BlackBerry Ltd. has teamed with Japanese Tier 1 supplier Denso to develop what they say is the world’s first integrated automotive human machine interface (HMI) platform, which promises to lower costs for increasingly complex instrument clusters and infotainment systems.
In automotive terms, the HMI encompasses readouts and controls a driver and passenger use to operate different systems within the vehicle.
The former smartphone giant of Waterloo, Ont. has been steadily expanding its footprint in the auto sector. It said the new platform allows simplified and seamless co-ordination of independent HMI products such as instrument readouts, audio controls and navigation systems.
Currently different systems are linked through an internal bus and cabling that allow them to communicate with each other. Millions of vehicles already use software developed by Ottawa-based QNX, which BlackBerry acquired in 2010, to co-ordinate these systems.
As independently designed electronic systems proliferate in vehicles it’s become increasingly difficult to integrate them so they don’t trip over each other.
The new platform uses BlackBerry’s QNX Hypervisor and the Intel Atom processor A3900 series to do the work using just one electronic control unit. Hypervisor acts as a kind of computerized traffic cop, directing all the different electronic traffic generated while a car is in use.
“The hypervisor’s job is to make sure one can not interfere with the other, one is totally secure from the other, totally isolated from the other except where they’re allowed to communicate,” Grant Courville, BlackBerry QNX senior automotive director, said in an interview with Automotive News Canada.
“The challenge in the past was that you’ve got a lot of horsepower but they had no way to put this all on one chip, all on one system, and still be able to have safety and security and not compromise on either.”
The new platform presents a cost saving to automakers because it requires fewer parts and cable connections and should be easier to service. The consolidated system would also share information more easily.
“All of a sudden, now automakers will be able to offer more functionality and systems that you may have found traditionally on the high-end or premium vehicles, they’ll be to offer some of that functionality to the more entry-level vehicles because of the cost reduction,” said Courville, stressing that’s up to each automaker’s product planners.
The integrated platform offers designers fresh scope in laying out the cockpit, he said.
“On some vehicle models they might want to have them be more traditional looking, while on other vehicles they might want to have that one big glass panel or some variation of it,” said Courville. “They couldn’t really do that before.”
The new platform will appear in car models scheduled for release after 2019. Courville would not say which models will feature it first.