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Future of Linux in Automotive Industry

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http://feedproxy.google.com – In May 2008, just less than a year ago, Intel and Wind River Systems co-announced their interest in producing open source linux automotive applications. Wind River Systems produces linux-based softwares and operating systems for embedded platforms. Intel’s interest in the mobile platform was strengthened by its low cost Atom processor and was actively supporting the Moblin project, an opensource linux operating system. Wind River System was acquired by Intel in June 2009. In Intel’s press release, this was mentioned “The acquisition will deliver to Intel robust software capabilities in embedded systems and mobile devices,both important growth areas for the company. Embedded systems and mobile devices include smart phones,mobile Internet devices, other consumer electronics (CE) devices, in-car “info-tainment” systems and otherautomotive areas, networking equipment, aerospace and defense, energy and thousands of other devices. This multi-billion dollar market opportunity is increasingly becoming connected and more intelligent, requiring supporting applications and services as well as full Internet functionality.” The need for a complete car infotainment system with navigation functionalities propels the development towards a certain standard to be achieved. Embedded boards and processors in a ruggedized enclosure, small enough to fit into most dashboards, will be the key. But beyond infotainment and navigational functionalities, there are more potential for the embedded system. Currently, most cars are pre-installed with an audio/video solution and the GPS function is independent from the audio/video platform. Navigation devices such as the ones from Garmin, TomTom, etc are popular GPS units with 4-5 inches display screen that work independently from the vehicle’s infotainment system. Each vehicle also has its own engine management microprocessor. This another embedded system with serial I/O and EEPROM, where it controls the engine functions based on inputs such as temperature, engine RPM, air/petrol mixture, exhaust oxygen sensors, etc. This is also commonly known as the ECU (Engine Control Unit). Analogue gauges such as the speed, RPM, distance, petrol tank are also linked to this engine management system. The problem with these instrumental panel gauges is that there are simply too many sensor parameters and there are simply not enough space to install all these gauges in the dashboard. Some manufacturers only have 3 main gauges, namely, speed, rpm and petrol tank level. Various smaller analogue counters such as distance travelled are also present in the dashboard. In view of the limited dashboard estate, only selected gauges are installed. For the complete view of all the sensor inputs and outputs, one will have to make use of the On Board Diagnostics (OBD) port which used together with a PC or customized handheld device. The outputs of the OBD port complies to a open standard protocol also known as the CAN-BUS which standardizes the output into a readable stream by OBD softwares/hardwares. Manufacturers such as DashDAQ have made available a portable LCD display system, running on a linux based OS, that can be customized to display the desired gauges and more. This device plugs into the OBD port of the ECU. This, however, serves only as a display function without any engine management control. A possible reality, in the integration of opensource and embedded boards, will be such that the entire dashboard will be touchscreen LCD based. Analogue gauges will be replaced by digital ones and the display can be configured to enable the view of desired gauges. The integrated system will be an open source embedded platform with serial I/O to take in the analogue sensors values. Engine performance curves can be preset to a few selectable modes for the driver to choose as desired. Navigation can also be integrated with turn by turn indicators displayed on the digital dashboard itself. The driver will not have to split his attention, between the dashboard and an independent GPS unit, since turn by turn display and gauges can be displayed on the same digital display. If there are engine related failures, concise details of the problem can be displayed on the digital dashboard screen instead of the old method of lighting up the “Check Engine Light” LED which doesn’t tell much to the driver.¬† A secondary display can be also mounted in the console for infotainmentin purposes. Internet functionality will ensure live traffic updates and suggest navigation avoidance to the integrated system. With the integrated system, GPS indicators can be preset into the system such that in the area where there are marked speedtraps, the ECU will ensure that the vehicle will not exceed the speed limit by controlling the throttle and gearbox. All engine control, infoitainment, navigational and gauges display in one integrated system box. This future in automotive linux is a possible reality. Fast booting and reliable embedded systems, hardened open source linux and willing manufacturers will make it work. Software, Hardware, Users. SGLNX believes it is imminent that all vehicle manufacturers will comply to a open standard, single platform for both engine management and infotainment purposes and the standard will be in the form of an embedded linux or another. Intel and various car manufacturers have already formed a non-profit group known as GENIVI Alliance, which aims to promote the adoption of open souce for in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVI). Additional reading pleasure on above topic: theregister.co.uk : Intel aims open source for your car Gottabemobile : Intel’s interesting acquisition of Wind River Systems Drew Technologies’ DashDAQ Wikipedia entry’s on Engine Control Unit (General)