That's infotainment, that's infotainment: Android Automotive OS goes virtual with new reference platform

The screech of brakes and lamplights blinking... Google and pals tackle heterogeneous hardware subsystems

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Google, chipmaker Qualcomm and transportation tech firm OpenSynergy have teamed up to create a reference platform for virtualising Android Auto, Google's OS for vehicles.

The platform uses OpenSynergy's COQOS hypervisor and runs on Qualcomm's SA8155 SoC. Although it's traditionally associated with the mobile sector, Qualcomm is also active in the automotive industry, and the SA8155 is one of its primary products. It uses a custom 64-bit Kyro CPU, alongside the Adreno 640 GPU, which also features on handsets like the Oppo Reno 5G and OnePlus 7.

Virtualisation is centred on the VIRTIO standard. As you've perhaps guessed from the last two characters in the acronym, VIRTIO is focused on guest I/O, with device drivers working in a paravirtualised environment. Drivers are aware they're virtualised, and perform in tandem with the hypervisor.

VIRTIO is relatively old-hat, first appearing in the Linux kernel in the late 2000s. It's since worked its way into professional virtualisation environments like VirtualBox, and can be found on some mobile devices, where it plays a role in hardware acceleration for graphically-intensive applications. OpenSynergy hopes that this reference platform will allow VIRTIO to deepen its foothold in the car market.

In a statement, Regis Adjamah, CEO of OpenSynergy, said: "We believe the time has come for the automotive industry to abandon proprietary solutions, to embrace open standards and compete on the quality of their implementation."

This effort comes as car manufacturers try to consolidate existing computerised systems (such as the infotainment system or heads-up display) into as few components as possible. This has a couple of advantages: firstly, it reduces auto manufacturers' component costs while purportedly allowing tighter integrations between the various vehicular subsystems.

It also coincides with a trend for vehicle makers to offer phone connectivity — powered by Apple Carplay and Android Auto — as a standard. That is, unless you've gone and bought the cheapest Dacia Sandero. ®

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