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Car & Driver: Wind River Systems Working on Transferring Outer Space to the Automotive Space


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Conventional wisdom insists that all the modern intelligence encompassing software, consumer electronics, social media, electric cars, and autonomous vehicles resides in Silicon Valley. And that today’s car companies, especially the three in Detroit, are heading the way of the buggy whip because their thinking is sluggish and their automaking craft too antiquated to keep pace with the rapidly accelerating connectivity, mobility, and automated-transportation movement.


Marques McCammon, connected-vehicle solutions general manager at Wind River Systems, recently burst that bubble at a suburban Detroit gathering of the world’s leading telematics experts. The word he used to pop obsolete thinking is ‘partner,’ specifically in the phrase, “When you set out to build something that must work, you need a great partner.” In essence, success is more likely when West Coast and Motor City forces set their sights on the stars together.


McCammon, who characterizes his early career as metal bending, cut his teeth in the car business with stints at Chrysler and the aftermarket specialty firms ASC and Saleen. Later, he was the chief marketing officer for Aptera, a three-wheel electric-car startup operation that went down in flames in 2011.


Calling McCammon a master of landing on his feet is no exaggeration. Wind River (WR) is one of those familiar garage-to-riches stories. Founded in 1981 by an escapee from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, WR quickly became one of the leading computer-science enterprises. Their VxWorks operating system for embedded devices launched in 1987, and was crucial to the success of one NASA mission after the other: Clementine moon probes, space-shuttle control systems, Mars rover exploration. VxWorks also is a go-to favorite for commercial and military aircraft including the B-1 bomber, Boeing 787, and Grumman unmanned combat planes. In other words, this is rocket science in its purest form.




In 2009, WR became a subsidiary of Intel, one of the world’s most successful semiconductor chipmakers. That year WR also founded an alliance to develop an open-source infotainment platform with six leading ‘metal benders’: BMW, GM, Peugeot/Citroën, Delphi, Visteon, and Magneti Marelli. Two years later, the first BMW system was ready for implementation.


Now McCammon is a fountain of wisdom gained from his access to rocket science brought down to earth of road use:


“Don’t boil the ocean. Set realistic goals and minimize the scope of the program when its success is a must.


“Focus on the rocket, not the launchpad. In other words, the consumer experience is what matters most.


“Nurture the architects. They are, after all, responsible for innovation. Never isolate the inventors from recent discoveries.


“Enable the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly.


“The software needed for autonomous driving is similar to what’s used to land a Rover on Mars in that it cannot fail. Safety and security must be intertwined.”


In essence, this is the transfer of Wind River’s VxWorks software from outer space to the automotive space. One of the first liaisons is with the Austrian-based firm TTTech which is developing an electronic control unit called TTADrive for future automotive use. In 2014, Audi and TTTech showcased a prototype of this equipment in a self-driving car at the Consumer Electronics Show.


While Wind River has other car-centric projects in the works, due to the proprietary nature of these relationships, they’re hesitant to acknowledge implementation timetables or even the brands they’re collaborating with. At least the model for future success is evident: advancing 100-plus years of car building expertise to new heights with software that’s already explored the heavens.


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