Finding solutions in unexpected places
Finding solutions in unexpected places
At Panasonic, our decades of experience as a solution provider across many areas of the automotive industry has placed us at the intersection of today’s mobility chains. Because of our expansive portfolio in the automotive industry, as well as many other areas, we know solutions for a challenge might arise in unexpected places. That’s what happened when our sister company, OpenSynergy GmbH, began working with Google to virtualize Android Automotive to improve connectivity and incorporate safety standards as we modernize the infotainment experience for drivers.
We sat down with Andrew Poliak, Chief Technology Officer at Panasonic Automotive, to discuss how this collaboration between OpenSynergy and Google expands upon Panasonic’s infotainment solutions, highlights current challenges in the industry, and illustrates how collaboration and innovation in the automotive industry might look moving forward.
Panasonic: Tell us a little bit about Panasonic’s infotainment systems, SkipGen and SPYDR. What’s the differentiator between the two solutions?
Andrew Poliak: They both operate on the same hardware, so what separates the two solutions is the configuration of the software. SkipGen is a stand-alone Android in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system. SPYDR, on the other hand, is a domain controller with mixed criticality. This means there are redundancies and other elements within the system that enable multiple operating systems. It’s almost as if these systems, which include Android, automotive-grade Linux and Safe RTOS, check each other’s work. These operating systems co-exist while driving multiple displays and, in some cases, displays that have safety-critical certification requirements.
Panasonic: What do you mean by “safety-critical certification requirements” in this instance?
AP: Think of it this way: If you’re driving a car made in the 1970s, there would be a clear indicator on the dashboard that would let the driver know if a taillight had gone out. With a completely digital display, there are no longer dedicated bulbs on a dashboard that alert a driver to these types of issues. This requires the development of some alternate way to indicate there is an issue the driver needs to acknowledge and address.
What we did in the case of SPYDR was to interlink multiple operating systems that have the ability to constantly monitor each other utilizing a hypervisor. For SPYDR, we worked with OpenSynergy to develop the specific hypervisor solution.
Panasonic: You mentioned an OS called “Safe RTOS” earlier. For those of us familiar with Android and Linux, how exactly does Safe RTOS fit into this OS infrastructure?
AP: Safe RTOS is a small, real-time operating system that’s for added redundancy and does safety checks in the system. For instance, when you draw a tell-tale on the vehicle’s display, such as a turn signal or the PRNDL (Park, Reverse, Neutral, etc.), Safe RTOS can verify that the other operating systems are displaying the correct information and notify the user if there are any discrepancies.
That’s how you get the safety certification. It’s not that it’s impossible to have an error, just like it’s possible to have a burnt out bulb in your classic car, but it has to have the ability to alert the driver to any issues that arise, just like there would be a light on your dashboard if your turn light had burnt out in older model vehicles.
Panasonic: How does Panasonic’s work with OpenSynergy, along with their recent announcement that they’ve been collaborating with Google to make these systems Android-ready, fit into these developments?
AP: We’ve been working with OpenSynergy for a few years now, and we’ve utilized their solutions in the SPYDR concept of the cockpit domain controller we announced at CES. Now that we’ve added these other safety critical systems, we’ve brought Google into the discussion to join the development of a software solutions that runs multiple operating systems including Android Automotive OS for the purpose of getting this safety certification. This hypervisor approach will now be pre-programmed into future versions of infotainment systems providing an Android Automotive OS. The idea is to create a software infrastructure that allows Android to seamlessly exist in a safety-critical application.
Panasonic: This is a singular instance of collaboration, but how does this illustrate broader challenges facing the automotive industry?
AP: I think this speaks to the question, “How do you solve problems that span multiple industries in a way that is custom-tailored to the industry you’re working in?” The basis for this project, and the reason why we first worked with Google, was that OpenSynergy had been promoting their hypervisor solution in the automotive industry. They already had solutions with mixed criticality running with Android based around industry standard VirtIO. This opened the door to a dialog with Google, who had been working to better adapt Android for automotive use cases, but likes to base solutions on open industry standards.
The industry was moving to these single-chip domain controllers that would drive your cluster, your head-up display or intelligent rearview mirror system, etc. Some of these solutions start to get into safety use cases, and Google recognized that it was impossible to run Android without finding a solution to make it co-exist with safety applications.
Panasonic: What does the success of this collaboration mean for the industry moving forward?
AP: One of the amazing things about Panasonic is this long legacy we have that reaches back more than 100 years. For most of that time, we were known for our consumer products, and as we’ve moved more to the position of being a solutions provider, that vast experience gives us a lot of insight and perspective across many different areas in tech today. We are deeply involved in so many industries, and we are looking for collaborative opportunities where that experience and insight can be applied in novel ways to create innovative solutions.
Learn more about how Panasonic’s automotive solutions are shaping the future of mobility.