RIM acquired QNX in early 2010, but that company wasn't well known to those of us in the IT space. In addition to powering in-car infotainment systems, the real-time OS drives dashboard instrumentation clusters. The OS also provides the acoustic processing systems for hands-free voice in many cars.
All of the systems in the QNX platform are available to auto manufacturers, which can tailor the technologies to their own specifications. The company announced QNX Car 2, the next version of its platform, at CES this week. It includes an auto-centric HTML5 framework.
Thus, the concept car provided a way to show off all that was possible--and Derek Kuhn, QNX VP of Sales and Marketing, did just that in the video demonstration embedded below.
Some of the highlights include a center console with an NFC chip (these chips are embedded in other places in the car, too,) for instant pairing with a BlackBerry phone. The console's touch interface looks essentially like a BlackBerry PlayBook screen, with similar menus and controls. From here, a driver (or hopefully a passenger) can send video to the screens on the backs of the headrest (in this case, those screens were BlackBerry PlayBooks), control audio, and so on.
The audio in this car sounded superb! Not just the music, but phone calls, played through the speakers, using full duplex stereo and spatial recognition to engage different channels (two 48 KHz channels) for different voices and control the delivery of audio in a surround-sound way. If voice-controlled communications is the future of car interaction, a car loaded up with QNX capabilities will certainly be rich in sound quality. (It's hard to experience this when watching the video below, but truly, it was really nice.)
Finally, the reconfigurable instrumentation cluster…think of a programmable digital message board that can be customized to the driver, and even customized to the situation. With the Porsche, for instance, a driver may want to take it out onto a track, and the track can actually be displayed in the console. The tachometer doesn't just redline, the entire thing beams red. Navigation information can be pushed onto the driver's console, and so on. The instrumentation cluster is part of the QNX toolkit.
Obviously the debates around distracted driving color some of this fun technology with some darker clouds. But this concept car wowed.