Plextek, the Cambridge UK product innovation consultancy, has brought the benefits of the Android mobile operating system into the car.
A new head-unit, based on the Plextek Android platform, can link with any smartphone or tablet to provide a seamless data connection, call support and play audio wirelessly through Bluetooth in a car.
Plextek says it overcame several key challenges to achieve the breakthrough – including improving the user experience without risk of flattening the vehicle’s battery.
This was achieved by re-ordering standard boot tasks and using intelligent power control to minimise the time spent on standby.
Currently, car entertainment systems typically use Linux or Windows-based operating systems and are missing out on the connected functionality offered by Android, according to Plextek.
Project manager, Nicholas Hill, said: “Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world, and with so much talk about the ‘connected car’ many of its features are ideally suited for automotive applications. However, some fundamental modifications are required for in-car use. With this new platform we’re expecting more vehicle manufacturers to look at the potential for Android devices in our cars.”
One of the biggest challenges was the start-up time of the OS, with a typical ‘cold’ boot of an Android device taking well over 30 seconds. This is not such an issue for smartphones because they never need to turn themselves off completely unless the battery is completely exhausted.
However, vehicle manufacturers impose extremely tight restrictions on the long-term current drain permitted for every device in the vehicle in order to avoid exhausting the battery, and the use of a secondary battery isn’t allowed for safety reasons.
To combat this, Plextek has incorporated a number of novel techniques, greatly improving the user experience without risk of flattening the vehicle’s battery. These include re-ordering standard boot tasks and using intelligent power control to minimise the time spent on standby.
Another issue was modification of Android to handle additional audio input sources and output streams and the adaption of wireless profiles such as Bluetooth. The innovative Android platform can support an impressive range of peripherals, including dual displays, touch screens, keypads, GPS, analogue and digital tuners.
A central processor contains hardware and graphics accelerators and an Android 2.3.4 BSP. With external connectivity paramount, the platform can support USB, Bluetooth up to version 4, 2G/3G, Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Advanced audio processing software is also supported on a dedicated DSP, producing high quality, 6-channel audio.