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CES 2024: Stellantis, AWS BlackBerry QNX launch virtual cockpit

Leading automotive manufacturer teams with mobile platform developer and cloud giant to intro virtual cockpit as key component of virtual engineering workbench

Stellantis has led the creation of a virtual cockpit platform as part of its virtual engineering workbench (VEW), enabling the delivery of infotainment tech to customers 100 times faster than previous processes.

The firm said it can now create realistic virtual versions of car controls and systems, making them behave just like they would in a real car, but without needing to change the main software that runs them, taking what used to take months to be achieved down to 24 hours in some cases.

Stellantis regards software as a key building block to deliver clean, safe and affordable mobility, as outlined in its Dare Forward 2030 strategic plan, and the driving force behind the AI-powered STLA Brain, STLA SmartCockpit and STLA AutoDrive technology platforms. In 2022, Stellantis selected AWS as its preferred cloud provider for vehicle platforms and the companies began work on Stellantis’ purpose-built, in-house VEW. 

The platform uses the QNX Hypervisor in the cloud from BlackBerry, which is now on early access release via AWS Marketplace in the QNX Accelerate portfolio of cloud-based tools. Accessing QNX Hypervisor via AWS Marketplace enables Stellantis to include a virtual cockpit high-performance computing (HPC) simulation into a cloud environment.

Described as an industry-first platform for mixed-criticality and multi-OS embedded application development, the process includes QNX Hypervisor Amazon Machine Images (AMIs) and industry-standard hardware interfaces as defined in the VirtIO standard Trout v1.2. With tools such as virtualisation of graphics, audio and touchscreen/mouse/keyboard inputs, Stellantis said the service offers little to no difference between running QNX Hypervisor-based systems in the cloud versus on real hardware.

Standard VirtIO interfaces are also used by a suite of automotive partners to scale their offerings across OEMs and enable plug-and-play across the OEM landscape. AWS offers support for the VirtIO standard for cloud simulation of cockpit HPCs.

Taking a software-driven approach and deploying the QNX Hypervisor in the cloud, Stellantis said it can now accelerate customer feedback sessions, and with minimal effort, replicate the cockpit experience of a particular brand and vehicle, and make changes in real time to optimise the experience for the driver.

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The real-time feedback, underpinned by low latency access to the cloud, allows Stellantis to solicit valuable feedback from its customer and developer base to build future infotainment features and applications.

“Software is becoming increasingly crucial in vehicles, leading us to innovate in how we develop and validate it,” said Stellantis chief software officer Yves Bonnefont. “With our virtual cockpit, we’re revolutionising not just our approach, but also that of our suppliers and partners in the industry.

“Essentially, we’re able to get closer to our customers’ needs through this technology with faster development cycles, faster feedback loops and quicker delivery of the technology they use and love. It’s a leap towards customer-first innovation and efficiency in the automotive world.”

Mattias Eriksson, president of BlackBerry IoT, added: “We’re delighted to introduce early access availability of our trusted QNX Hypervisor platform in the cloud, leveraging the vendor and platform-neutral VirtIO standard that QNX has long-supported for its importance in creating a true-to-life virtual development environment for embedded software. Working with Stellantis to launch the world’s first commercial hypervisor in the AWS cloud helps to reduce complexity, accelerate innovation and cut costs on in-car software development throughout the entire product lifecycle.”

Wendy Bauer, vice-president and general manager of automotive and manufacturing at AWS, said: “Software virtualisation and abstraction in the cloud is vital to accelerating development and maintaining feature delivery on-pace with consumer demand.

“With BlackBerry’s QNX Hypervisor on AWS Marketplace, Stellantis can easily harness the power of the cloud to reimagine research and development processes, architect more insightful ways to solicit and integrate feedback, and deliver functions faster than before that delight drivers and further the industry.”

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