A couple of events stand out in our collective consciousness in defining how ubiquitous software is within the automotive world. For example, how a new age manufacturer felt that the rainfall in a particular geography was higher than normal and hence they just re-calibrated the speed of the windshield wipers with an over-the-air update. Another example was how ethical hackers proved that they could change the radio channels, control the windows and even control the vehicle by entering the vehicle network via the infotainment system. The whole industry has come a long way since those days. Most major automotive systems can be updated, if needed, with over the air updates. Today cybersecurity is part of every stage and layer of the architecture and landscape.
Today, driving performance, reliability, safety, and comfort leans heavily on making both incremental and substantial changes to mechanical, electrical, and electronic systems. The magic sauce always is in adopting a wholistic view but implementing a closely integrated approach to systems – hardware and software development. This means the approach in the overall development process might not already assume what the exact end goal looks like but would account for the overall direction and the potential scope of the endeavour. For example, with respect to all the megatrends of Autonomous Driving, Connectivity, Electrification and “Shared” (shared platforms, sharing economy, mobility via shared resources) or ACES for short, automotive majors know that they don’t have out of the box solutions to package in control units or ready-made cloud offerings for users to subscribe to. In many ways these are literally roads not yet taken.
Planning for brains (on car or in the cloud) to process scenarios that are yet to be encountered and creating control units for algorithms that are not yet written, is where the make or break decisions are going to be made. In addition, the ability to make systems that cater to multiple car lines, numerous variants, successive versions and newer features means that all the major car companies should consider the following vectors that will directly or indirectly impact their development cycles:
- Infrastructure – Servers and data lakes, Computational Machines, Simulation Systems, Repositories
- Development Processes – Toolchains, Build and Automation (including DevOps), Software Development Kits
- Operating Systems – Scalable, Reliable and Safe on car and in the cloud to run the tasks and workload for the upcoming decades
- Agile Development of Features and Functions
- Analytics for further learning and to support “data driven development”
The latter vectors regarding the development of features or functions and the analytics possible with that implementation can be realized in different ways with OEMs and their partners. In continuous (AGILE) cycles or Sprints, the department leaders, the team leaders, and the developers know their short-term targets and work towards them. Some of the wonders of this process during the lifecycle of a car model or variant, include updated user interfaces in the infotainment system, new map views, the ability to optimize your electric vehicle charging process based on hardware (charger) capabilities or additional driver assistance or semi-autonomous drive features.
These improvements might be rolled out in new vehicles of a carline or even faster as over-the-air updates to capable systems owned by interested customers. New possibilities of allowing users to upgrade later, or opt-in or opt-out of additional services after buying or sharing a vehicle are now made possible and easier.
However, all this magic of upgrades and updates would only be possible with the former three prerequisites being in place at the automotive manufacturer (OEM). In fact, some car companies even combine all three of these prerequisites under the larger umbrella of “Operating Systems”. It is not hard to see why. The magic of the app-stores within the mobile development world assumes that developers have a stable OS to work with (whether Android or iOS), a stable toolchain (like Xcode), the infrastructure in terms of GIT (example, repositories and resources) and PC/ Mac or cloud based coding platforms; being a loose parallel to the first three points for an Automotive OEM. However, that is where the comparison ends. Unlike applications for mobile phones or laptops, significant care must be given to functional safety and software quality with traceability being ensured to requirements.
Robustness and reliability are needed throughout the development, code generation and testing process. Modern cars might have 100 million lines of code (compared to a safety critical aircraft with 1.7 to 6 million lines of code), but having an overlooked a safety critical section of code slip by is far more damaging in a car crash when compared to a mobile phone reset or laptop crash. Thus, the ability of the OEM to deploy large teams to develop new offerings, to work harmoniously with Tier 1s and partners, and to do so safely assumes that the infrastructure, the tools and the operating systems are in place.
In terms of “value-creating” & “value- ownership” this idea is not lost in the automotive world, pushing more and more OEMs to think of directly getting involved in the software ownership and software development process. With this in-housing of software, typical software and services houses become closer partners of OEMs in this software development journey. Tata Technologies has traditionally been a close partner to global OEMs in terms of both the overall Vehicle Development process and the Data management and Lifecycle management process. Our end to end understanding of product value chain and digital thread puts us in the driver’s seat to help navigate the safety critical aspects of vehicle technologies, scale up development prerequisites, deploy large scale software teams and develop automotive software. Tata Technologies’ role in this roadmap includes supporting OEMs with their vehicles’ electrical and electronics architecture, implementing and integrating specific Tier 1 systems to various stages of testing and deployment.
For major Tier 1s, Tata Technologies has often handled the role of a development partner in project mode or has incubated a development team which becomes part of a larger setup, for example – “a centre of excellence for electric drive systems” or “a dedicated development centre for charger control systems”. The dedicated teams are set up in the areas of basic software (or operating systems), application software and model-based development, hardware, functional safety, testing and validation.
The automotive industry has already been working with safety critical operating systems for over a few decades now. Either in terms of custom-built network management or task scheduling systems to more standard AUTOSAR platforms found in most automotive ECUs. In this space Tata Technologies, uses a scaling framework to develop and deploy basic software platforms for various vehicle applications. With Tata Technologies’ background with vehicle control, safety and drive line offerings, being a platform partner for major OEMs means that the Tata Technologies team implements the scalable system on which OEMs can develop their own functions and applications. For example, in the areas of Inverter Systems, Vehicle Control Units, Battery Management Systems and Chargers, multiple OEM customers of Tata Technologies enjoy the benefits of having a reusable architecture on multiple of their own ECUs. The OEMs develop their own custom applications or leverage the Tata Technologies Team to jointly create functions and features that can be later integrated with the software platform and tested by the Tata Technologies team. In numerous cases this means that the OEM teams, the Tier 1 teams, and the dedicated platform teams from Tata Technologies work closely together in AGILE mode with bi-weekly software sprints and ticket-based software maintenance tasks taken up by scrum teams.
Many of the control units (larger ECUs) within the car are getting more powerful. Partially due to some consolidation of functionality in specific zones in the vehicle or simply because additional (future or current) features are being added to various systems continuously. Due to this trend, the industry is also moving towards a zonal architecture with more powerful domain controllers. The domain controllers are like powerful brains that do a lot of the heavy computational lifting (or “thinking”), while only smaller less powerful sensors and actuators are distributed around the vehicle (to do the “seeing” and “doing”).
Whether specific ECUs or larger domain controllers are being developed, the Tata Technologies team’s approach follows the same philosophy of approaching them as platforms that need to be future proof. These are scalable systems with an eco-system that helps OEMs and Tier 1s innovate, while the end-users realize their wishes around Autonomous, Electrification, Connectivity and Sharing.
Tata Technologies holds a deck with “ACES” down the road.