Building Trust in Connected Vehicles: Active Safety Systems Must Converge with In-Vehicle Infotainment

This is the third in a series of blog posts based on Intel research into human-machine interfaces (HMIs) for connected driving. Read the first and second in this series.

In my previous articles, I’ve written about why it’s so important to design experiences that build trust and confidence in connected vehicles. Now I’ll go over some of the technologies that work inside the vehicle to support these experiences and how we can design systems to provide more seamless interactions between a vehicle and its passengers.

Taking a step back, let’s start with a word: convergence. Convergence is the single greatest accelerator for the development and adoption of connected vehicles. We are converging the automotive industry with the technology industry. Mechanical engines with computing engines. Physical experiences with digital experiences.

For the purposes of this article, let’s explore the convergence of two previously disparate systems within the vehicle itself: active safety and infotainment.

 

Where Two Systems Meet

A stock image tries to recreate the mood of Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" by having a person touch a computer screen.

Active safety systems are as old as cars themselves. These are features that were designed to prevent accidents — think steering and brakes. More recently, active safety systems have expanded to include features like brake assist, adaptive cruise control and collision warning.

On the other hand, in-vehicle infotainment was created for the pure enjoyment of the driver and his or her passengers. It started with the radio. Later, cassette and CD players were added to the mix. Today, a car’s entertainment might include navigation systems, video players and compatibility with the driver’s smartphone. When we talk about HMI, this is where it lives. The in-vehicle infotainment system is responsible for all interactions between a vehicle and its occupants.

Historically, a vehicle’s infotainment and active safety systems have been strictly separated. They’re often developed by entirely different engineering teams. However, in a highly or fully connected vehicle, active safety systems need to interact with the driver or passengers — for example, to warn of a potential collision. Simply put, these two systems need to start working together.

 

A Single Platform

A connected BMW dashboard with hands-off steering.

The solution my team at Intel has proposed is to converge the vehicle’s active safety and infotainment systems into a unified architecture. This architecture must link self-driving functionality with visual, audible and other communication with passengers.

Architectural convergence can take a variety of forms. Vehicle engineers could physically converge active safety and infotainment systems onto a single high performance compute cluster. They could also keep them separate, but connected. Either way, engineering teams have a new challenge: How can they safely and securely link two very different systems in a way that delivers seamless communication — and a cohesive experience — to passengers?

We believe that a single platform is the most elegant solution to this challenge. One system that delivers infotainment and HMI interactions, while also performing the active safety functions of the vehicle, affords exciting new opportunities for tight integration.

 

Overcoming Challenges

A man lets his new road trip buddy, his automated vehicle, take over the driving.

That said, converging these systems requires specialized hardware separation to ensure that safety systems with high Automotive Safety Integrity Levels (ASILs) are protected and take priority over noncritical safety functions. In other words, collision avoidance is more important than, say, navigation. One excellent way to help isolate these functions is with Intel Virtualization Technology, which allows multiple workloads to share a common set of resources while maintaining full isolation from each other.

Even if active safety and infotainment systems aren’t physically converged, they must still achieve convergence at a system level, with highly secure and deterministic mechanisms to communicate with each other. For example, if the active safety system needs to notify passengers of a situation immediately, it must have a secure channel to the infotainment system. Furthermore, whatever had been taking place on the infotainment system must be interrupted at once to deliver the safety message. Contrary to traditional design, these mechanisms will now likely require conformance to an ASIL for the very first time.

But this challenge may not be as difficult as it seems. Again, hardware virtualization can provide an isolated extension of the active safety system, delivering the safety and security isolation needed to support a converged architecture.

These are early days for connected vehicles. But if they are to truly succeed in the market, it will be critical to design trust interactions that make drivers and passengers feel safe, comfortable, confident and in control. To learn more about the road ahead for connected vehicles, visit intel.com/automotive. For more on Intel IoT developments, subscribe to our RSS feed for email notifications of blog updates, or visit intel.com/IoTLinkedInFacebook and Twitter.

Jack Weast

About Jack Weast

Jack Weast, Principal Engineer & Chief Architect of Autonomous Driving Solutions, Intel / USA: Jack Weast is an industry recognized innovator and change agent in the adoption of modern Information Technologies in non-IT industries. Jack is the co-author of UPnP: Design By Example, is the holder of numerous patents with dozens pending, and is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Portland State University.

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