced a design win for their GENIVI platform with ADIT, a joint venture between Robert Bosch Car Multimedia GmbH and DENSO Corporation.



Chris A. Ciufo is Senior Editor for embedded content at Extension Media, which includes the EECatalog print and digital publications and website, Embedded Intel® Solutions, and other related blogs and embedded channels. He has 29 years of embedded technology experience split between the semiconductor industry (AMD, Sharp Microelectronics) and the defense industry (VISTA Controls and Dy4 Systems), and in content creation. He cofounded and ran COTS Journal, created and ran Military Embedded Systems, and most recently oversaw the Embedded franchise at UBM Electronics. He’s considered the foremost expert on critically applying COTS to the military and aerospace industries, and is a sought-after speaker at tech conferences. He has degrees in electrical engineering, and in materials science, emphasizing solid state physics. He can be reached at cciufo@extensionmedia.com.