AE: Is there a specific design direction that GM is taking to integrate portable consumer electronic products into the vehicle?
PL: Actually, in April 2003, GM sold its first vehicle in North America with this aux jack, as we call it or auxiliary input like the 3.5 mm headphone jack type. Philosophy wise, we want to make sure that we get a broad availability. That's why we have chosen this standard. Obviously, we hit the market with our simple interface that meets the need for iPod integration.
AE: What options did you have regarding how to integrate digital music players?
PL: What we have launched now is a product for broad availability. If you want a more sophisticated user interface — that also takes a lot more understanding of the actual usage, like a graphics interface or a full user interface that allows you to browse the music in a handheld device. But we have chosen to go with breadth to give every new vehicle from 2006 on this built-in interface for free. Anybody can make this work. Anybody in the world without any hassle or training can make this work with this simple jack. It is plug and play. When you plug it in, the radio automatically changes to that source.
AE: Will this or other systems, such as a cell phone or portable GPS or a Bluetooth adapter, interface to the vehicle's communication buses?
PL: We are closely following some of these other vehicle integration opportunities and pursuing several paths. We already provide some of these communications needs, like a cell phone. We have an integrated cell phone in every vehicle in America that we sell today because of OnStar.
AE: What if someone wanted to bring in their own cell phone?
PL: We are planning on offering a very good interface. We have not launched that yet. But it is also in the pipeline because of the performance enhancements you get by having a fully integrated cell phone including the sound chain from having the best microphone, good reproduction in the audio system, and through a built-in antenna to get the best reception. With Verizon, our provider, it is possible to have a seamless interaction with a Verizon handheld. Going forward, integrating your handheld phone is something that we are near to launching.
AE: Are there any concerns from bringing these external electronics into the vehicle?
PL: With an increased amount of functionality in the vehicle, there is always the concern of when is it too much. GM has an active part in the Alliance for Automotive Manufacturers that addresses driver workload and we are driving some of the guidelines in this aspect.
AE: Any consideration for using the vehicle's battery to help battery-powered portables?
PL: Yes, several. Like supplying enough outlets in strategic positions to make sure you can charge your device. We are trying to package power outlet points very close to convenient storage areas, so we do not have wires crossing through the entire car.
AE: Will any of these systems tie into the vehicle's communication buses?
PL: I think I have to answer that with a no for any direct access. There is a communication point, it could be the radio, it could be another node on the vehicle network, but there will always be something between the device and the GM network that controls the safety, security, and health of the communication buses. We will always have a firewall between a device and our vehicle bus. The philosophy is that we would rather pull something from a device — ask a question and then get a response and not let the device take control over something actively. We would never allow something to be executed on any of our platforms.
ABOUT THE INTERVIEW
Patrik Lundblad is the engineering group manager for Infotainment and the global subsystem leader for Infotainment for General Motors.