Challenges, Benefits of the Software-defined Vehicle 

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In a previous post, we outlined how ETAS fits into the software-defined vehicle, but what pieces does this new approach to vehicle architecture, operation and ownership bring to the puzzle? First off, it’s making the entire industry look at things and work in a new way. Today’s vehicle is primarily hardware driven; it has software, but we are looking at a complete transformation that would make software the primary driver in the vehicle’s operation.

So, why are we doing it? The software-defined vehicle has many benefits that will significantly advance mobility: access to new safety, comfort and convenience features; over-the-air updates; improved vehicle life cycle management; vehicle reporting; and more. It will fundamentally change the vehicle ownership experience – the vehicle will be enhanced and gain more capabilities over its lifetime through updates. We’re used to this with other software-driven products (e.g., PCs and smartphones), but it’s the opposite of today’s experience where the vehicle is never going to get better than it is when you drive it off the dealer’s lot.

This means software updates will need to be available over the life of the vehicle. With software-defined vehicles, OEMs will be able to “update” their customers’ vehicles at any given time – adding new capabilities and features. Yes, that’s how it is with smartphones and other digital technologies, but there’s one critical difference to consider – safety. Most desirable and valuable features in a vehicle can have an impact on safety, so the software driving these features needs to be updated, no ifs ands or buts about it. This is fundamentally different than a smartphone – if it doesn’t get an update, people’s lives aren’t at risk.

This is why the development process for vehicle software is so complex – and will become increasingly so with the software-defined vehicle. Today’s vehicle has one of the most complex software systems built by humans, with more than 100 million lines of code. Most of this is safety-relevant, real-time and needs to be secure. To make it more complicated, vehicle software development is done by multiple entities and OEMS have speed, safety, scale and security requirements to achieve their aggressive software development goals. While consolidating development tool chains to a single source seems like the ideal choice, it’s not always feasible or desired. That’s why ETAS Tool Chain Services combines existing tool chains, including third-party and in-house tools, into a cloud-based process. This means it can be a one-stop solution or easily integrated into already existing customer workflows, removing manual gaps and increasing productivity (or efficiency).

Now, you may be thinking that if a vehicle is driven by software that can be updated and maintained with over-the-air updates, then the number of times a vehicle needs to be serviced at a dealership will decrease. This is not necessarily true. There will still be components and hardware that will require “traditional” service in a software-defined vehicle. However, the more advanced and connected the software, the greater the possibility to move to a more predictive maintenance approach, replacing today’s periodic approach based on annual servicing or mileage intervals. A predictive approach will enhance the overall service experience because parts needed for the hardware service can be ordered ahead of time, eliminating the need for repeat visits for ordered parts.