A long-term effort to produce a standard for the way electronic devices in cars link to one another may not have gained full acceptance, but will soon become its own business entity.
The Automotive Multimedia Interface Collaboration, or AMI-C, involves 12 car manufacturers and proposes an open architecture for connections between in-car systems. AMI-C expects to finalize its business incorporation by mid-November and will be headquartered in suburban Detroit. Ancillary development centers will be in Japan and Europe, said Ralph Robinson, a Ford electronics supervisor on full-time loan to the AMI-C project.
The incorporation, being reviewed by legal counsel from all the AMI-C participants, is meant primarily to give the standards organization independence and protection. No long-range plan has been set to make the organization a profit center or a spinoff for sale to a third-party organization.
That model has been successful with other automotive collaborations, most recently with the Automotive Industry Action Group's virtual private Internet, the Automotive Network Exchange, which was sold to SAIC Corp. in 1999.
The effort to develop an in-vehicle electronic architecture standard has been under way for more than two years, and AMI-C has drawn criticism for moving too slow in the face of technology change. Robinson said the criticism might be justified.
'It's a fair observation. Our concern is, if we do not move fast enough, we will end up with a de facto standard that wouldn't be to the benefit of any of us,' he said.
With a unified industry standard, benefits for automakers could include what Robinson called 'backward compatibility' for technology advances, a system which could allow older vehicles to easily add new technology appearing on later models.
Such technology could involve new consumer electronic products, or upgrades to safety or switching systems to improve vehicle performance. One example could include the use of computer-standard USB ports, which might allow car owners to simply plug in new devices using readily available USB cables for full access to onboard systems.
AMI-C expects to publish its initial standards version before the end of this year, but a second round of industry agreements and edits to the standards and incorporating inter-networking of electrical control is not expected until 2003.