Making the Android framework suitable for automotive applications is currently a hot topic among car manufacturers. Android has gained undisputed leadership in the Smartphone universe. It is an open platform which enables the community of applications developers to collaborate on a single implementation of a shared product. This collaboration has led to a large applications ecosystem that is unmatched by any other product or device in the world today.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked Eric Riyahi, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer at Parrot whether he believes that Android is the right choice for infotainment systems.
Riyahi: The infotainment platform is one of the key factors for car purchase. Either the OEM and technology supplier have developed a strong partnership over many years on a given platform, as it is the case of certain premium car brands, or the OEM can take a shortcut to advanced infotainment with the implementations of the Android platform adapted to the car environment.
AI: What do you mean by an Android platform adapted to the car environment?
Riyahi: On the one hand, an automotive infotainment platform should include fundamental features such as voice recognition, media management, digital signal processing and tuners, that are Parrot’s longtime-proven know-how and that was recently strengthened with the acquisition of DiBcom (Digital TV and Radio solutions).
On the other hand, Android is an open platform which enables the community of applications developers to collaborate on a single implementation of a shared product. This collaboration has led to a large applications ecosystem that is unmatched by any other product or device in the world today. Parrot works at combining its automotive know-how with the Android Apps framework in order to offer the most relevant automotive connected infotainment open platform.
AI: How do you envision such a connected infotainment open platform?
Riyahi: An open platform should aim at reducing engineering costs and time-to-market without compromising reliability. It rests on the following elements:
• A large community of applications developers
• A shared framework: here we are talking about the Android SDK (software development kit) which is widely available.
• A systems integrator: its task is to ensure the overall relevance and compatibility of all the Apps and libraries involved in the said infotainment platform. The ultimate goal is shortening development time for infotainment features. This entails the combining of automotive software libraries, 3rd party applications and Android applications while coordinating with HMI specialists – under the responsibility of a strong system integrator.
AI: What are the different types of Apps and libraries to combine in your vision of an open platform?
Riyahi: In order to leverage Android in an automotive environment certain libraries have to be implemented. Examples of such libraries are Voice Recognition, Bluetooth, Digital Signal Processing for hands-free acoustics (Acoustic Echo Cancellation and Noise Reduction) and support for Media connectivity and tuners. It is important that these replacement software libraries be proven automotive software libraries which can be trusted to meet automotive quality standards for reliability, compatibility, and security. Other libraries can be sourced from partners that have both Android and automotive strategies.
These partners understand automotive requirements in regards to reliability, performance and maintenance. The Apps they develop can run on the Android environment with automotive standards. Examples of Android Apps using libraries that meet automotive standards are: navigation, Internet radio, and media playing. In addition, certain types of Apps native in the Android OS, can be used directly « As is », such as Google Maps, Weather, Points of Interest (POI) search, etc. These are Apps the end customer is familiar with and they are often already used in the vehicle via an Android Smartphone. It would not make sense to consume time and money to develop them from scratch for the automotive environment. The end user would have the possibility to remove those Apps and replace them by more recent alternatives.
Another advantage of Android is the flexibility and ease of creating a custom HMI. Each vehicle OEM can create a look and feel which is unique, well-suited to its brand image, and adapted to in-vehicle usage with minimized driver distraction. The Android framework allows a custom HMI to be created with a development environment that is already familiar to a wide community of developers. The vehicle OEM has access to a vast variety of HMI partners to choose from. There is significant leadership involved in combining proven automotive software libraries, 3rd party Apps and native Android Apps while coordinating with HMI specialists. This requires a strong system integrator to set up partnerships and coordinate all hardware and software suppliers on a given project. This is where Parrot’s expertise comes into play to ensure the best performance and reliability for the overall project.
AI: In which form factors will Parrot implement its strategy for Android-based open infotainment platforms?
Riyahi: Parrot offers a range of Infotainment products in a different form factor. For example, a standalone box or it can take the shape of a head unit, either with or without a center console. Besides, this platform is also applicable to rear seat entertainment.
AI: How does Parrot’s strategy for Android-based open infotainment apply to Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE)?
Riyahi: In Parrot’s vision of a connected RSE system, passengers enjoy a vast array of Apps, such as social networking, games or video playing on a headrest-mounted Android-powered unit. These units can interact with each other and the head unit over UPnP by Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Such networking can be managed through the “R-TV Box”. This unit is the automotive equivalent of a set-top box, acting as a mobile modem with 3G/LTE access, and as a router distributing data connectivity to devices in the vehicle. Moreover, it doubles up as a TV tuner, forwarding live programs to the mobile devices and RSE units over Wi-Fi. AI: Where will your technology be displayed soon? Riyahi: Come meet us at the Parrot booths during the various upcoming Telematics Update shows and the 2014 CES in Las Vegas. The Parrot team will be glad to give you demos of our latest solutions.