Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America has developed a demonstration vehicle that uses Ethernet as the audio-video bridging architecture to enable any media on any screen. Conventional in-vehicle infotainment systems use traditional copper wiring or a MOST-based system.
“Copper wiring serves the purpose, but the systems get very complicated in terms of the wiring in the car. And copper wiring doesn’t lend itself perfectly for sharing media between screens and different products. MOST is a high-speed network, but it’s automotive-centric, not consumer device-specific,” Doug Ray, Director of Audio, Video and Communications for Mitsubishi Electric Automotive America, Inc, said during an Automotive Engineering interview.
Mitsubishi Electric’s FLEXConnect in-vehicle infotainment system was shown to journalists at a recent media briefing at the Tier One supplier’s Northville, MI offices.
“There are some vehicles on the market today that use Ethernet for diagnostic purposes or as the communication bus for command and control. We believe, and we don’t expect automakers will disagree, that Ethernet is a very viable architecture for in-vehicle infotainment systems moving forward,” Ray said.
The FLEXConnect demonstration system supports WiFi connectivity, which means content from multiple smart phones or tablets can be viewed or heard in-vehicle. FLEXConnect permits any media on any screen via a simple screen tap. And because there is interactivity between screens, passengers can play games or send photos back and forth.
“We don’t know five or 10 years from now what the next ‘whiz-bang’ important product is going to be. However, we can confidently say there will be something, and we need to be prepared for that. We need to be able to incorporate that next idea into our products as quickly as possible,” said Ray.
The demonstration vehicle, fitted with rear-seat-viewing cameras, enables the front-seat passenger to control the content being shown to rear-seat passengers. According to Ray, this feature means a parent can view, then approve or nix, the programming that kids watch from the back-seat screens.
FLEXConnect also provides a start point for future upgrades, such as giving the driver the ability to offload time-to-destination and other navigation information from the vehicle’s head unit to a passenger’s smart phone or tablet.
“The key enabling technology of FLEXConnect is Ethernet,” said Ray, “But the final result is only as good as what can be imagined and what we can implement from a total system perspective to bring that to the customer.”