“Smart car” technology had a huge presence at CES 2015, from BMW’s 360-degree collision avoidance and parking assist features to Audi’s Human Machine Interface (HMI) that connects to an iPhone or Android device. And with both Apple and Google jumping into the market with their CarPlay and Android Auto IVI systems, the automotive industry is on the brink of some significant changes.
For example, thanks to new developments in open source virtualization, OEMs and car manufacturers are closer than ever to achieving a secure, flexible, robust, and customizable integrated cockpit — one that keeps drivers safe while meeting consumers’ connected car expectations. Already well-known for providing security, stability, and isolation in the datacenter, automotive virtualization is gaining wider attention due to additional hardening and new support for ARM.
While this is certainly exciting, virtualization remains a roadblock to some in the smart car industry. I personally had the opportunity to demonstrate GlobalLogic’s Nautilus platform for automotive virtualization at GENIVI’s CES demo and networking event. Leveraging a TI J6 SoC, I demo’d a dual-screen virtual cockpit with one screen emulating a Linux-powered driver information display, and the other screen emulating an Android-powered IVI system. The entire configuration ran on Xen Project Hypervisor 4.5 with three domains: Dom0 (thin control), DomU (Linux), and DomU (Android).
During the demo, I showcased how Nautilus achieves an overall system boot time of 8 seconds, an early RVC of 1.5 seconds, and secure and reliable peripheral sharing (including GPUs). Most importantly, I demonstrated how even if the Android virtual machine crashes, it has absolutely no influence on the mission-critical Linux virtual machine. With Nautilus automotive software, developers can host a number of VMs that are completely sandboxed from each other, thereby ensuring that all vehicle services will continue to operate even if one specific component fails.
The demo was well-received by GENIVI’s attendees, and I got the impression that many Tier 1 OEMs were thinking about using virtualization in their next-gen platforms. This is a huge milestone because, up until very recently, virtualization had a bad rep in the automotive industry. Previous attempts at virtualization using ARM A9 architecture ultimately failed because there was no hardware support for it. Many were also highly reluctant to use open source technology because it lacked proper compliance to strict auto industry regulations. But with platforms like Nautilus, developers can leverage cutting-edge open source technology that is ISO 26262 certification ready to create secure and reliable automotive virtualization experiences.
In fact, GlobalLogic’s goal is to make Nautilus part of the reference Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) software, an open source project that is developing a common, Linux-based software stack for the connected car. We are also a founding leader for Xen Project’s Embedded and Automotive initiative. GlobalLogic is working to add the Xen-based technology to the AGL spec and is further developing the platform’s real-time scheduling and peripheral sharing features to improve the use of a single physical CPU for multiple guest OSes and peripheral devices. We’ll soon be extending QNX and Tizen IVI 3.0 support to improve the functionality of other features. Finally, we are also expanding Nautilus to support even more SoCs in the next six months, such as Renesas R-Car H2/M2, which offers hardware support for virtualization.
Based on my work with the Nautilus platform and my observations of the general automotive industry, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the first PoCs for automotive virtualization coming out of China and Japan later this year. The momentum behind smart car technology development is very strong right now, and I’m excited to see what happens when automotive OEMs finally start taking advantage of virtualization’s many possibilities.