MADISON, Wis. — While the automotive industry today faces many challenges, two stand out: Do automakers have a way to deal with the proliferation of codes, software and data? Can conventional ECUs — presumably hundreds already packed into a single vehicle — handle this digital mob scene?
The short answers are no, and no.
On one hand, carmakers are now tasked to enable a host of new features — including connectivity, over-the-air updates, sensory data and autonomy — never before offered in vehicles. On the other hand, traditional ECUs were primarily designed to perform a specific, static, real-time function. Making ECUs future-proof wasn’t really on Detroit’s mind in the past.
This is where Autosar (AUTOmotive Open System Architecture)’s emerging standard, “Adaptive Automotive Platform,” comes in. Autosar, a global consortium of carmakers, tier ones and tech suppliers, has been working on a new standard for a new vehicle architecture. Its goal is to offer more flexible options for ECU architecture, to establish a foundation for more compute-intensive tasks with large amounts of data.
Phil Magney, founder and principal advisor for Vision Systems Intelligence (VSI), described Adaptive Autosar as “representing a new architecture that will be necessary to support the software-defined functionality of new vehicles.” He noted, “To function properly, [such] highly automated vehicles require number-crunching algorithms that will rely on ‘services’ and ‘data’ while at the same time retain the proven dependability of classic Autosar components.”
Evolution of the Electrical/Electronic architecture inside vehicles
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While Classic Autosar (left) was designed for control units with static functions, control units with Adaptive Autosar can be enhanced with additional functions and security updates, etc. during the life cycle.
First commercial implementation
The final spec for Autosar’s Adaptive Automotive Platform isn’t expected until early 2018. However, Elektrobit, an Erlangen, Germany-based supplier of embedded and connected software for the auto industry, has jumped the gun. On Wednesday (Oct. 18), Elektrobit announced a new software product line, called EB Corbos, that adheres to Autosar’s emerging Adaptive Automotive Platform.
Walter Sullivan, head of innovation at Elektrobit, told EE Times, “What’s been missing in the automotive industry is the standard programming environment.” Designers could make automotive applications to run on hardware processing-limited ECUs, but had not made a platform on which software could be reused, with safety and liability enforcement.
Magney explained the difference with Adaptive Automotive Platform: Unlike the existing Autosar spec (called Classic Autosar Platform), “the configuration is no longer static at compile time. Configuration is done at runtime. The new model clearly supports a contemporary client–server architecture where tasks and processes are distributed among multiple clients. Furthermore, C++ is the main programming language for Adaptive Autosar applications, another sign that automotive is moving in the right direction.”
Sullivan claimed, “Elektrobit is the first to offer commercially available software implementations of Adaptive Automotive Platform standard.”
Just to be clear, though, Elektrobit isn’t actually rolling out EB Corbos until early next year.
Next page: 100 ECUs to five to 10 ECUs?