Intel Atom-based car stereos coming

BMW 7 series and Mercedes S class and C class cars will be the first in 2012 to include in-car entertainment systems driven by software running on Atom processors. Intel is predicting a massive increase in PCs-in-cars — just check out the forecast sales graph from iSuppli for advanced entertainment computers in cars through to 2015:

Car entertainment maker Harman International is behind the systems and the company says it will include “a sophisticated set of features including 3-D navigation brilliant graphics Internet access and wired or wireless connectivity for all passengers. A hard disk will provide rich navigation data and will accommodate the user’s personal entertainment files for increased flexibility and comfort.”

The operating system kernel is based on QNX R-TOS (or more specifically the QNX Neutrino Realtime Operating System) which Harman claims supports the features needed for computing and networking in the car with virtually no boot up time.

Although the announcement today was only about BMW and Mercedes QNX does say on its website that its OS is used in cars from Daewoo Hyundai Holden Renault Ssangyong and others who don’t like to be named.

Intel CEO Paul Otellini made the point in his keynote at IDF this morning that standards are the crucial piece that made the web possible: TCP/IP HTTP HTML XML and so on and said the same thing was necessary in Intel’s ‘continuum’ computing concept of x86 devices surrounding you — including in cars.

An industry consortium called GENIVI will develop these standards in an attempt to improve on the highly proprietary connectors used in car entertainment systems.

Oh and if you must know the official jargon for Atom-based car radios is “In-Vehicle Infotainment systems” hence the “IVI” in “GENIVI”. (The “gen” does not stand for “Generic” though… according to the consortium’s official press materials it stands for “Geneva” the international city of peace and harmony.)

The in-car systems Intel announced are based around Atom Z5xx range processors which can cope with high temperature ranges (-40 to 85 degrees celcius) and has different chip packages available for different mounting options.

Note the smaller-size packaging for the Atom on the left-hand side showing how the Z5xx Atoms can be built differently according to a car-maker’s needs.

Harman International said it could not release any pictures of the systems yet but Intel provided a blurry pic in CEO Paul Otellini’s presentation:

Dan Warne is attending Intel Developer Forum San Francisco as a guest of Intel.