PORTLAND, Ore.—Fully reconfigurable instrument clusters and customizable apps are turning driver information systems into a mobile touchscreen experience—similar to the way smartphones have transformed cell phones into interactive extravaganzas—according to Freescale Semiconductor Inc., which announced new high-end automotive processors Tuesday (Oct. 19) at Converence 2010 in Detroit.
Freescale (Austin, Texas) said its i.MX534 and i.MX536 automotive multimedia processors house two independent graphics processors plus use the latest ARM Cortex-A8 core for running in-dash apps under Android, Linux, QNX or Windows Embedded Compact 7.
"What we have done is boost the graphics performance by about 30 percent, plus speeded up the ARM core to make it easier to run smartphone-like apps in the vehicle," said Dan Loop, Freescale's product marketing manager for high i.MX. "The other big thing we did for concurrent applications is double the memory bus speed."
The new i.MX-53 also has expanded vehicle-level connectivity with two integrated controller–area network (CAN) modules and an interface to optical rings for OEMs supporting the Media Oriented Systems Transport (MOST) vehicle bus for ultra-high-speed networking within a vehicle.
The dual graphics processors allow two-dimensional needle-indicators on instruments to be rendered simultaneously with 3-D background images. A dedicated video processor offloads the main core by performing video 1080p decoding and 720p encoding for multimedia applications like playing movies and monitoring cameras. Enhanced serial audio interfaces, multiple I2S ports and a hardware-based asynchronous sample-rate converter supports multichannel audio and audio mixing applications.
Both the i.MX536 and i.MX534 are members of Freescale Product Longevity program that guarantees that they will continue to be in-stock for 15 years. A planned Smart Application Blueprint for Rapid Engineering (SABRE) reference board for the i.MX536 and i.MX534 will demonstrate infotainment and telematics applications with terrestrial and satellite radio tuners, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, cellular modem, IAP authentication modules, MOST and CAN vehicle networking, cameras and displays.
I know that my computers and smartphones require a periodic reboot to function properly.
Are all the computers in cars designed to reboot at startup? I know that the clock keeps running even when the car is turned off, I hope that the designers will resist the temptation to include the clock as an application running within a larger CPU that then runs without ever rebooting.
Meanwhile is there any evidence that cars which run for very long times without powering off (being improperly refueled on long trips with the engine running) encounter computer problems? What steps are automotive engineers taking to prevent computer glitches in cars (certain brands certainly have reputations for unexpected electrical system problems - to date in non-mission critical areas).
WRT the configurable displays, analog is in at the moment. There was a time in the early 80's when novel digital dislays were the craze. But even though displays are largely digital, most are equipped with analog gauges. And I must admit that they are easier to decode with a quick glance... Expectations are high (at least for me) for the level of sophistication in autos these days, given the level of sophistication in every other areas (laptops, mobile phones, cameras, etc.)
Automobiles are turining themselves into an entertainment homes with complete electronic devices and controls. Even the engine controls and the brake controls are already gone elctronic. If LED's can be used as alternatives for the head light, large power savings. But can it be done?
The modern automobile is turning into a rolling touchscreen tablet, complete with in-dash apps! Because of concerns over keeping hackers from penetrating automotive systems, special security algorithms are in place to make sure apps perform as advertised. But what I think is most cool about advanced automotive processors is the possibility of reconfigurable instrument panels, for instance allowing you to put the tachometer front-and-center if that's the way you like it.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.