Infotainment in the automotive industry has been witnessing a growing trend of late. And with more modern features adorning our cars today, the share of infotainment is only likely to grow. In an email interview with Auto Tech Review, Praveen K Ganapathy, Director – Business Development, Texas Instruments (TI) India shares his view on the industry, and its future. Excerpts:
ATR _ At what size does your company estimate the automotive infotainment market to be in India?
PKG _ According to ISA Frost & Sullivan report, the total available market in India for automotive electronics is estimated at $ 160 million in 2012, driven by safety and digitisation. Texas Instruments (TI) has an unparalleled range of products and solution catering to the Indian market. This combines leading automotive infotainment processors, wireless connectivity solutions, analogue solutions to enable feature-rich automotive applications such as automotive infotainment head units, rear-seat entertainment devices, radio, and navigation tools.
How many automotive electronics/ applications does an average car feature?
With each year cars seem to get more and more complicated. In today’s world, cars tend to have more than 50 microprocessors on them. Although these microprocessors increase the complexity and testing of electronic subsystems getting integrated into today’s cars, they actually make it easier and safer to drive and service.
With increasing levels of semiconductor integration and cost reduction, the features can be brought into mid level and entry level vehicles. Is Texas Instruments carrying out any production stage or development for such units in India?With increasing levels of semiconductor integration and cost reduction, the infotainment and safety features on yesterday’s high-end cars can be brought into mid and entry level vehicles. TI is working aggressively on high level of integration and cost reduction on its processors and analogue components for the automotive market. The production and development of infotainment sub-systems is the domain of TI’s customers, which include Tier 1 suppliers into the automotive OEMs. TI’s large network of sales and applications folks is enabling the adoption of these technologies and products at these customers in and outside India.
What are the opportunities for Texas Instruments in the Indian Automotive sector?
Texas Instruments offer a strong product portfolio and design tools to support the growing market of automotive infotainment. Customers of TI have access to a few key advantages that are unique to TI. These advantages help customers come up with cutting-edge applications and get to market faster. TI has a broad portfolio of products that cover all design requirements of customers. Also, TI is the only semiconductor company in India to have sales and applications offices across locations, including small cities like Nashik and Chandigarh. TI also has an efficient partner/ distributor channel eco-system in place to reach out to customers across the country.Applications-wise, the key focus markets for TI in India include:
o Automotive (power supplies, infotainment systems, clusters, safety/ driver assistance systems, etc)
o Industrial (UPS, inverters, metering applications, etc)o Consumer (audio, TVs, PCs, mobile phones, etc)
o Power/ Energy (renewable energy, solar power, energy harvesting)
o Wireless (wireless base stations, mobile phones esp. smart phones & PDAs)
What are the future emerging trends you see in the automotive infotainment sector, both in India and other emerging markets?
Traditionally, automotive ‘radios’ have been limited to the dual functions of a radio receiver and an audio player. Consumers today are demanding a smart phone like experience in terms of features and user interface from the vehicle’s centre console head-unit. The key functions of the head-unit are radio reception, audio playback, telephony, connectivity and navigation. Along with this, consumers expect to bring the living room experience into the rear seat.
Another trend is that digital radio transmission standards are being deployed across the world, enabling new categories of services. This includes satellite radio (XM/Sirius in USA) and terrestrial radio (HD Radio in USA, DAB in Europe, DMB in South Korea and China, and soon to be deployed DRM in India). New services include conditional access, traffic information, programme associated data and program guide. Special techniques have been employed for backward compatibility to make it easier for customers to migrate – DAB transmitters often simulcast audio services on FM, and HD Radio has a hybrid mode where the analogue and digital signals co-exist on a band.Digital audio has enabled a multitude of storage media options starting with the audio compact disc. During the initial days of compact discs, tapes were still the most reliable music source in automobiles due to insensitivity to vehicle motion. With the advent of electronic shock protection, compact discs and other optical storage formats replaced tapes.
