The future of in-vehicle infotainment

Online Editor

Jens Kahrweg introduces the four technologies needed to power in-vehicle infotainment systems of the future

Since the first ever car, the engineering and manufacturing industries have strived to improve everything from engines to designs. The rate of innovation and improvement has been consistently rapid, and cars are entirely different from one decade to another.

But for years, the rate of progress of in-vehicle infotainment system was comparatively glacial. Analogue radios eventually gave way to digital radios and tape decks eventually paved the way for CD players and then USB-enabled music on demand.

But considering how quickly smartphone technology has developed over the past 10 years, these improvements are nowhere near fast enough to meet the expectations of consumers who have become accustomed to fast, responsive and convenient digital technologies within their lives. Why should the technology within cars be any different?

Of course, most people don’t change their cars nearly as much as they change their smartphones, so there will naturally be a slight difference between the technologies within the palm of a consumer’s hand and the technology within the cockpit of their car. But that’s not to say the car manufacturers can’t do better — and neither should they rest on their laurels.

The smartphone-driven cockpit experience

When buying a new car, drivers now want to receive driving assistant information in real time with high-quality graphics and quick response. And passengers want to enjoy diverse entertaining features similar to the experiences they enjoy on their smartphone. They want a digital experience that anticipates the needs of drivers and passengers alike.

Entertainment and information should appear seamlessly in the right place at the right time.

But how can automotive manufacturers ensure they’re delivering these kinds of experiences? Thanks to recent breakthroughs in technology, there are a number of ways in which manufacturers can take their interior and exterior technologies to the next level and ensure that whatever changes occur in the smartphone world over the next couple of decades, the technology in place within cars can take advantage straight away.

But what are these technologies? What are the core components or technology processes that are going to support infotainment systems of the future?

A central processing unit (CPU) to act as the brain

To satisfy such high consumer expectations, the in-vehicle infotainment system’s main processor’s performance is becoming drastically important. Not only does it need to control diverse information on multiple displays with always-on connected environment, but it also needs to be reliable for safety reasons.

Thanks to Moore’s Law, central processing units (CPUs) are now incredibly powerful, yet compact and low power, making them perfect for infotainment systems of the future. When combined with advanced multi-core technology, CPUs can deliver the right amount of processing power for any given task from any infotainment system. Custom-designed CPUs are key here — as they can offer higher single and multi-thread performance through a completely clean sheet design to handle multiple operating systems on multiple displays throughout the car.

A graphics process unit (GPU) for a highly responsive experience

A powerful CPU can be undone in an instant by a poor graphics process unit. For an advanced multi-display in-vehicle infotainment system with highly graphical driving assistant and multimedia, the graphic processing capability is very important. Advanced GPUs now use with updated graphic processing techniques to deliver powerful performance for a highly responsive and detailed graphical user experience.

A FinFET process for performance-intensive infotainment

FinFET is the most advanced process technology that overcomes the limitation of planar structure for faster performance and low power consumption. Chip solutions have traditionally been built on 10nm or 14nm FinFET process, but as of last year, the industry has managed to produce an 8nm FinFET process for the first time. This new process maximises the capability of infotainment systems, incorporating Grade2(AEC-Q100) temperature support and tight process capability management while also meeting stringent reliability requirements for next-level performance-intensive scenarios.

A modem that connects the car to everything

While the previous three technologies and processes are core to the experience, none can be more important than a 5G-enabled modem. This is the technology that is going to take infotainment systems from the old generation into the new. Modems that support LTE-Advanced broadband with carrier aggregation and MIMO will pave the way for fast and reliable connectivity to the outside world now and in the future.

A lot has been made of the potential for 5G, and how it will revolutionise nearly every aspect of our lives. And while it’s still too early to say that 5G is everywhere, its prevalence will be apparent in a few years’ time, and consumers and businesses alike will quickly become used to its benefits. To ensure cars keep up, manufacturers are already ensuring their cars are ready.

The overall picture

Combined, these four technologies and processes pave the way for future innovation, banishing the days of technology just feeling “old” within cars. It’s the necessary leap car manufacturers need to make to bridge the gap between mechanical and technological engineering innovation.

Jens Kahrweg is with Samsung Semiconductor Europe

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