Harman brings virtualisation and scalability to automotive infotainment

January 06, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
At this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Harman showcases a scalable platform for in-vehicle infotainment in the connected car. The platform transplants concepts known from commercial and consumer computing - such as hypervisors and virtual systems - to automotive environments. Plus, it takes care about cyber security and eases system integration in vehicles.

The platform demoed at the CES enables the development of apps which can be downloaded to the automotive infotainment system by users, much like it is the case today in smartphone and tablet environments. Running under Linux and supporting type 1 hypervisors (the type of hypervisor that runs under the operating system and connects the latter to the hardware), the platform uses multiple computing domains, isolated from each other to ensure system security. Though virtualization has yet to see the broad breakthrough in automotive electronics, the degree of separation enabled through virtualization offers automotive-grade security and stability since program errors can have no consequences for other virtual machines running on the same platform. Likewise, it protects safety-critical applications from unauthorised penetration attempts. Thus, the platform can run safety-critical applications - and access such applications running elsewhere in the vehicle - without the risk of being compromised by hackers.

Running safety applications on an infotainment platform? This is indeed one the intentions Harman has for the platform. According to Harman's technologists, it will be able to integrate advanced driver assistant functions like Forward Collision Warning, Lane Departure Warning on the infotainment platform, provided the underlying hardware offers enough computing power. It certainly will be interesting to see how carmakers will respond to this unusual offering.

The ability to run downloaded apps on a vehicle infotainment system is - contrary to Harman's claims - not new. Indeed, companies like BMW, Ford and Volkswagen offer this feature. However, the Harman platform extends this concept and adds more upgradeability and scalability to such platforms. At the same time, it addresses the needs of app developers in that it includes an HTML-5-based application environment for rapid development and deployment, and by offering support for HTML, Java and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), bringing the infotainment world to the same level smartphones, tablets and other platforms running web-based applications. In any case, the system shown at CES