With cars increasingly becoming networked IT entities, the security threats are also growing. The most visible gateway for hacking attempts to cars is the infotainment domain. Thus, next generation infotainment system architectures must address these issues from the ground up. The article discusses architectural approaches which guarantee the necessary level of security.
One of the first computer systems within an automobile was the 1978 Cadillac Seville's trip computer, run by a Motorola 6802 microprocessor with 128 bytes of RAM and two kilobytes of ROM. The printed source code could not have occupied more than a handful of pages.
In contrast, even the lowest end automobile today contains at least a dozen microprocessors; the highest end cars incorporate in excess of 100 microprocessors. Examples of computers embedded within a modern automobile are shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1 - embedded computing within the modern automobile
With infotainment systems running sophisticated operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and various distributions of Linux, the total embedded software content can easily exceed 100 million lines of code.
Complexity is driven by the inexorable demand for better capabilities, the digitisation of manual and mechanical functions, and the interconnection of our world. While this growth in electronic content has been beneficial to society, that growth is also a key source of our reliability, security, cost, and time-to-market woes. Next-generation infotainment system architecture must help developers manage this complexity.
Automotive Electronics Consolidation
Another important automotive trend is ECU consolidation. As the automobile continues its transformation into an electronic system of systems, electronic component counts and associated wiring content within the car have skyrocketed. This electronics growth poses a significant production cost, physical footprint, and time to market challenge for automotive manufacturers. The response is to reverse the growth trend and instead merge disparate functions into a fewer number of electronic components.
Processor consolidation is closely aligned with the trend towards mixed criticality systems in which safety, security, or real-time critical components must coexist with less critical components. For example, consolidating the infotainment head-unit with the real-time, safety-critical rear-view camera and/or driver information cluster components results in a mixed-criticality system, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 - mixed criticality next-generation infotainment system
Next-generation infotainment system architecture must ensure that consolidated components do not interact in unforeseen ways, posing a reliability risk to critical systems.