What Would Joe Do?
Peggy Aycinena is a freelance journalist and Editor of EDA Confidential at www.aycinena.com. She can be reached at peggy at aycinena dot com.
Cars are cool: And Mentor knows it
October 28th, 2015 by Peggy Aycinena
Cars are cool. They’re personal transportation pods carefully crafted to the scale of the human body that zip from here to there at the discretion of the person behind the wheel. But it’s not the transportation aspect that has sold cars from the beginning of time; it’s the wow factor. A combination of metrics that take a vehicle from the ordinary to the extraordinary: provenance, make, style, workmanship, power, vintage, color, price, exclusivity.
Today, new metrics are figuring with increasing urgency into the traditional wow-factor calculus that sells cars. Things like type of power train – only hybrid and electric need apply. Bells-and-whistles infotainment systems to tell you where you are now and how to get to where you’re going, while keeping you uniquely entertained en route and caught up with your phone calls. And a host of safety features: Is your airbag functional? What nearby vehicles are trying to cut you off? Are your tires appropriately inflated? How much fuel is left if you travel at a given speed? What’s really behind you when you’re backing up?
All of these new-fangled metrics are, of course, products of the digital age – and engineering teams that need a heck-of-a-lot more sophisticated design tools than in the olden days. This week Mentor Graphics – a certifiable behind-the-scenes kingpin in the automotive supply chain scene – announced one such tool, if an embedded OS can be called a tool.
They announced “availability of the Mentor Automotive Connected OS software platform targeting next-generation automotive applications. Leveraging experience from a proven track record of enabling on-time award-winning start-of-production (SOP) deliveries, the Connected OS software provides scalable frameworks for IVI, Driver Information and ADAS applications. The automotive-grade platform facilitates faster time-to-market by solving automotive-specific challenges at the operating system level.”
[You say, whaaat?]
Mentor’s Andrew Patterson helped clarify in a recent phone call: “We’re talking here about work in the Embedded Software Division at Mentor Graphics. The division was established in 1996/97 and has grown since then, acquiring multiple companies along the way. Now, this division is moving into the automotive space, a really innovative space today.”
It’s also a space with a lot of emerging standards, he added, “and we are tracking a lot of them.”
Patterson noted that standards are about cooperation across an industry, and about sharing non-differentiating technology: “There is now a standard OS for automotive system development that has been commoditized, supported by the GENIVI Alliance.
“You might have a GENIVI-based Linux reference design, for instance, on top of which car makers put their own differentiation.
“GENIVI was founded in 2009 by a group of OEMs fed up with paying extra for this type of thing. Mentor was a founding member and continues to be on the board. Today, there are over 180 companies involved, most in the entertainment and infotainment business.”
As an example of the positive outcome of the GENIVI Alliance, Patterson said, “There’s been a trend in automotive away from [analog] mechanical needles to digital displays on the dashboard. But drivers still like the image of a moving needle, so there’s been also been a move to develop driver-information displays that are electronic but look like [traditional] mechanical dials.”
Such displays are being produced today, he added, complete with shadowing and light reflections to simulate a mechanical dial. All of which is well and good, except – any digital system can be hacked, yet it’s the display panel in front of the driver that yields the bulk of the info that split-second driving decisions are based on.
In other words, digital displays may be nimble, adaptable, more accurate and cost-effective [per Patterson’s slides], but they’re also vulnerable to attack in a way a mechanical needle is not.
Patterson said, “All of this is part of the background of our press release about our Automotive Connected OS.
“Manufacturers want to know that the electronic displays they’re producing are reliable and can’t be hacked. We had to find a way to provide a certified solution for these digital clusters, which is a problem that’s a lot harder to solve than it sounds.
“We had to come up with an architecture that separated the mission critical parts of the system under development from the stuff [in the display] that just pretty and about advanced graphics.”
To do that, Patterson said Mentor brought to bear its vast knowledge of auto safety standards and its foundational experience with the GENIVI-based Linux platform.
That effort produced “a unique, embedded architecture that is giving car makers a lot of confidence that the displays they are designing and putting into the market are reliable and meet established safety standards. We are very enthused about the results.”
I asked Patterson if he found Mentor’s level of involvement in the automotive industry to be astonishing.
When will all of this automotive stuff surpass the EDA portion of Mentor’s portfolio, I asked?
Patterson laughed and said, “Right now it’s growing more quickly than the EDA space for us, but EDA continues to show steady growth.
“Still, with 35 percent of the cost of the modern vehicle being in the electronics – luxury cars today can have up to 100 ECUs on board — the software becomes more and more critical to the car. So although embedded is a relatively new market, it’s an exploding market and very much here to stay.
“At Mentor, we’re pleased to have many years under our belts in the area. That is why we believe we are the market leader in meeting the needs for embedded automotive.”
Automakers are faced with the challenge of satisfying demanding consumer expectations for multimedia and network connectivity, in addition to abiding by very market-specific requirements. These challenges are further magnified by the traditionally long product lifecycles of the automobile, including the requirement to support car network infrastructures and standards for several generations.
As software content in the car continues to grow, car makers are looking for a mature, yet flexible solution, to build on vertically in a specific car generation as well as horizontally from generation to generation. The Connected OS solution offers the answer with scalable frameworks in the pre-integrated software platform supporting longer lasting standards for car network communication. In addition, the Connected OS software includes solutions to support the most modern and rapidly evolving features for CE device connectivity within the cabin.
Millions of Mentor Automotive Linux-based automotive systems have already been successfully adopted into production programs and that number is expected to exceed 50 million by 2018. As an increasing number of car makers select Linux to satisfy their automotive software needs, Mentor Automotive has taken the lead role as an innovative technology solution provider.
The Connected OS software features a modular, GENIVI-based Linux platform with an enhanced board support package (SuperBSP™) and an optimized middleware layer (OPTstack™). This software stack delivers key technologies such as Fastboot, Instant-On, and optimized audio/video functionality – necessary for cutting-edge automotive applications.
The level of optimization and tight integration in Connected OS delivers the industry’s fastest boot times and extremely high robustness. Supporting the market leading SoCs, the Connected OS solution is developed and maintained on a platform-centric basis for deep integration with System-on-Chip (SoC) specific features, and is customizable to support the unique requirements of OEMs and Tier1s.