Android has its share of benefits and challenges when it comes to automotive infotainment systems. One such challenge is that of the emergence of mixed-criticality systems comprising both infotainment and safety-/security-critical systems, enabled by high-performance multicore processors. To face this challenge: Try virtualization.
Android represents a compelling choice for automotive Embedded Systems. As the most popular and fastest-growing mobile Operating System (OS) – comprising two-thirds of worldwide smartphone shipments – automotive OEMs see Android as the means to provide the best possible multimedia experiences. Android provides standardized interfaces for accelerated graphics, audio, wireless networking, Bluetooth technology, USB, and more, enabling applications to easily harness the power of these hardware facilities. OEMs see Android as a means of leveraging consumers’ familiarity with mobile devices to improve the automotive experience.
The availability of the Android open-source infotainment platform comes at a time when OEMs are taking more control over the digital infrastructure in cars. The traditional model of outsourcing the entire infotainment system to Tier 1 component suppliers is being replaced (at least at some OEMs, to varying extents) with an approach in which the OEM chooses the operating system, development environment, and microprocessor platform and even performs a significant amount of software development. Tier 1s are asked to build hardware and provide application and driver work, but the OEM owns the architecture. Android provides the control that OEMs require in this new world. But while these advantages are attractive to OEMs, Android also poses some challenges when it comes to multiprocessor-enabled, consolidated in-vehicle systems that tuck safety- and security-critical applications and infotainment applications all into a single system; however, virtualization is effectively conquering these challenges.
We point these particular vulnerabilities out because they fall into the highest severity category of remote exploitability. They are used by hackers to root Android phones and tablets, and automotive manufacturers want to ensure that the same vulnerabilities do not threaten Android- or Linux-based infotainment systems.
Another concern with Android is driver/passenger safety. Automotive electronics architecture is in the midst of a major trend reversal: Instead of adding more and more processors for new functions, disparate functions are being consolidated into a smaller number of high-performance multicore processors in order to reduce size, weight, power, and component/wiring cost. Processor consolidation is leading safety-critical systems to be integrated with infotainment. The consolidation trend is aided by next-generation, performance-efficient multicore processor platforms, such as the “Jacinto” and OMAPprocessor families including TI’s OMAP 5 platform, which offers a dual-core, power-efficient ARM Cortex-A15 processing architecture.
Additionally, such mixed-criticality system consolidation, for example, includes OEMs looking to host real-time clusters, rear-view cameras, and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) within the center stack computer. Next-generation Android infotainment systems must ensure that applications and multimedia seamlessly interact with safety functions, and pose no risks to passengers.