CARLAB - hArtes

The Car Laboratory (CarLab) represents one of the application outcomes of the hArtes FP6 project. It is a system composed by a prestigious car, an advanced CIS (Car Information System) and a high‐end audio system. CarLab is intended to provide a remotely accessible tool to allow scientists and enterprises to test new algorithms and evaluate original applications on a real scenario.

Multimedia is the main targeted field of interest, but the inherent system flexibility likely leaves the door open to further suitable developments enabling the introduction of innovative safety services for drivers and passengers and the management of environmental sustainable vehicle technologies.

Actually, CarLab is hosted at the laboratories of Faital Spa, which together with Università Politecnica delle Marche and Leaff Engineering Srl contributed to CarLab design and development within the objectives of the hArtes project. The vehicle actually employed for its physical implementation is the MERCEDES R320 CDi V6 Sport. Installation issues have mainly motivated the choice: indeed the vehicle structural features allowed easy integration within the cockpit of the ACIS components. The innovative architecture termed Advanced CIS (ACIS) is conceptually a combination of an OpenSystem with general purpose CPU and well‐known OS for implementing interface and non‐computational‐intensive services and some specialized hardware subsystems for implementing computational intensive services connected through a network. Such architecture comprises: 

  • a master system composed by a general purpose CPU running a stable OS with support for human interface and advanced Remote Application Control (RAC) following a client‐server paradigm.
  • one or more optional slave systems, similar to the master system but with limited capabilities;
  • an optional interface with other car services and buses (e.g. CAN);
  • one or more embedded (sub)systems implementing specific demanding functions (audio/video processing);
  • an internal ethernet high speed network connecting all the systems;
  • an always‐on connection to the Internet.

Such architecture can face many issues and limitations of nowadays CIS especially those related to lifetime and aftermarket issues. Its flexibility allows designing a wide variety of systems ranging from basic (the classical system in the dashboard) to high‐end (networked multiuser systems).

The current available ACIS implementation is a networked complex system composed of 4 different physical systems connected by the internal network: 1 master installed in the dashboard, 2 slaves installed in the rear seats and a MediaServer installed in the trunk. All of them are PCs running NU‐Tech application powered by Leaff Engineering Srl. The master system interfaces with the user through some devices (touchscreen, haptic devices, voice, etc.), and with the car, controls the execution of remote computational‐demanding applications running on the MediaServer using specialized hardware and software offering remote control through a clientserver model, based on the NU‐Tech software platform.

Regarding the audio system, the car has been equipped with up to 30 loudspeakers and 24 microphones located inside the cockpit. Faital has carefully designed the loudspeaker set. The ACIS system has to control each single loudspeaker channel for implementing high‐end audio/video algorithms.

Therefore every single loudspeaker has a dedicated high quality automotive power amplifier. Professional ASIO soundcards have been used to manage all the system I/Os. An Auxiliary Power Supply system, apart from the main DC car line, has been designed ad‐hoc for the prototype and mounted into the trunk in order to efficiently face the power demand of the ACIS electronic devices.

Here a list of services available in the CarLab follows:  

  • interface (HDI, application interfaces)
  • audio functions (playing, music archive, audio processing)
  • video functions (playing, video archive)
  • hands‐free communication functions (phone, intra‐cabin)
  • speech related functions (ASR, speaker recognition)
  • communication and network functions (network services)
  • digital radio receiver function (Digital Radio Mondiale – DRM)
  • TV functions
  • navigation functions

Being a CarLab, an additional service has been implemented called Network Remote Control (NRC). This function will be provided through the network interface (wired/wireless) in a secure way. Authenticated users are able to remotely control the system, selecting the number and position of mics/louds, uploading/execute algorithm code and recording the results for download.

Due to the aforementioned ACIS characteristics, more services and application can be developed in the future according to the need of the user interested in approaching the CarLab capabilities (like Personal Devices integration or remote diagnostics, just to name a few).