Car radios have to fulfil a
large number of consumer requirements, for example digital radio, AM and FM
reception, mobile telephony, audio from a variety of sources, large touch
screens, soft and hard keys, voice-operated control and smartphone apps. Even
for vehicles in more price driven segments, radios have evolved from simple
tuners and amplifiers to proper entertainment hubs. With the dawn of the
connected vehicle, as well as different standards and operating systems from
consumer electronics, the trends show that the complexity of car radios is
increasing. To cope with these challenges, the international technology company
Continental has developed a progressive vehicle radio platform, which allows
control of numerous individual functions on one processor, ultimately reducing hardware
to a minimum.
“Complexity for vehicle entertainment is
increasing rapidly. With our new radio platform we can now offer a solution,
which not only copes with a vast variety of functions, but is highly cost
effective and usable for vehicle manufacturers worldwide,” said Johann Hiebl,
head of the Continental business unit Infotainment & Connectivity.
The main approach behind Continental’s radio
platform is simple: Replace cost intensive hardware with software, wherever
possible. To achieve this reduction the Continental radio platform is built on
a highly optimised system on chip (SoC). It has a multi core processor at the
heart of the platform that is handling all human machine interface,
connectivity and audio-post processing related functions, as well as an
integrated vehicle controller and a digital signal processor (DSP) that is
enabling the core radio technology of the new platform – the Software Defined
The SDR integrates analog and
digital radio standards such as AM/FM, DAB/DAB+/ DMB, DRM and HD radio
worldwide on a single hardware. New standards can be enabled by software update
as they become available in different regions, for example Chinese Digital
Radio (CDR) in China.
“The Software Defined Radio
technology allows us to use the radio platform for different markets worldwide
without making drastic changes to the hardware. As a result, we can keep
research and development efforts as well as time to market low,” Hiebl said.
With audio coming today
typically from broadcast, as well as from drivers’ or passengers’ digital
devices connected via Bluetooth or USB / iPod connection, Continental’s new
radio platform does not include a CD player. Thanks to the reduction of
hardware components achieved by using an optimized SoC, it features a 40mm deep
flat panel design head unit, supporting capacitive touch screen, HD resolution
and class D amplifiers. For vehicle manufacturers, this flat panel approach
allows for great freedom when it comes to interior design.
Drivers on the other hand can
enjoy a great variety of functions and connected services in a safe way, since
the platform is capable to mirror applications and content from smartphones via
different standards such as MirrorLink, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay or Baidu
“To reduce driver distraction,
it is one of our main objectives to keep drivers from using their smartphones
behind the wheel. By mirroring apps on our radio platform, we connect the
driver to the services that matter to them by safely integrating them into the human
machine interface of the vehicle,” Hiebl said. To further enhance safe
operation Continental individualizes applications so they can be controlled on
the touch screen, via buttons on the steering wheel, or via voice control.
Continental with many years of in-car entertainment development
With in-depth knowledge based
on over six decades of experience, Continental provides tuner technologies for
optimal entertainment in every driving situation. As far back as 1953, the
company was producing the first car radios in Wetzlar, Germany, followed by
many other successful products such as Continental’s first high-end colour
radio, launched in 2011, featuring the first software-based DAB solution – a
predecessor of today’s Software Defined Radio. Since 2007, Continental has sold
more than 40 million radio units to customers worldwide.
“Continental not only builds
upon decades of experience in the world of radio and infotainment, but also
operates pioneering laboratories, test stations and simulators in all major infotainment
development locations,” Hiebl explained. Continental today has major
development locations in Wetzlar and Regensburg in Germany; Rambouillet,
France; Singapore; Deer Park, Illinois; and, Shanghai, China – guaranteeing the
ability to serve the global markets with tailored solutions worldwide.
This global footprint allows
Continental to test and safeguard functions in extensive laboratory studies as
soon as the first prototypes of new devices are available. Continental has also
developed its own simulation system to test new radio components virtually
before the first circuit board is soldered or the first housing is pressed.
This optimises and speeds up development, guarantees the highest quality from
the outset and gives Continental and its customers a significant advantage with
regards to time, cost and quality.