The modern vehicle has been characterized as an advanced computing system on wheels, with capabilities once unimaginable. Drivers have access to a full array of in-vehicle infotainment and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) that improve the quality of the driving experience, driver safety, fuel efficiency and more. As these systems become more available in both high-end and mainstream vehicles, adopting an electronic architecture that future-proofs against obsolescence while providing a major competitive advantage will be the primary goal for automotive OEMs.
To achieve this, automobiles will need to transform from highly electromechanical terminals into intelligent, extensible and upgradable electronic terminals1
. However, today’s existing electronic architectures limit this ability in vehicles, prompting a shift away from existing hardware-defined systems toward software-defined systems.
Developing and deploying software-defined vehicles offers multiple benefits to consumers and manufacturers alike. First and foremost, they offer improved safety systems benefitting the driver and passengers. Software-defined vehicles retain higher value over time, because they can be updated with the latest security features, other updates and new applications over the air, similar to a mobile phone. Finally, OEMs can benefit from a continued post-purchase revenue stream, as new features can be commoditized and delivered in the form of add-on services. However, traditional architectures need to evolve to support this transition.
Let’s take a look at today’s prevailing architecture and the changes necessary to support software-defined systems in the modern, intelligent vehicle.
The Domain Architecture
In existing architecture, key functions such as power steering, anti-lock brakes, door and seat controls, and environmental controls, are divided into separate systems, each consisting of sensors and actuators connected to a dedicated ECU. The individual ECUs are grouped by similar functionality and connected to a central domain controller, such as an ADAS or IVI. Each domain controller is then connected to a gateway that can pass information between domains as required (see Figure 1).