The foundational system challenges of the connected car
What, precisely, is a ‘connected car’? Essentially, it can be defined as anything related to infotainment, telematics, ADAS, autonomous driving, cyber security, OTA, eHorizon, car2X, Cloud, and back-end.
At the component level, the technology and software for the connected car and, specifically, for ADAS and autonomous driving, is becoming increasingly sophisticated and robust. But engineers working on algorithms and sensor fusion software still have plenty of work to do before it will be reliable and robust enough to handle the thousands of use cases that the real world will throw at it. The same can be said for most of the other technologies (both hardware and software, and both inside and outside of the vehicle) that are used by the connected car. Both industry and the press focus sharply on the significant advances and new possibilities that these technologies present.
However, the underlying foundation needed for the connected vehicle to truly function and operate at its full and intended potential often takes a back seat. This is because, to date, the industry has largely focused on individual components rather than the system as a whole…it focuses on the puzzle pieces instead of the bigger picture. Critical system design processes, such as robust and thorough component and system specifications and requirements, do not receive enough attention.
The OEMs face many challenges with connected vehicle components and systems in both current and next-generation programmes. One important takeaway has been that, from the design to integration and eventual validation for a connected vehicle, a key ingredient to ending the process with a robust and reliable end-to-end system is that the entire lifecycle of the programme needs to be managed and viewed through a connected system thinking mentality and process. The individual pieces of a telematics system or an autonomous vehicle need to be designed from the ground up, with connected system thinking. Otherwise, thousands of small components comprising the system, often provided by a large number of suppliers, will result in an end product that does not meet consumer expectations and may not even function properly, not to mention a poor customer experience.
When we send a simple text message we rarely think of the complex foundational infrastructure for this process, despite the knowledge that such a message must pass through numerous technologies and interfaces. The car industry often seems to underestimate the tremendous complexity that makes up the connected vehicle ecosystem. Infotainment, telematics, ADAS, autonomous driving, cyber security, OTA, eHorizon, Car2X, the Cloud, back-ends, and many other technologies are all interconnected with different (new and legacy) systems from various suppliers that, combined, add up to thousands of interfaces that all need to communicate reliably during normal and high-stress vehicle conditions in order to be considered safe and reliable. Before applications are designed and added to a vehicle, an adequate connected vehicle system foundation must be in place.