Visteon To Add Wi-Fi, Redefine In-Car Infotainment System At CES

Ford and General Motors have both made clear that they recognize just how important Wi-Fi has become to the general public. So important, in fact, that some folks expect to find Internet connectivity within the new vehicle that they buy. It's fairly safe to say at this point that the next big Internet battleground, at least in America, is the automobile. We have Internet at home, we have it on the road thanks to WWAN modules, but having it in the car is still a luxury that's only afforded to few.

According to iSuppli, we're about to see a new revolution in the Wi-Fi space at CES, and sure enough, it'll be based around the car. Visteon is expected to steal the show with a connect car demonstrator that "sports a flexible approach to providing Internet access in motor vehicles." The prototype vehicle will be able to get online via a variety of methods, and considering that an estimated 62.3 million global consumers will have Internet access in their vehicles by 2016 (compared to just 970,000 at the end of 2009), you can understand the rush to get in early on this trend.

Just having Wi-Fi in the car also isn't enough; we can have that much through innovations like the MiFi and USB WWAN dongles. Visteon is said to be preparing a whole new in-car infotainment experience based around the Internet. Can you imagine how much more advanced your GPS/video system would be in the car if it had access to the web? Imagine if you could download iTunes tracks on a whim while driving down the interstate. Imagine if your kids could catch up on a show in the backseat without having to download it at home first. Needless to say, having the web tightly integrated within your vehicle could drastically change how you use your car, and if it's up to Visteon, it'll happen sooner rather than later. In case you can't tell, we're excited about the possibilities, and you should be as well.

iSuppli Exclusive: The Connected Car Arrives at CES


El Segundo, Calif., December 30, 2009—Automotive systems provider Visteon Corp. at the upcoming 2010 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January is set to unveil its connected car demonstrator that sports a flexible approach to providing Internet access in motor vehicles, according to iSuppli Corp.

“Visteon provided iSuppli with an exclusive preview of its connected car demonstrator, which can link to the Internet through a variety of means,” said Richard Robinson, principal analyst, automotive electronics, for iSuppli. “This approach will allow the Visteon system to capitalize on all growth opportunities in the Internet car market.”

An estimated 62.3 million global consumers will have Internet access in their cars by 2016, up from 970,000 at the end of 2009, iSuppli predicts. The United States is expected to be the leading region for car Internet access during the next six years, with 28.3 million users in 2016. The attached figure presents iSuppli’s forecast of global shipments of cars with Internet access.

In parallel with the connected car demonstrator, Visteon has been developing a production-ready, open architecture, automotive-grade infotainment and Internet development platform. This development platform will embrace many features from the connected car demonstrator project.


Youth must be served

“Visteon said its market research highlighted the requirements of the younger consumer demographic, which is increasingly looking for downloadable and customizable applications on all hardware platforms, including the vehicle,” Robinson said. “Visteon’s research found that while some demographics were looking for a straightforward ‘turnkey’ connectivity solution (i.e., connectivity embedded in the vehicle), other consumers were interested in choosing from a range of connectivity options.”


Flexibility is key

Visteon clearly has put flexibility center stage by designing an open architecture automotive-grade in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) development platform that is capable of connecting to the outside world through various methods, including the use of embedded phones, tethered mobile devices or USB connectivity cards.

"Clearly, vehicle OEMs have their own preferences for how connectivity and Internet access should be enabled in the vehicle," said Upton Bowden of Visteon’s connected car development team. "Our research shows some consumers did not necessarily want to be tied to an OEM’s choice of wireless service provider. Rather, they want to use their current connected device, with the intent of using the subscription package they already have."


Software and hardware choices

The connected car demonstrator currently uses the Linux-based Moblin2.0 open source software platform optimized for mobile Internet devices. This enables Visteon to use existing open source features and applications to reduce development costs and develop new features in parallel. When a feature is ready, it can be ported to the specific platform. Another advantage of the open source approach is software upgradability, which will provide a level of future-proofing for the platform and allow the system to be upgraded after launch. iSuppli has learned that Visteon plans to migrate the Moblin 2.0 Operating System (OS) to the automotive-compliant GENIVI OS as soon as it is released.

Along with the connected car exhibit at CES 2010, Visteon will present its open architecture IVI development platform aligned with the GENIVI reference design. This hardware platform will drive three displays, each with its own touch-screen-controlled HMI, plus a cluster display for driver-centric information. Each display will be driven by Low Voltage Differential Signaling (LDVS), a digital protocol that can run very high-speed audio and graphic information over a simple twisted copper pair.

The Visteon IVI development platform will be demonstrated using the combination Atom/Xilinx coprocessor configuration for In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) that was announced by semiconductor supplier Intel Corp. in the third quarter of 2009.


Visteon’s Connected Car Portal

As part of the connected car demonstration, Visteon will show how users can access third-party applications from its portal as well as configure the in-vehicle experience from their home PC environment. Visteon confirmed that the connected car platform is able to handle most Web pages using the systems browser.

The Visteon team at CES 2010 will demonstrate some of the following features:


·          Multi Media Source capability, which allows users to select and display media and information from multiple sources. This means users can search by track, album or playlist, regardless of the number of storage sources (i.e., the system catalogs and normalizes audio information for selection and playback), allowing users to seamlessly select tracks regardless of their location.

·          Multiple USBs: The current hardware configuration will allow up to four USB devices to be connected, such as an iPod, iPhone or flash drive.

·          Multiple display capability. The connected car platform allows users to control and play back media from multiple sources, using each of the touch-screen interfaces and creating a zoned concept for media access.


Other general applications on display include weather, song tagging, streaming media, navigation Skype and live traffic cameras. Visteon collaborated with North American road traffic camera company Trafficland to provide live images from traffic cameras within the vicinity of the vehicle or along a desired driving route. This will allow drivers to view live traffic cameras to aid their routing choice.

For more information on this topic, see iSuppli’s new report, entitled: Internet in the Car: The Future of In-Vehicle Connectivity.