Defining the software-defined vehicle

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Earlier this year, we announced that ETAS is repositioning itself to be a full-service solutions provider of the software-defined vehicle. This came after Robert Bosch GmbH announced it is consolidating the development for its universal vehicle software within ETAS GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bosch.

But enough about us. Let’s look at the core topic of all this – the software-defined vehicle. What is it? What is creating a need for it? How does it operate? Let’s take a look.

What is a software-defined vehicle?

Simply put, it’s a vehicle with features and functions that are enabled through software. This is different from today’s vehicles, which are primarily hardware-based platforms. For example, today we integrate software on top of an electronic control unit (ECU) for a specific system. This blocks the ability to update the software once the vehicle leaves the production line. In a software-defined vehicle, hardware and software will be added to provide capabilities and architecture patterns that will allow us to innovate in completely new ways and provide constant updates to the vehicle.

What is creating the need for a software-defined vehicle?

The ongoing transformation, and consumer demand, for connected and autonomous technologies means vehicles need increased functionality that can be updated and improved over the vehicle’s lifetime. All this is done with software. To put it in perspective, according to IEEE, autonomous vehicles are expected to have more than 1 billion lines of code – today’s vehicles have an average of 100 million lines of code. This creates the software-defined vehicle.

Why Software-defined-Vehicle?

How does a software-defined vehicle operate?

A software-defined vehicle needs to simultaneously run multiple applications that are built on a standard operating system, similar to today’s computers and mobile phones. In automotive, this standard operating system is called middleware. As the operating system, middleware provides a foundation for basic functionality, including communication, memory management, scheduling, input/output/access to vehicle data, and Internet connectivity. It allows software developers to focus on their innovation’s specific purpose or advanced functionality, knowing the middleware supports and manages standard, foundational capabilities.

How is the industry preparing?

Understanding that the software of future vehicles will be developed differently, the auto industry is making progress, showing a shift from traditional, model-based software development to the approach used in classic IT (for more information on this, read our previous blog post).

In addition, the Software-Defined Vehicle Working Group was recently launched by the Eclipse Foundation, one of the world’s largest open-source communities. ETAS GmbH and Robert Bosch GmbH created the initiative that resulted in the establishment of this working group, of which ETAS will be a strategic member.

Using a “code first” approach, the working group strives to build one of the automotive industry’s first software stacks and associated development tools for core functions of a software-defined vehicle. Solutions developed by the working group will be available to any company that wishes to use them for their own vehicle development.

Learn more or contribute

Have more questions about the software-defined vehicle or how your company may be able to contribute to its development? Contact the experts at ETAS.