QNX may be best known for providing the underpinning for RIM's BlackBerry 10 and PlayBook operating systems, but it also has been building embedded systems for years, including those that run many car manufacturers' navigation systems. At CES 2013, the company was demoing its new Car platform 2.0 in a Bentley Continental GT, and showed off some pretty cool new features and user interfaces that may end up in your next vehicle.
The star of the Car platform is 17-inch, curved 1080p display that uses Texas Instruments' DLP technology to support 512 point multitouch. Thanks to the DLP technology, the display can even track a finger before it even touches the screen and offer up various functions depending on what mode the system is in. QNX notes that the one meter radius curvature in the display makes it easier to touch the screen even deep in its corners.
The Car platform is one of the first products to utilize TI's OMAP 5 processor, a chip that's been waiting for a home for the better part of a year. The system also features always-on 4G LTE mobile broadband connectivity, which enables a continuous data connection even when traveling at highway speeds.
QNX can also support high-resolution, wide-bandwidth video calling
In addition to the standard functions of navigation, climate control, and voice calls, the QNX system can also support high-resolution, wide-bandwidth video calling. In the Continental GT test vehicle, two cameras allow both the driver and passenger to participate in video conferences, with full duplex calling and stereo sound. Of course, the video calling feature only works when the car is in park — shifting it to any other gear or neutral will automatically shift the call to voice only. We placed a couple of video calls from the car on the show floor, and came away impressed with both the video and audio quality. QNX says that the system is capable of supporting the full spectrum of audio perceived by the human ear, and based on our quick tests, it sounded really good.
A fully connected car wouldn't be that impressive if you couldn't control it with your smartphone, and fortunately, QNX has that covered too. The company has developed a web-based HTML5 app that lets users control functions like opening and closing windows, starting the car, unlocking it, and monitoring vehicle diagnostics with their smartphone. The app is cross-platform, it's designed to work on most modern smartphones (we tested it with a BlackBerry 10 Dev Alpha B device) and uses secure connections between the smartphone and the car to initiate its connection.
Since the GT is a vehicle to show off the platform's full capability, QNX even included a version of BlackBerry 10's browser in it's demo software, letting you browse the web on a 17-inch, 1080p display right from your car. The system is also fully voice-controlled, though it was a bit difficult to test that feature on the noisy show floor.
A look at the future of vehicle interfaces
QNX is currently shipping the Car platform 2.0 to car manufacturers now, but it might be some time before we see cars in the show room that are running it. Additionally, since the manufacturers can customize the user interface and features of QNX that they put in their vehicles, there's a good chance we won't see all of these out-of-the-world features in most cars that you can buy. But the Car 2.0 platform does give us a look at what the future of vehicle interfaces might be, and how we might be interacting with our cars in the near future.