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Intel unveils Linux-on-Atom platform for autonomous cars

May 29, 2014 — by Eric Brown 3,941 views

Intel announced a Linux- and Atom-based hardware/software platform called Intel In-Vehicle Solutions for assisted driving and eventually self-driving cars.

Intel says its Internet of Things Group achieved revenue of $482 million in the first quarter, up 32 percent year-over-year, “driven by strong demand for in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems.” While some of that appears to be Windows-based, Linux is the chief platform going forward in Intel’s current line-up of Tizen Linux based IVI reference systems. Linux is also the platform driving the newly announced Intel In-Vehicle Solutions (IIVS) platform, which initially combines IVI with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) features. IIVS will eventually migrate to semi-autonomous and autonomous vehicles, says Intel.

Intel claims its pre-integrated, pre-validated IIVS platform will shorten development time by more than a year and reduce costs up to 50 percent. “Our goal is to fuel the evolution from convenience features available in the car today to enhanced safety features of tomorrow and eventually self-driving capabilities,” stated Doug Davis, corporate vice president at Intel’s Internet of Things Group.

Intel’s Atom-based CM1050 module for IIVS
(click image to enlarge)

The IIVS platform comprises computer-on-modules, development kits, and an integrated Linux-based software stack including middleware. Like Intel’s current IVI reference designs, which use Tizen Linux board support packages, the IIVS kit will be based on the embedded focused, 22nm Atom E3800 system-on-chip. A COM called the CM1050 (pictured above) will be offered in five different SKUs with four different Atom E3800 models, which range up to quad-core SoCs.

IIVS development kit chassis
(click image to enlarge)

The CM1050 will be available in a development kit that includes a chassis stocked with connectivity, storage, and other components. The chassis integrates CAN, Ethernet, and USB ports, audio and CVBS video I/O, and radios and antennas for FM, AM, DAB, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and cellular. There’s also a Blu-ray drive, and Intel solid-state drives. The chassis offers a “thermal solution,” as well as EMI suppression, says Intel.

Full IIVS development kit
(click image to enlarge)

The IIVS chassis connects to a 11.6-inch HD, capacitive touchscreen. A separate 12V, 12 Watt, 10 Amp power brick and CAN box are also part of the kit.


Did Intel create yet another automotive Linux distro?

Intel’s hardened Linux stack for IIVS is said to offer 2-second boot. The software framework “takes advantage of many open source components,” says Intel, and “shares a large number of features with the GENIVI platform as well as being highly aligned with the emerging AGL specification and the Linux Foundation.”

The stack includes a GENIVI Diagnostic Log and Trace Viewer used to trace, analyze, and debug UF-IPC (ultrafast inter-process communication) messages between components. There are also Eclipse plugins for audio and IDL programming, as well as a Line Diagnosis and Analysis (LinDA) tool, and sample applications.

Interestingly, there’s no mention of Tizen. However, it should be noted that in addition to Intel’s existing Tizen-based IVI BSPs, the Linux Foundation’s Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) spec also uses Tizen as the main reference platform. The open source Linux GENIVI Foundation framework supports Tizen, as well, among other Linux stacks from Mentor Graphics and others.

To add another twist, The Wall Street Journal quotes Elliot Garbus, a VP and GM at Intel’s automotive solutions group, as saying the Linux stack is “a new variant” optimized for automotive. “We are creating another option, which offers some compelling advantages,” he added.

The Journal called this a “somewhat surprising decision, since Intel’s Wind River Systems unit has long sold software used in cars. Intel also has collaborated with groups that have developed other auto-oriented versions of Linux.”

Intel roadmap toward autonomous cars (left) and IIVS software components
(click images to enlarge)

Garbus added,however, that Intel will keep supporting other software targeting the auto market. So far, none of the Linux projects listed above are claiming victory here, so it’s possible that Intel really started another platform based in part on all of these interrelated platforms, including Tizen.

IIVS partner ecosystem

Intel’s software and services partners for IIVS include its subsidiary, Wind River, as well as RTOS vendors Green Hills Software, QNX, Mobica, Symphony Teleca, and XS Embedded (XSe).

On May 29, Symphony Teleca announced an IVI solution based on Intel’s IIVS, which it plans to show off at Telematics Detroit 2014 next week (June 4-5). Last October, the company launched into mass production a Linux-powered In-Vehicle Head Unit.

XSe, meanwhile, currently offers a Linux-based, GENIVI-compliant “AXSB” reference board. It runs on a Texas Instruments, ARM Cortex-A15-based Jacinto 6 SoC, and is supported via its site.

Intel says its automotive technology is used in BMW’s Navigation System Professional (all vehicles), and the Infiniti InTouch infotainment system in the Infiniti Q50. Intel IVI technology is also said to power the Driver Information System in the 2015 Hyundai Genesis.

Other Intel in-vehicle technology projects and investments

As part of the IIVS initiative, Intel has launched a Personal Vehicle Experience Research Project, which aims to uncover what people want from their cars and how cars can be more adaptive, predictive, and interactive. A Secure My Connected Car Research Project, meanwhile, will examine the challenges and threat landscape of a connected car. The project showcases the potential vulnerability of the car’s telematics system and shows how memory protection can defend critical in-vehicle hardware and software. This technology can then be paired with Intel Security’s McAfee whitelisting technology, says the chipmaker.

In 2012, Intel established the $100 million Intel Capital Connected Car Fund to invest in advanced automotive technologies. Intel says it recently invested in Japanese automotive tech firm ZMP, which offers an autonomous driving platform with connected sensors, radars, and cameras that also appears to involve Linux. ZMP offers several RoboCar prototypes for autonomous vehicles, as well.

Earlier Intel Capital investments have included CloudMade (IVI data aggregation and cloud connectivity), Mocana (IVI security, including mobile app-shielding), and Tobii Technology, (perceptual computing technology for ADAS). Tobii also makes a Linux-based Tobii Glasses 2 eye-tracking system.

The IIVS platform is just one of several future-looking Intel projects announced this week. The chipmaker also unveiled an open source Linux humanoid robot called Jimmy, as well as a sensor-laden Smart Shirt. Both products are due to ship this year. In addition, the company announced a groundbreaking partnership with Rockchip to license a future Intel Atom design called Sofia.

Google upstaged Intel’s automotive announcement this week by unveiling a new Google-designed, electric autonomous car. The VW Bug looking two-seater lacks a steering wheel or brakes. It’s unclear if it runs Linux, as did its existing self-driving version of a Toyota Prius.

Further information

The Intel In-Vehicle Solutions reference platform appears to be available now. More information may be found in this IIVS page, which links to a IIVS product brief, an IIVS development kit product brief, and other documents, including an Intel whitepaper on self-driving cars.

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2 responses to “Intel unveils Linux-on-Atom platform for autonomous cars”

  1. vgrade says:

    Any idea of the cost of the dev kit?

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