The role of Android as an alternative to embedded Linux has been a subject of quite a bit of discussion recently. As the use of open source software in automotive gains momentum there are differing opinions on the subject of using Android, Linux or both. The Linux Foundation recently wrote a post summarizing a discussion during a panel at the Android Builders Summit as well as some interviews from a number of experts. The post attempts to define Android vs. Embedded Linux and brings up some interesting points on the subject.
In the specific context of Automotive Infotainment systems I was curious about the trade-offs and use cases so sat down for a chat with Nedeljko Miljevic (goes by Ned) to his ideas on the use of Android. Ned joined our team recently as part of the acquisition of the Automotive Business unit from MontaVista. As a result of that conversation Ned wrote up his current assessment which I’m summarizing below.
The use of Android in Automotive systems has a number of perceived advantages, there are also some challenges based on the use cases Android is applied to that must be addressed by Tier 1 suppliers and OEMs using Android.
Summary of Android Benefits for IVI
Some of advantages frequently sited for the use of Android in IVI systems include:
- A rapid consumer electronics based release cadence
- A user experience validated in the consumer market
- The ability to easily port to new devices
- A vibrant ecosystem of developers, applications and app stores
Summary of Challenges for Android in IVI
Of course nothing really comes for free so let’s list some of the challenges:
- A lack of automotive interfaces such as those needed for automotive buses
- Effectively handling the automotive power environment and situations including under-voltages
- Managing the different priorities needed for audio and video for safety requirements
- An unclear and changing IP licensing and patent landscape
- Meeting the differing performance, boot time and responsiveness needs of automotive versus consumer electronics
- Security vulnerabilities
Is there a Medium Ground?
Each of these benefits and challenges are worthy of their own post or a paper (action item just created) but one of the things Ned brought up is that today some form of co-existence may be the best solution. In this scenario Android exists together with another operating system (like Linux) which handles the more safety oriented domain. This approach keeps the core infotainment system isolated and controlled while bringing many of the advantages of Android listed above into the car, including extending the consumer electronics world into the IVI experience. We’ll explore all these topics in more detail soon and also the technical approaches such as virtualization and the use of Linux containers which can be used to implement a multi-domain system that combines Android and Linux. While we work on writing that information up you can also learn a little today about making use of Linux containers in this presentation by Andrew Patterson on implementing a GENIVI compliant IVI system.
More about Ned
Ned is currently a product manager focusing on Automotive solutions based on open source software, including Linux and Android. He has over 27 years of experience ranging from development and software architecture. His embedded experience includes server systems and he has extensive experience development infrastructure and back-end systems for intelligent transportation systems and location based services. Ned is also a member of the GENIVI Alliance Compliance group.