The folks from QNX demonstrated the power of their software platform at 2014’s Telematics Update Detroit. The Canada-based computer company showed off a reference platform with super-fast booting capabilities.
They simulated a vehicle’s infotainment system with a handful of components including a display screen, some cables and an exposed circuit board. From a cold boot they could have a vehicle’s backup camera up and running in just two seconds.
Booting the entire systems took only slightly longer. That “[happens] very quickly by the way, under 10 seconds” said Dan Baergen, field application engineer for QNX Software Systems, Inc.
These speeds are impressive and they’re largely thanks to what’s known as a microkernel. “Think of it as building blocks” Baergen said; one part can boot up and be usable before the whole system is ready. This configuration is in contrast to what’s known as a monolithic kernel, but you didn’t click on this article for a computer-science lesson.
Of course those times listed above come with a bunch of caveats. Obviously other hardware configurations will perform differently; your mileage will vary.
Additionally the display QNX was showing had a super-set of available technologies, things like multiple navigation systems, something an automaker probably wouldn’t include in a vehicle. Why would you need five different mapping applications? Right, you don’t.
Obviously the infotainment space is a pretty crowded with companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple competing for OEM business. But this is a battle QNX appears to be winning. “We’re supplying the majority of infotainment systems in North America,” Baergen said. The firm’s technology is found in vehicles from Audi and BMW; it’s the backbone of Chrysler’s Uconnect system as well as GM’s OnStar, plus it’s in the Chevrolet Corvette.
Why have they been so successful? Well, part of the reason is probably quality. Baergen said, “We have a large, established heritage of reliability.” That’s important because drivers don’t need extra distractions when they’re piloting three tons of metal and plastic at 75 miles an hour. A reliable infotainment system is critical to safety.