The preferred media types today are SD Cards and USB Flash Drives – these remove the need for any moving electronic parts, further improving reliability. In addition, audio can be sourced from an external media player connected over USB, using an AUX cable, or over Bluetooth. Finally, with internet connectivity, Internet radio services such a Pandora can be used to stream audio into the head-unit.Car connectivity enables communication between the infotainment system and in-car user devices, as well as remote communication. Remote connectivity is enabled in high-end vehicles with an inbuilt 2G/ 3G SIM card to communicate over the cellular network. New technologies are being developed that will allow smart phones to be controlled from the vehicle’s in-built user interface. Mechanisms need to be defined that will allow smart phone “apps” to be used in moving vehicles without compromising driver safety.With this expanding set of features that need to be controlled by the driver and other co-passengers, the user interface is an important focus area.
The trend in consumer electronics is towards highly responsive, touch screen enabled graphical user interfaces, and the same is expected in the vehicle. This requires an advanced level of 2D and 3D graphics performance. In order to minimise the distraction to the driver, buttons and knobs need to be conveniently placed on the steering wheel or on the centre console.Further, gesture recognition, speech synthesis and voice recognition technologies have to be uniquely adapted for the automotive environment. These technologies require significant digital signal processing, and are active areas of research. There are also innovations in display technologies for automobiles. Dual-view displays will allow the driver to view the radio HMI, while the front-seat co-passenger watches a movie. Heads-up displays will allow the driver to interact with the system without taking their eyes off the road.
Safety is a key aspect of automotive design, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) are an independent set of systems that may interact with the infotainment unit. Some of the features that may be provided by the infotainment unit include back-up camera and surround-view. Back up cameras are used to avoid collision with pedestrians or other objects while reversing the vehicle. Surround view systems help with parking by simulating a top-view of the vehicle and its surroundings using multiple camera feeds from around the vehicle.Automotive navigation is another key feature being added to infotainment systems. These systems rely on GPS to acquire position data, and employ dead reckoning using local sensors for greater reliability. The map data is stored locally either limited to terrain information or with detailed information on three-dimensional objects such as buildings. Correspondingly, rendering can be in 2D/ 2.5D (top-vie/perspective view) or in 3D. Also, map rendering involves blending multiple layers of graphics (e.g. map layer, map overview layer, points-of-interest layer, route layer, HMI layer, etc) – this needs to be efficiently handled.
Other features of automotive navigation include overlaying of traffic information, and navigation prompts providing turn-by-turn directions.Finally, there are the infotainment features that are targeted at the passengers. These have been available in aftermarket systems for some time. More recently, OEMs have been providing consumers the choice of a Rear Seat Entertainment (RSE) system. These functions may also be available on the head-unit, but are enabled only when the vehicle is parked (this may change with the availability of dual-view displays). These systems today allow users to bring in multimedia content in multiple forms such as SD Card, USB Drive or DVD/ BluRay Discs. In addition, the content may be sourced from portable devices (e.g. iPhone or iPad), mobile television or other Internet enabled services (e.g. YouTube).
Internet connectivity will also enable general web browsing. Other functions such as gaming and video conferencing will further enhance the living room experience. In addition, these systems can include mobile office features such as e-mail integration. All-in-all, there are an enormous range of features that can be enabled by these complex systems at various price points for consumers.Texas Instruments has a broad and deep product portfolio across consumer and automotive electronics, enabling customers to implement the breadth of features described above. With this portfolio, Texas Instruments is able to bring scalable embedded processing platforms for automotive infotainment, from the entry level automotive optimised processors (Jacinto), to the leading edge multi-core applications processor derived from smart phone devices (OMAP).
The enabling technologies include high performance Digital Signal Processing (DSP) cores, graphics acceleration using Imagination Technologies’ SGX GPU, advanced video acceleration IPs, leading edge Cortex cores from ARM, and a rich peripheral set adapted to automotive use cases. The programmable cores in these platforms are common, and software is reusable across the scale. This helps in maximising return on customers’ software investment, and minimising their time-to-market.
What specific challenges do you see in respect to the Indian market?
India is one the largest manufactures and consumers in the world of automobiles. With the growing environmental concerns, most of the manufacturers are now focused on building vehicles that are energy efficient and safer with advanced infotainment and driver assistance systems. However, local manufacturing of complex electronic sub-systems in a cost effective manner is still a big challenge. We hope this trend will change as the local ecosystems for electronics manufacturing develops and scales, both in terms of quality and cost.