Automotive OEMs are increasingly adopting Android Automotive (embedded) as a solution for their IVI stack. Android users often want to use the same familiar services while they are in the car as when they use their phones, posing a great challenge for car manufacturers. OEMs need to be highly responsive to the Android market demand and find a suitable solution for this. The Chinese market is already pressuring OEMs to fully transition and replace the head units and be able to integrate Android completely.
This adoption has introduced a series of challenges around integrating the Android Automotive embedded solution into existing legacy software (usually Linux based) and into other systems present in the vehicle (security, vehicle data, etc.).
Although it is inevitable for Android to become a common part of a car infotainment system, many OEMs are still not ready to make this transition “over-night”. They need to find the formula that provides a win-win solution – to stay competitive and, at the same time, stay authentic in their own transformation.
Losing brand identity due to a different UI and corresponding UX of the Android platform is one of the considerable downsides if looking from a long-term perspective. OEMs have been building their brand and recognizable appearance for years and are reasonably careful with compromising the signature of their current IVI solution. However, Android is a welcome add-on and will gradually become an integral part of any IVI system. That is why OEMs should be able to already benefit from it, even though they choose to preserve their unique user experience.
Hybrid solutions offer both, keeping the OEM’s own footprint with Linux-based architecture as well as allowing the running of Android apps and being open to this fast-evolving market.
Cartridge (dubbed Asterix) is an innovative concept that Audi has come up with in order to address immediate market demand without compromising on brand identity. Asterix enables Android features with an external hardware module. This plug-and-play unit is connected to the Head Unit via a single USB3.0 interface and uses a proprietary communication framework to project Android graphics/video/audio to the Head Unit as well as share the head unit interfaces (touch, jog shuttle, mic, network, etc.) to Android. Therefore, the overall Head Unit software is kept as is, with the Asterix module bringing the Android functionalities to the host system.
Major features of the Asterix solution are:
- Based on AOSP (targeting China market)
- Pre-integrated with major Chinese apps (e.g. Baidu)
- Multiple displays support
- Central unit: Main screen mixed Linux and Android
- Front & Rear seat: Android screen
- Multi touch support for different screens
- Multi zone audio support – audio sub-mixing
- Multimedia, voice, audio/video calls, etc.
- Notifications from Linux & Android
- Android Automotive build environment and regular release process
- Integration of 3rd party components (apps, frameworks, etc.)
- Low level system engineering and Android tailoring
- QA and verification
- Running CTS, VTS, STS, and other Android compatibility test suites
- Issues triage
Top level architecture: