Issue: Apr 2012


Infotainment goes mainstream



Innovation

by Nick Palmen

Infotainment and connected car systems are moving into the middle of the range vehicles as costs come down and drivers themselves become more connected. 

One of the leaders in the field is Stamford, Connecticut-based Harman International.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Michael Mauser, Executive Vice-President and Co-President Infotainment and Lifestyle at HARMAN what the benefits are of the new application delivery platform for the Toyota Touch & Go multimedia system?

Mauser: The biggest benefit is the affordability of the system. With affordability comes a lot of features and content which was previously only available on the high-end systems we supplied to Premium manufacturers. Through a dedicated application delivery platform Toyota drivers can now take advantage of additional content and further applications to run on HARMAN’s navigation unit. To access the new functions, the user visits the Toyota Customer Portal, where he or she is able to choose between full system application software downloads and smaller applications. After downloading the applications onto an USB stick, the car system can be updated immediately – an upgrade of the multimedia base unit is unnecessary!

AI: What new applications will be available for the launch?

Mauser:
Five applications will be available: “Fuel” allows the driver to check prices at nearby stations. “Weather” provides a weather forecast for a selected destination or the next vacation spot. “Parking” contains important information on free parking grounds and checks the availability upfront. “Glass of Water” is a driving coach from Toyota that helps save fuel by driving more economically. Last, but not least, “Park & Go” provides last mile navigation directions to a specific destination, sets reminders to avoid expired parking, and offers parking garage information so that the driver gets reminded where he has parked his vehicle. With the application delivery platform for Toyota Touch & Go (Plus) HARMAN provides further information that is relevant to the driver to safely enhance the driving experience.

AI: Which models would be equipped with the Toyota Touch & Go system?

Mauser:
The Toyota Touch & Go system has recently made its debut on board of the Toyota models Yaris, Verso S, Avensis and Hilux and continues at Geneva with the Prius, Verso, Auris and Rav4.

AI: What additional functionality does the system offer?

Mauser:
The Toyota Touch & Go Plus offers additional functionality such as 3D city views, advanced voice recognition, integrated e-mail and calendar options, and a “play more like this” music function. HARMAN has also included text-to-speech / SMS messaging support through Touch & Go Plus. Messages can be safely read aloud to the driver, and replies can be sent using customizable templates.

AI: At the Geneva Motor Show HARMAN announced that Volkswagen will launch the new models of its best-sellers VW Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia with the next-generation infotainment systems from HARMAN. What is unique about the new multimedia system?

Mauser:
The new multimedia-driven system will offer a sophisticated set of features including dynamic and real-time Google Earth navigation, brilliant graphics on the basis of the high-performance NVIDIA® Tegra 2 chipset, Internet access, and wireless connectivity. An embedded flash memory will provide dynamic navigation data which may be updated as required for current access to routes and road information.

AI: How does the modular infotainment platform enable Volkswagen Group to upgrade the hardware and software?

Mauser:
In order to synchronize the on board technology with latest developments of the consumer electronics industry with its dramatically shorter lifecycle and development cycles than the automotive industry, the modular infotainment platform enables Volkswagen Group to easily upgrade the hardware and software.
Audi, for example, displays its current and future solutions for mobile IT applications under the “Audi connect” banner. One highlight is the next generation of the Audi A3 – the first model from the carmaker that uses the modular infotainment platform from HARMAN. “Audi connect” describes the fully networked mobility of Audi – that is, the networking of Audi models with the Internet, with the infrastructure and with other vehicles. The interfaces between the car and information technology continue to gain importance here. Audi already offers its customers integrated services that result from intelligently linking cloud and backend solutions. The connection with the World Wide Web currently operates via UMTS.
In the future, Audi will rely on the fast LTE standard. In-car internet access and improved connectivity are seen as key requirements for today’s and tomorrow’s cars. Based on the HARMAN Infotainment platform, Volkswagen Group will be able to offer its customers an always up-to-date mobile and multimedia experience for the whole lifecycle of the models. The modular hardware enables quick updates for higher performance too.

AI: How would the new infotainment system help leverage HARMAN’s expertise in automotive applications?

Mauser:
The new infotainment system will leverage HARMAN’s extensive expertise in automotive infotainment applications including tuner technology, premium audio solutions and cutting-edge networking. HARMAN will be the first infotainment system supplier worldwide to integrate the new TI Jacinto 5 SOC (system-on-chip), offering MOST150 networking technology and an FPGA-less design. The very highly integrated system provides a telephone module, a complete set of tuner modules, a six-channel high performance class-D amplifier, DVD-Drive, and a computing module built on the NVIDIA® system-on-chip technology, all housed in a single 1-DIN unit.

AI: What were the requirements and the biggest challenge in the development of the HARMAN/Kardon high-performance sound system for the MINI Roadster?

Mauser:
We always have a challenge with roadsters. Because it is an open car, you are missing the cover that gives you a reflection, and of course there is the noise. As partners, MINI and HARMAN, jointly developed the tailor-made sound system. The particular set of requirements of the different MINI models necessitate individualized sound solutions. HARMAN has been collaborating with the engineers at MINI from the very early stages to design the perfect systems for these unique cars.

The HARMON/Kardon high-performance DSP amplifier in Class D technology integrated in the MINI Roadster provides its two passengers with an outstanding and richly detailed sound from ten speakers that are ideally positioned in the car and specifically adjusted for the double-seater. 



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