January 21, 2013
Credit: Photo Credit: Garmin
Lessons learned from building highly integrated avionics suites for aircraft could soon help Garmin gain the pole position in the emerging market for integrated “infotainment” systems for automobiles.
The avionics maker, which has made a rapid climb into the flight decks of a growing number of piston aircraft, business jets and even unmanned aircraft, revealed this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it has developed a glass cockpit for automobiles.
Called K2, the system integrates the functions that are becoming standard with today's cars—displays, voice control, infrared buttons and smartphone access—in a way that parallels information management on a flight deck.
Garmin is serious about the potential, with a “very large percentage” of its 1,000 automotive sector engineers working on the project, says Bill Stone, avionics product manager for the company. “It's a large strategic move for us at this point. One of the founding principles at Garmin is to service multiple markets and benefit from the synergy of staying in different markets with common technologies.”
The engineering work is ongoing at the company's Olathe, Kan., location, where automotive engineers work in the same building with aviation and marine sector engineers. “From a profit-and-loss standpoint, the business segments stand alone, but are housed in the same building,” says Stone. “We identified the need many years ago in the aviation market to have strong systems-engineering teams to understand the very disparate systems across the aircraft, even with parts we don't make. We replicated the capability within the automotive team.”
Stone says Garmin is seeing a “tremendous amount of convergence” across the automotive, aviation and marine segments, with cars, aircraft and boats becoming equipped with similar and increasingly complex systems. “They are integrated within and connected to the outside world.
“Today's higher-end automobiles are typically networked vehicles,” says Stone. “There are numerous processors within the vehicles, for braking, fuel and traction controls, audio and navigation functions, and the processors are available on a network, which enables a network solution to elements on the vehicle. Inside the vehicle, we're converging all those different kinds of data so the driver can manage all those systems.”