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Addressing automotive connectivity issues

07 Oct 2014  | Ankush Sethi

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Automotive infotainment is growing at such a rapid pace as there is now an increasing desire among consumers to have the latest and greatest video and audio capabilities in their vehicles. There is now a demand for video input and output capabilities, graphics and animation processing capabilities, as well as high fidelity audio systems for in-car infotainment. Protocols such as MOST and AVB are becoming prevalent. Also, there is an increasing requirement to have all these blocks integrated in one chip. Unlike a usual consumer market, the automotive market still needs high quality standards to adhere to, and the devices designed for this field should be able to work in more rugged environment. The article covers the recent trends in automotive infotainment from the way the landscape is changing in view of "connected cars" to the different blocks and features driving those.

Integrating mobile devices
A "Connected Car" is a car that is well connected to the inside and outside world. Connectivity within the vehicle includes providing connectivity to devices that are brought into the vehicle. Connectivity outside the vehicle primarily involves the Internet connection via Wi-Fi, LTE, or some other means.

There are many challenges associated with the implementation of connectivity as it pertains to today's connected car, and these challenges involve both connectivity within the vehicle and connectivity outside the vehicle. Some challenges in automotive connectivity are:

 • Android Apps
 • The Internet
 • Streaming Multimedia Content
 • Security
There are some solutions already available for connected car e.g. MirrorLink, Miracast, DLNA and Ford AppLink. A smart phone or media player can connect to a car through any of above. For instance, MirrorLink transforms martphone into automotive application platforms where apps are hosted and run on the smartphone while drivers and passengers interact with them through the steering wheel controls, dashboard buttons and touch screens of their car's In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system.

Figure: Integrated radio processing and audio.

Software defined radio
Countries or regions have chosen different standards for a variety of reasons (commercial, political, financial, network considerations, etc). Hence, a customisable option is demanded which can be software configurable and easily ported across nations and regions. This is being achieved through a technology recognised as Software Defined Radio (SDR). The principle behind SDR is to run software on a multipurpose processor to handle the functions of the radio reception path that are typically realised in hardware, as for example, the demodulation and audio decoding. Effectively, the software defines what kind of processing is applied to the signal coming in from the antenna.

The figure demonstrates an abstract level implementation of the design that has an on chip radio processing (defined by Software) and audio playback capabilities. Here we have blocks that interface to external radio tuners and receive radio data. Then the audio is recovered from this radio data by the processes of demodulation and harmonic filtering. The recovered audio data is transmitted to a DAC converter unit which converts the digital input into an analogue audio signal which then can be played via an external speaker.

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