Software defined vehicle (SDV) is a term used by some manufacturers, including Bosch, Google, and Renault, for a vehicle with a centralized digital architecture that allows software updates to upgrade the vehicle throughout its lifetime. This approach is also being used by other manufacturers, who may not use the SDV term to describe similar technologies. Tesla has been a pioneer in delivering regular updates to a central vehicle computer in order to deliver enhanced or entirely new functionality. The term “software defined vehicle” can also suggest that the user experience is largely defined by the software user interfaces, and even the software management hardware on the vehicle.
Things that can be upgraded through software updates include obviously app based features like navigation, media players, and connectivity. Another obvious example would be autonomous driving software. However, software updates can also include system updates that will be less obvious to the user, but which will increase the performance and reliability of the vehicle, such as updates to the battery management system or cyber security patches. As vehicles become increasingly intelligent and connected, software is playing an every more important role in their functionality. Updates will therefore represent a greater impact on the value of the vehicle.
Firmware over-the-air (FOTA) allows software updates to be delivered through cellular networks, in the same way that smartphones are updated. This means that cars can be instantly and continuously updated wherever they are.
Software systems will increasingly enhance the core functionality of vehicles. For example, preventive maintenance that continuously monitors the condition of key systems and schedules maintenance at the optimum time to avoid any unnecessary maintenance while ensuring faults do not occur. This is closely aligned with concepts such as smart connected vehicles and digital twins, with vehicles providing data to the cloud, which can then be used to develop software enhancements.
In the past it was taken for granted that a vehicle would be in it’s best condition when it left the factory and would then steadily degrade over it’s service life. In the future, vehicles will learn from the experience of being in use and they will therefore be continuously optimized. With millions of vehicles in service, all providing real-time sensor data to the cloud, massive quantities of data will be available to learn how best to optimize systems.
Todays connected cars have 60-80 individual computers, each managing a discrete system on the vehicle. Updating this complex distributed system is very difficult. A software defined vehicle replaces these separate computers with smaller local controllers which interface with a central high-powered vehicle computer. Updates can then be delivered to this central computer.
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Filed Under: FAQ, Vehicle Control Unit