Electronic Design

HDDs Hit The Road As Standard Features In Tomorrow's Cars

Over the past few years, automobile manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers have debated whether hard-disk drives (HDDs) belong in cars. Skeptics say that putting technology with rotating parts into an even larger body of rotating parts has the potential for problems. While the rationale might seem logical, today's automotive drive isn't your father's HDD.

Arguments against the use of HDDs in auto applications— resistance to vibration and temperature extremes—have been disproved of specialized HDDs in currently used in Japan and Europe. auto-grade HDDs withstand operational shock of 200 g and non-operational shock of 800 g, they also can deliver superb performance from -30°C to 85°C up to 4300 m.

Capacity and ruggedness now make HDDs dependable for automobiles as they travel through extreme temperatures and terrains. And with current HDDs, automobile manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers have the canvas for creating a new experience that adds value and satisfies demand for digital content.

These digital offerings may be informational, such as navigation or location-based point-of-interest retrieval, or focused on improving entertainment in the car with enhanced digital audio and rear-seat video and gaming options. Thanks to HDDs, the opportunities for in-car digital systems and services are miles away from what we see in cars today.

We most often see modular offerings in current auto infotainment systems running individual applications for audio, video, and navigation. Moving forward, consumers will demand the same digital functionality they enjoy at home and in portable applications, such as MP3 players. As a result, in-car entertainment systems will transition to integrated digital platforms that support a range of available options and applications.

HDDs also deliver the key ingredient for flexible infotainment delivery systems: cost-effective, high-capacity storage. They give design engineers the digital storage building blocks for converging entertainment, navigation, information services, and widearea communications that will enhance the driving experience, as well as security and driver safety for the future.

The car surely is digital infotainment's next frontier in the content on-the-go. According to IDC, the number of automotive will grow from 2.4 million in 2005 to 8.5 million in 2009. Auto manufacturers in Japan and Europe began shipping models with integrated HDDs in 2005, primarily addressing demands for sophisticated navigational systems, many with 3D capabilities.

These systems require a base level of 12 to 14 Gbytes of storage capacity. In addition, aftermarket suppliers and some U.S. auto manufacturers will offer infotainment system options with 20-, 30-, and 40-Gbyte HDDs in the 2007 model year. These higher-capacity HDDs will enable entertainment systems that can store approximately 10,000 songs or 38 hours of cable/DVD-quality video, while also storing a virtual world map database for GPS navigation applications.

To earn consumer loyalty and create differentiation going forward, manufacturers will need to design in flexible, multi-use digital systems with high-capacity storage that allow for content addition throughout ownership of the vehicle—on average seven to 10 years. Today's automotive HDDs provide the capacity required to support the growth of digital content consumers will want over the lifetime of the vehicle.

While almost every major car manufacturer is expected to integrate HDD-based systems into their offerings by 2008, the automobile industry has only just begun to discover the value that HDD-based entertainment and information systems will deliver to consumers. Using HDD technology, automobile manufacturers have a virtual open slate to create exciting applications that differentiate the car and keep pace with the explosion in digital programming and information services.

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TAGS: Automotive
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