Connectivity Steers Towards the Software Defined Car

Automotive industry stakeholders are heavily engaged in the creation, refinement and application of CAV technology in the quest to develop next-generation vehicles.

According to James Hunt, CEO at aicas, advances in solutions that enable OTA for vehicles are already answering stakeholder concerns relating to revenue for carmakers, third-party ability to introduce features and services and planning for future regulatory compliance. However, although OTA solutions are changing the outlook for system updates, upgrades and bug fixes of software assets, he believes that widespread adoption will be fueled by advances like the rollout of 5G networks capable of reliably handling massive amounts of data, particularly when accessing a complex system already running multiple, critical functions simultaneously, and which may be travelling at more than 60mph.

Moreover, as OTA advances open new connections to vehicles, he stresses that the management of cyber security and identity and access authentication systems becomes ever more important. He said: “To keep ahead of the asymmetrical threat hackers pose, a system needs to be able to manage resources, know their identity and version, and be able to update them at a granularity far below today’s flashing of complete ECUs.

“A critical success factor for software architecture is going to be the granularity of these components.  In today’s setup, most are monolithic functions that require a full system exchange that can take from several minutes up to several hours or even days.  A microservice-based approach not only provide more flexibility of the overall software architecture, but also enables small updates within a few minutes on all levels of the car’s software.”

Complexity and risk

Elsewhere, Pedro Lopez Estepa, senior market development manager, automotive at RTI, observes that the development of autonomous vehicle connectivity software is inherently challenging and risky for a number of reasons. To begin with, since they are built from many subsystems, vehicles require full interoperability between components and, in order to provide consistently optimal performances, data must also flow correctly, reliably and with extremely low latency.

Estepa also observes that developers find the creation of in-house connectivity solutions ‘complex and expensive’ because they take a lot of time to develop and require advanced technical expertise. “Worse, autonomous vehicle designs must last for years, so automakers must ensure that their systems not only address today’s connectivity challenges, but also anticipate future challenges.  They must also track constantly evolving technology and security requirements,” he says.

“In addition, the variety of new and legacy technologies that must interoperate increase the complexity of the overall system. Together, these challenges make connectivity a key cost, challenge and risk point. Developers need a reliable, proven solution.  These challenges can only be overcome by a standardized technology that enables the developers to optimize their architectural definition, providing flexibility, scalability and security at the same time.”

Connectivity innovation

Looking ahead, Estepa predicts that the key innovations in the context of connectivity architecture for connected cars and autonomous vehicles will be those that solve the major limitations that the automotive industry is facing today, some of which will potentially generate new business opportunities. In doing so, he finds it useful to distinguish between connectivity innovation in the vehicle and off the vehicle.

In the first group, he believes the major innovation will be enabling flexibility to build for a future of unknowns through a standard-based architecture that can future-proof autonomous vehicle development. In his view, this will basically solve the current paradigm based on the heterogeneity of communication hardware interfaces (e.g. TSN, CAN, Ethernet, PCIe), embedded systems and platforms (e.g. AUTOSAR, ROS, RTOS) and safety requirements (IS 26262 ASIL A to D).

Another major innovation within vehicle communication will be enabling vehicle analytics and reliable and non-intrusive recording, analysis and replay of real-time data, messages and events at high data rates and high fidelity. He said: “Innovation in the way all these components can be integrated in an agile and scalable way, without forgetting the safety requirements, will be essential for the success of the automotive industry.”

Off the vehicle, Estepa expects the evolution of cellular communications, including the new standard as NB-IoT, M1 and more importantly 5G opens new possibilities in telematics, creating new business models for both car makers and network operators. “None of this will be possible unless the communication is secure, reliable and scalable. Innovation on teleoperation protocols will be essential for the success of these new markets,” he says.

“Vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity based on the new V2X technologies, both DSRC and C-V2X, will open a new scenario for vehicle communication both on commercial vehicles as well as trucks.  A secure and scalable and interoperable communication solution will be required in order to ensure the expected level of operation.  Current solutions are only the beginning and a major innovation in this field is expected.”

Role of telematics

Meanwhile, Hunt believes that the successful evolution of connected vehicles will be dependent on the development of solutions for software life-cycle management, the interactions between vehicles, and the management of the data exchange between vehicle and cloud systems. It will also depend on the establishment of root and chain trust on a process and technological level and the establishment and constant update of business models for monetizing software over the entire life time of the vehicle.

“These five points mean that the telematics box will have a major role in the future of the vehicle. Telematics box devices deliver the ability to rapidly deploy and efficiently manage connected functions and services. Telematics innovations will enable OEMs to keep pace with innovation and open the door for integration with third-party technology partners,” he says.

Hunt also expects the future for automakers and tier suppliers to be software-defined, potentially delivering a platform that enables new business models and services and predicts that the demands for infotainment, autonomy, and electrification will continue to pull the industry’s focus away from mechanical functions and towards software integration and digital execution.

He added: “Next comes the evolution of the business model in terms of how to bring those digital functions and services to market faster and how to keep software in vehicles up to date over the long-run with more control of the experience and life-cycle revenue.”

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