Intel, Nvidia battle it out for "car info-tainment"

Intel’s little Atom started its life as a chip for netbooks, has progressed to TV sets and MIDs and now, apparently, the firm wants to bung them into cars too.

A source in the know told TechEye Intel’s future roadmap for Atom was “looking to focus on in car entertainment,” something which would put the little chip in direct competition with the likes of Nvidia’s low powered Tegra.

An Intel spokeswoman called Megan Langer confirmed to TechEye that: “Yes, Intel has a number of activities and products for what the industry calls IVI, In-Vehicle Infotainment.” 

“We helped form an industry group around IVI in April (GENIVI),” she added, reminding us of a recent Paul Otellini keynote at IDF mentioning partnerships with both BWM and Mercedes. 

“There are others but we’re not disclosing them today,” she said, sending us, instead, a link to an embedded design centre site on the various industries Intel works with.

Nvidia, which is not listed as a member of GENIVI, has been publicly talking Tegra in car infotainment since Nvision 2008, and the firm reckons it has been making impressive strides with its big graphics, small voltage offering to drive progress forward and put its chip plans in gear.

Indeed, Taner Ozcelik, general manager of NVIDIA’s automotive business told TechEye he believed: “it will be a while – typically two to three years” before any newcomer to the automotive market can see any deployments in cars. 

“We’ve shipped close to a million NVIDIA GPUs that go in cars to date, and have been engaged in this market with cars on the road since 2006,” he said, in response to Intel’s ambitions.

“As of today, Nvidia GPUs have been in seven brands and 21 models of cars, and with new design wins announced, we expect to be in well over 10 brands and 40 models in the next couple of years,” he added.

Industry sources we spoke to also emphasised to us that no matter what Intel claims to have locked down with the likes of BMW, Mercedes and whoever else the firm is dealing with, “every CPU needs a *capable* GPU, especially for next generation nav/dashboard applications, so don’t count Nvidia out of any ‘Intel wins’.”

Also, while Nvidia is not currently a member of GENIVI, the firm has been highly active in the automotive space for several years, so sources tell us we shouldn’t be too surprised to see the firm’s name pop up in the members list  before too long.

Let’s hope that doesn’t lead to any road rage on Intel’s part, or we may be in for a crash of the titans.