Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Green is the new black . . . or at least the new strategy to get into the black

Recently a car company mentioned to me that every ounce of current draw in an electric vehicle is essentially "gas" and between the US Governments new focus (and stimulus) on alternative energy sources / improved mileage and potential car buyers still feeling the recent pain of $4 / gallon gas, the entire automotive supply chain is positioning, (or repositioning), themselves around “green” technology campaigns.

Take for example the recent announcements from Bose and Harman Becker around energy efficient audio and infotainment systems:

Bose Energy Efficient Series Automotive Sound System - “30% smaller, 40% lighter, 50% less energy . . .”

Harman Kardon® GreenEdgeTM based audio and infotainment systems – “meeting the needs of energy-conscious customers without compromising performance”

Not just tier 1 suppliers are promoting Green, but also traditional and upstart car manufacturers and even their respective governments. It is interesting to note that the leader of one of the world’s largest economies, California’s Governator, was not only at CeBit pitching Californian companies, but will be the Keynote speaker at the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) World Congress this April. Outside of promoting his legislative track record, such as his Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 or his Hydrogen Highway and Million Solar Roofs Plan, I think Governor Schwarzenegger’s real agenda has the state economy in mind. California has the largest concentration of electric vehicle startups in the US and includes such well known names as Tesla, Fisker, Zap, Aptera (see video of my coworker beating on an Aptera car), etc. The theme to this years’ SAE World Congress: "Racing to Green Mobility"

Kerry smashing an Aptera EV

With the automotive industry currently experiencing the Autopocalypse (TM – ME) I believe the automotive supply chain is leveraging “Green” to get near term R&D and stimulus dollars while at the same time investing in innovation in order be on the leading wave of the recovery. My guess is that The Governator is the front man in California’s automotive strategy, positioning California as only he can:

California - “We’ll be Baak”

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CeBit 2009 - Infotainment Comparison

Wow! CeBit exhibition was down almost 30% from last year and nearly 50% from its peak. And, though I heard official numbers put attendance down only 20% from last year, it seemed to me more like 50%. With the number of backpacks that seemed to emerge on Thursday and Friday, I wonder if attendance was inflated with students.

All of that being said, automotive was well represented with booths and / or attendance by GM, Audi, VW, BMW, PSA and others. Tier 1s, Continental and Harman Becker, each had demonstration systems . . . with the HBAS system far more responsive and impressive (see video comparison)

I would have compared the GenIVI Linux based solution, but as you can see from the HBAS video, Intel is still pushing the QNX based demonstrations as the Linux system doesn't yet exist. ;)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When a license is the "single point of failure"

Last week, at CeBit, I had the opportunity to witness the launch of the GenIVI consortium. Graham Smethurst, of BMW, did an excellent job summarizing the challenges facing automotive OEMs and Tier 1s that led to the creation of GenIVI. The theory is that you can plug-in any conforming middleware (speech rec, navigation engine, etc.) into the GenIVI framework. The ultimate goal of GenIVI being to create standard interfaces to reusable modules. I walked away struggling with only one point: his contention that everything in GenIVI was created to remove any "single point of failure".

The reason I struggled with this point was because of the use of a single OS, Linux, for GenIVI. While there might be many distributions of Linux they all share one thing in common the GNU Public License (GPL). If Linux is the only OS for GenIVI, then it stands to reason that GPL then becomes THE single point of failure. (see my thoughts on GPL in automotive)

If it were me, I would have built GenIVI on an industry standard API like POSIX rather than a specific OS. In this way even the OS licensing could be varietal (GPL, LGPL, BSD, etc.)