Digital Clusters Enable Over-The-Air Feature Updates: Visteon

By T Murrali:

Visteon, the global leader in cockpit electronics, is looking at enhancing the in-cabin experience for the drivers and passengers. Connected, electric and autonomous are the three important technology trends that impact cockpit electronics, one of the fastest growing segments in the overall automotive market. The major solutions that address these trends revolve around digitisation of the cockpit, machine learning-based voice recognition and driver monitoring, and consolidation of cockpit electronics components into domains.
As a global leader and with one of the broadest portfolios in the industry, Visteon is well-positioned to address these trends, Saminathan V, Global Infotainment Platform Delivery Manager, Visteon India, said. At CES 2019, the company showcased 2020 and 2021 production-ready technology platforms. Some of the key demonstrations included hardware and software platforms for Level3 autonomous driving, advanced technology solutions for infotainment, audio and advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) functionality.
On the technologies that the company can provide in this space, he said, the connected car trend is the driving force behind the fast growth of the two main products in cockpit electronics, the instrument clusters and infotainment. The need to show information in an easy-to-read graphical manner has resulted in the evolution of analog-digital hybrid clusters. “In India five to seven-inch displays in clusters are starting to gain popularity and in the next few years we will witness the migration to complete digital displays which can be upgraded over the air. All digital clusters will also enable vehicle manufacturers to add or update a feature over the air rather than developing a new instrument cluster,” he said.
Infotainment systems are becoming increasingly connected to the internet through in-built connectivity modules or smart phones. In the mass market segment, the company sees a fast migration from commodity audio (traditional AM/ FM radios) to display audio. In case of display audios, mirroring solutions such as CarPlay and Android Auto are gaining popularity, given the ease of operation owing to a familiar interface. In the luxury segment, infotainment systems are loaded with features such as in-built connectivity, haptics, voice assistance etc., thus offering a lot of convenience to the end-user.
Visteon offers infotainment systems based on Linux (Phoenix) and Android (Pie) according to the OEM requirements. The Phoenix infotainment platform is enhanced with a powerful simulation tool chain called Phoenix Studio for developers to develop apps using HTML and Java Script, while the Android infotainment platform is based on Android Automotive. Both these platforms are designed to unlock innovation by enabling third-party developers to create apps easily, while delivering built-in cyber security and over-the-air updates.
“We are also working with some of the global vehicle manufacturers to host an appstore to support third party apps to meet regional needs for both Android and Phoenix-based IVI platforms,” he said. The move to larger displays to enhance user experience may increase the cost of the overall system. Leveraging the advances in software and the silicon to offer an integrated instrument cluster plus infotainment system on a single system-on-chip (SOC), the company has developed an industry-first cockpit domain controller- SmartCore – that provides a total cost-of-ownership benefit as well as security and user-experience advantages. SmartCore can be found in the Mercedes A and B-class cars. It will come to India shortly,” Saminathan said.


DriveCore is a centralised computing platform for autonomous driving based on an open platform that allows automakers, developers and technology suppliers to collaborate on innovations addressing the demands for autonomous and safety-related technology solutions. The platform is modular and scalable, hence meets the need of all levels of automation from Level-2 to Level-5. It provides great flexibility to the automakers and allow them to use it across variants. The platform also addresses the needs of made-to-measure solutions for all levels of automation, with exactly the computation power requested by the OEM.
Some of the highlights of DriveCore include object detection and tracking, sensor fusion, situation analysis and trajectory planning enabled by AI. DriveCore’s environmental perception model also incorporates advanced sensor fusion techniques for the highest level of accuracy and failsafe driving.


In order to address emission regulations and meet targets, vehicle manufacturers are rolling out attractive EV models in the mass market segment. Electrification will also increase digitisation of the vehicle cockpit, as monitoring vehicle performance, managing driver workload and providing a connected experience are vital functions in electric vehicles. In fact EVs have emerged as the forerunner of autonomous vehicles (AVs), he said.
Until recently the exterior design, engine power and mileage determined a vehicle’s success. Today, consumers lead a digital lifestyle with connected, contextual and personalised experience. The passengers and drivers expect from a car not only basic transportation but also best-in-class experience simultaneously. The engineers at Visteon want the car to converse, understand, entertain and safely take the occupants to their destination. With the increase in the levels of automation, the cockpit will transform to a smart, learning, mobile assistant; a system that is always connected, and which automatically updates/ learns in the background and provides contextual information to the passengers from their smart devices, vehicle and the cloud, improving safety at the same time.
The smart cockpit leveraging machine learning for voice and image recognition was demonstrated at CES this year. Visteon has developed an in-vehicle conversational smart assistant for voice recognition called ‘say ‘n serve,’ which is designed to use natural language processing for onboard or off-board commands in cars without always needing cloud connectivity. In addition, the company also demonstrated a driver monitoring solution – ‘see ‘n sense’ in-cabin monitoring solution for head-pose detection, gaze detection and identification capabilities that are key for enhanced safety.
The auto industry is designing smart, digital cockpits providing the ultimate user experience. The intelligence of the cockpit is powered by software. The extent of connectivity modules, graphical interfaces, intuitive interaction (gesture, voice, touch, haptics), and the autonomy will influence the number of lines of code in the vehicle, he said.
According to Saminathan, DriveCore enables automakers and partners to create and support an ecosystem of algorithm developers, through an open framework for developing algorithms using sensor-based artificial intelligence. “Our technical centres in India are powerhouses of software development. They contribute largely to the regional and global OEMs. For some global OEMs, software architecture design and majority software development are done by our teams in India. Additionally, we collaborate with the academia over workshops and seminars to update them on the latest industry trends; we also challenge the technical acumen of the students by hosting codathon/ hackathon,”
he said.

Security Challenges

About security challenges for the OEMs he said, “We have built considerable capabilities in the area of cyber security and have set up a centre of excellence in Bengaluru. Our experts are currently working on a comprehensive solution to identify and deal with the threat that surfaces in infotainment, cockpit domain controllers and telematics units etc. The key pillars of our approach include: ‘secure boot’ (to ensure authenticity of the ECU software), ‘secure communication’ (to ensure secured communication when connected to the internet), ‘secure storage’ of customer and vehicle data and the fourth one is ‘secure software updates.’ Security is part of our DNA and our engineering processes are aligned to conform to SAE cyber security standard J3061. Hence, security will be a focus at every stage of product development – from conception to end. Additionally, to address the security concerns, it is ensured that the microcontrollers and chipsets conform to the secured hardware extension (SHE) standards. Considering the autonomous car scenario, in which every ECU is connected, one weak link can make the system prone to attack. OEMs and suppliers need to ensure that every such door is identified and is cyber-secured. Therefore, while writing software, we ensure that we validate inputs and outputs using thread-safe, secure application programming interfaces

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