Voice activated features such as placing calls have been available in automobiles for many years. Today the most advanced systems under development and research are in the areas of autonomous vehicles. At the Embedded World Conference 2013 I was reminded about a car from the 1980’s that already had all these capabilities built in. Yes it was KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand)! The car was right in front of me at the show!
It just struck me, here is a car that captured the imagination of many teen agers in the 1980’s, from the red light blinking that moves sequentially left and right on the front the black Pontiac Firebird, to the remotely controlled (via a watch not a smart phone) car that is capable of driving itself. For good measure the car even had elements of advanced telematics systems where vital signs such as the pulse and blood pressure of David Hasselhoff were monitored.
It’s 30 years later and automobiles are going through a transformation. Infotainment systems are providing more information and connectivity. Instead of the schematics of a building that needs to be investigated, consumers expect their applications and data to be available in their cars. We are also seeing the introduction of advanced driver safety assistance features to help avoid accidents; these include detecting obstacles on the road and lane departure warning systems. And of course self-driving cars from Google and by many universities that participated in the DARPA grand challenge are doing many of the things we saw KITT do in a TV show.
Thinking back to the 1980’s I don’t know how somebody could have managed creating a car like KITT. I’m not saying it’s easy or even possible today to do everything KITT could do in the 1980’s, but lot’s of the pieces are coming together, and software is playing an increasingly important role in the cars we drive today. The next generation premium automobiles are expected to have 100 million lines of code. That’s a 10x increase from recent years. It isn’t just the infotainment systems in automobiles that run advanced operating systems like Linux but the growing use of electronics in cars to actually control them. This later part is driving the adoption of standards like AUTOSAR for the embedded software design, development, testing and updating increasingly complex systems in our cars while the former is driving standardization of IVI systems through efforts like GENIVI.
The next few years should bring a lot of exciting features to the cars we see on the roads. We’ll keep you updated on how elements of KITT are technically realized in real cars in our future blog posts