Vehicle development heads into The Cloud

  • 12-Mar-2016 07:23 EST
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Communicating with the many servers in the cloud is a key driver for the connectivity strategies of Tier 1s and OEMs.


Connectivity continues to transform the automotive industry, forcing product development teams to join the movement to cloud computing. The many cloud service providers are playing an increasingly growing role in the drive to provide more features, functions and services.

Factory installed modems and cell phone links are giving drivers and passengers increasingly more access to the Web, driving changes in human machine interfaces (HMI), safety and infotainment. Vehicle systems are also transmitting data, making the cloud a key factor in ongoing vehicle development. The impact of the nebulous cloud is already occurring, ensuring that drivers have current information.

“It’s important to equip vehicles with a complete host of connected solutions and services, and the cloud is a major contributor to this holistic approach,” said Alon Atsmon, Vice President of Technology Strategy at Harman. “The cloud provides responsive real-time solutions, so software supporting these sensors are up-to-date and future-proofed.”

No compromising safety

Many features already leverage "the cloud." In the future, that will expand, making these remotely-provided services an important product differentiator.

“The cloud has already been having a large effect for drivers, whether through real-time traffic, server-based navigation to identify the currently fastest route, and server-supported diagnostics with e-mail notifications to drivers when there is an issue,” said Robert Gee, Head of Product Management, Software & Connected Solutions at Continental Automotive. “In the future, connectivity will be used to help improve fuel efficiency and as an enhancement for embedded vehicle safety systems.”

Leveraging the cloud makes it possible to deliver more infotainment and up-to-the-minute updates and traffic, roadway and other conditions. But access also provides many more distractions. Companies are working on strategies that provide access without compromising safety.

“If a user has created a playlist or reading list, the cloud allows the user to access this data when they are in driver mode, and the information is delivered in a way that is suitable for the environment the driver is in,” said Joe Averkamp, Senior Director of Technical Strategy at Xerox. “Emails can be read using text-to-speech; music or video can be pulled from favorites list (no video for the driver), interaction with social media can be enabled.”

Driver distraction is a central factor for any new feature. Adapting to the driving environment is key to reducing cognitive overload and driver distraction. HMIs are evolving rapidly to help drivers deal with the volume of inputs that come when they can access the World Wide Web.

HMI developers are doing everything they can to make it easy for drivers to manage myriad inputs without compromising their safety.

“While in the vehicle, the vehicle systems will need to provide normal access to passengers, but optimize the delivery mechanism for the driver,” Averkamp said. “This will mean customizing the user interface for in-vehicle use—fewer icons, bigger displays, fewer commands available. This is recognition that using web services in the car is a fundamentally different experience than using the web at home or in the office.”

Leveraging telematic data 

Automotive developers may also broaden their partnerships, teaming up with cellular providers to reduce driver distraction. In some instances, it may be wise to limit electronic distractions so drivers can focus driving when conditions get complicated.

“Working closely together, automotive companies and cellular providers can help minimize the risk of distraction by implementing solutions that limit or prohibit the driver from checking incoming calls or messages,” Atsmon said.

Cloud services can also free drivers by automatically handling tasks. For example, when a driver is going to a meeting listed on a calendar, cloud servers can handle everything from setting a route to automatically sending notifications if there are delays.

“The cloud is also where we store our emails, calendars and other personal information,” said Michael O'Shea, CEO of Abalta Technologies. “Services can take advantage of this information to provide meaningful, context-aware information to the driver, such as directions to their next appointment. Cloud-based systems can react to changing driving conditions and alert designated people if the driver is expected to be late.”

Safety can be improved as data from other vehicles provides details about activities far beyond the distances monitored by on-vehicle sensors. Telematic data can provide information on stalled vehicles or temporary lane closures, letting drivers know that they will need to slow down and may want to switch lanes to minimize the impact of slowing traffic.

“Vehicle sensors can detect traffic or obstacles that are several hundred meters away from the vehicle, while over-the-air data can forewarn of traffic congestion or road hazards on the vehicle's path,” Continental's Gee said. “By doing this, the vehicle navigation system can automatically reroute the driving path to avoid the obstacles, thus improving driving comfort and potentially time to destination.”

Going forward, cloud services will provide services for drivers, passengers and vehicle controls. Design teams must consider all these parameters when they’re creating connectivity architectures that can scale for the future.

“For the driver, we need to deliver the information essential to the task of driving: maps, traffic, payment systems for parking, tolls, information related to the trip, as well as information and entertainment,” Averkamp at Xerox said. “Passengers will have an experience similar to their home or office experience."

He said the engine and vehicle system can be interrogated for functionality. As more of the infrastructure becomes web-enabled, vehicle systems can make automatic payments, or access information from roadway system, like traffic signal status. "The Tier 1 or OEM that figures out how to deliver value to these three areas will have a leg up on the competition,” Averkamp asserted

Limiting single-vehicle attacks

As OEMs leverage connectivity to add these features and functions, security will become increasingly important. Regardless of whether connections are made by phones or by internal modems, designers will attempt to block as many intrusions as possible.

When vulnerabilities are exploited successfully, the focus will shift to minimizing the impact of the breach. A central aspect of this is to limit attacks on a single vehicle from proliferating to others that share the same vulnerability.

“Phones can be jailbroken and any moderately sophisticated hacker can access its data or spoof the connection to the cloud or vehicle,” O’Shea from Albalta Technologies said. “With the correct use of security certificates, however, any such hack can be limited to a specific vehicle (that the hacker hacked) and not to the fleet in general.”

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