Middleware – providing the solid foundation for vehicle software today and in the future
Middleware – providing the solid foundation for vehicle software today and in the future

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The auto industry is changing. Powertrains. Connected and autonomous features. New automakers. Even the name is transforming to “mobility.” As with any change, it brings opportunities and challenges.

One significant opportunity is the connected vehicle market, which is projected to grow from $42.6 billion in 2019 to $212.7 billion in 2027 (MarketsandMarkets™). So, what does this mean for the industry, automakers, suppliers and consumers?

Where it all starts – industry, OEMs, suppliers

As the industry goes through this transformation, automakers and suppliers are working to keep pace with current needs while investing in and developing future products and advanced technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality, 3D visualization and more. This not only adds complexity to the vehicle, but to the industry’s supply chain. Traditional automakers and suppliers are seeing “new” companies, with strong backgrounds and expertise in technology, entering the industry.

Where it hits the road – consumers

For consumers, advancements in connected and autonomous technologies means driving vehicles with more functionality. Whether it’s an automatic parking system that will autonomously maneuver a vehicle from a traffic lane into a parking spot or adaptive cruise control that automatically adjusts vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead, the way we drive is changing and will continue to do so.

Where change is coming from – software

To make this change possible, the industry has shifted its focus from hardware to software. From common vehicle functions – braking, entertainment and navigation – to advanced driver assistance systems, software is already prevalent in the car. As connected and autonomous technologies evolve, so will the software required to run them. In fact, it’s expected that autonomous vehicles will have more than 1 billion lines of code compared to today’s average vehicle having 100 million (IEEE).

Where system development begins – middleware

Vehicle applications – braking, ABS, self-parking, etc. – are developed within complex systems. And just like in a computer or mobile phone, these vehicle applications are built on a standard operating system in the vehicle, this is called middleware. This foundation, or lower-level of software, allows software developers to focus on their innovation through their application. The middleware takes care of providing basic functionality such as communication, memory management, scheduling and input/output. This eliminates the development overheads of having to take care of these details, allowing complete focus on the application’s specific purpose. Think of your mobile phone, it runs multiple applications that all run on the Android or iOS operating system. When developers create new applications, they are building on top of the foundation provided by those operating systems – it’s the same thing in the vehicle.

Today’s automotive middleware comes in two standardized platforms:  AUTOSAR (AUTomotive Open System Architecture) classic – braking, ABS, engine management, wipers, etc. – and AUTOSAR adaptive – for the new generation of powerful vehicle computers required to support the future innovations. As applications advance for infotainment and ADAS systems, a new standardized middleware is being built – it will operate in conjunction with the classic and adaptive systems to provide robust and safe solutions while building on the complexity required for these advanced vehicle functions.

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Where software hits the highway – complex requirements

As the auto industry continues to be driven by software, we can expect it to follow the path of others that have done the same. In the early days of PCs, there were many operating systems. As they got more complex, it became more about applications, not the hardware. This led to streamlining down to three (macOS, Windows, Linux). Similarly, automakers are looking to separate the supply chain – leveraging one set of suppliers for software, including middleware, and securing hardware from another group of suppliers and then integrating themselves or by a third party.

To make this new approach work and meet industry requirements and consumer demands, automakers must work with suppliers who are trustworthy, reliable and understand the industry.

Software providers new to automotive may bring shiny new solutions but do they have knowledge of and bandwidth to manage the unique requirements of the automotive market, a vehicle’s lifecycle and manufacturing processes? For start-ups, this is a significant barrier. Can they guarantee they’ll be around to provide support throughout the vehicle platform’s lifecycle – development for 2-4 years, production for 5+ years and then another 10+ years for aftersales support once the vehicle is on the road? Security also is an issue. They may say their solution is safe, but is the system secure? For a system to run safe, security is a prerequisite.

Partner for successful product development

For 26 years, ETAS has been supporting global customers throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle. Our current middleware products are built on a proven foundation and used by Bosch, the world’s biggest Tier 1 supplier. We are your single source of reliable, cutting-edge hardware and software tools that make embedded systems safe and secure. Our in-house security expertise comes from our ESCRYPT brand; together we remove the unknown from the development process.

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