Telematics and navigation systems are now almost standard in high-end models and rental cars. Drivers are demanding simple guidance help when traveling in unfamiliar locations, and safety and convenience support and assistance. However, current systems are still rather expensive and, for cost-conscious owners of lower-end models, telematics is still more of a tempting option rather than a standard feature.
It is not just the availability of advanced silicon solutions that is driving developments forward. The number of service providers is also increasing rapidly, with most automotive manufacturers and rental companies around the globe offering various telematics and navigation packages. In addition, the infrastructure on which these systems are based is also growing. Global positioning systems (GPS) and cellular communications networks are already well advanced, while digital satellite and broadcast services, and traffic-monitoring systems, are expanding daily.
Automotive navigation systems have evolved rapidly since the introduction of simple GPS systems, with the availability of embedded high-performance microprocessor cores and systems-on-silicon approaches. This delivers open-platform flexibility together with the processing performance for a range of solutions from basic telematics features to fully featured high-end navigation and route-guidance systems.
With a dedicated telematics core, it is possible to add any number of key peripherals to the overall design, such as on-chip GPS correlator, UARTs for direct connection of cellular phones or a controller-area network (CAN) controller to interface with a car's power train network. Other software-based features, such as "dead reckoning," can also be implemented either by drawing data from dedicated sensors or from vehicle-management systems (i.e., wheel sensors, odometer) via the in-vehicle network.
Providing a fully integrated car infotainment/telematics system requires a wide selection of peripherals. Such a system should deliver a much greater range of features, such as dynamic navigation, route calculation and map matching/rotation as well as car radio, Internet access and e-mail.
The basic car radio has been the standard bearer for in-car entertainment for many years. Recently, however, this has changed as the digital era has taken hold. Not only has the introduction of satellite and terrestrial digital radio services changed the picture, but digital technology has vastly improved the listening quality of analog radio. Even today we are seeing digitally enhanced, high-quality car radios with integrated CD players appearing as standard in most vehicles, with an increasing range of other audio systems, such as MP3 players, available as aftermarket sales.
The all-important user interface is evolving into a true multimedia interface. Dedicated media processors offer the performance to handle all required audio, video and graphics processing. Speech-recognition systems are set to deliver true hands-free control over a wide range of features within the car, from simply turning accessories such as the air conditioning on or off, to automatically muting the various audio sources when answering or making a phone call.
Mobile communications technologies are allowing the introduction of Internet-based services from basic e-mail retrieval to online booking along with emergency calling in case of an accident. In-car television, DVD players and games consoles are all soon to be available as entertainment for passengers, heightening the enjoyment factor on long journeys. This is, of course, just a brief overview of the monumental changes occurring within the car infotainment market, all of which are possible only as consumer-based automotive technologies come online.
What is required, however, is a lot more than just a selection of individual components and systems. An integrated, comprehensive and detailed design and development approach is necessary. In fact, it is the functionality of such systems that dictates how the system is built, with individual blocks being fully interoperable.
For example, data exchange between telematics and multimedia processors is a necessity to incorporate traffic-routing information into route calculation. This requires both systems to be connected via a bus bridge, in a way that guarantees that bus saturation and interrupts from one system do not adversely affect the performance of the other.
To achieve this interoperability while maintaining time-to-market constraints requires a modular design approach. This not only guarantees hardware compatibility but also ensures that predeveloped software for the telematics processor can be directly reused on a mobile multimedia platform, and so on.
Additional peripherals such as a graphics accelerator--as well as SDRAM and PCI interfaces, and interfaces to standard peripherals-can also be integrated. This is embodied in Philips Semiconductors' Nexperia approach, which has resulted in the development of the Nexperia Car Infotainment Platform (CIP) concept. By specifically developing a range of core infotainment hardware and software blocks that are fully interoperable and reusable, dedicated systems from a basic telematics processor right up to a fully featured, high-end infotainment system can be quickly developed.