Vehicles have evolved rapidly from being mechanical machines to smart connected machines that define luxury, safety, and comfort. We now see various complex systems in a car that are driven by software pieces. However, we know that software and firmware pieces may have to be updated from time to time. They also require bug fixes and security fixes and new iterations have to be released in the market to ensure a smooth driving experience. Once the vehicle is out in the real world, software and firmware updates may become difficult to implement.
This poses a real challenge for creating a seamless driving experience as most car owners do not want to drive back to the service station every time they need to update the software.
The Need for Over the Air Updates
To have a superior driving experience and reliability, it is important to keep the software and firmware pieces up to date. When you have to go to the service station to update the software, it not only increases cost, it also becomes a time consuming and tedious affair. You need a solution that minimizes dependency, reduces the high cost, and can be wirelessly incorporated. This is exactly what OTA updates can do for regular as well as autonomous cars.
DOWNLOAD CASE STUDY
End-to-end Product Engineering for a Telematics Device
We see OTA updates already implemented on our mobile and other smart devices, however, OTA updates in automotive can be very different. In a vehicle, the firmware or software piece can be updated wirelessly using a cellular network, through a gateway (OTA Manager) inside the car, and passed onto the respective ECUs, which is present in all modern vehicles.
If these updates are not carried out in a timely fashion, it can lead to various hazardous situations. It can lead to serious security issues, where anyone attacking the system can get a hold of the functions in your car and manipulate it, as they want. The attackers will be able to turn on or off the engine, gain control of the steering system, navigation, or even the infotainment system. However, if OTA updates are implemented, vehicles can be kept up to date at all times.
In short, OTA updates can be implemented for the following:
- Software Updates
- Data Collection
- Live Diagnostics
Let’s try to understand the components that are essential for OTA updates in a car.
Implementing OTA Updates (Components Required)
One of the most important things here is to implement OTA securely at the same time diagnose any problems or issues in the car. Challenging as it may sound, there are various strategies employed to implement it. However, to implement OTA updates, you need to have three major components. Let us discuss them in brief.
Open source backend server: One of the primary components that are required is a backend server (which can be open source). The server creates the firmware and software images that need to be deployed into the vehicle. It also collects the images that need to be deployed from the different tier-1 suppliers and combines all of them into one unified image to be further pushed to the ECU. Most automotive companies use open source or third party support architecture.
Secure communication: The second important component is the communication channel. The communication channel also needs to be secure; otherwise, it may lead to many security challenges as the information could be compromised. Automotive companies make use of various techniques and third party security solutions to secure the communication channel. These updates have to be sent to the head unit. One of the most popularly used software/firmware update systems is Uptane. It is an open and secure software update system design, which protects the update delivered over-the-air to the head unit of automobiles.
Head Unit/OTA Manager: Connected cars normally have multiple ECUs. The Head unit is made up of a cluster of ECUs. When an OTA update is initiated, it involves every component of the car and the respective ECUs need to facilitate the update. The head unit also can send a request for an update to the backend server.
It contains a table of every ECU within the vehicle including the serial numbers, software, and firmware version numbers. This allows the OTA Manager to verify the software/firmware updates that are available, and ensure that they are authorized for usage. If the ECU being updated does not have security functionality then the OTA manager would also be responsible for decrypting and authenticating the incoming update.
OTA updates are now being implemented seamlessly in many cars. This is not only true for autonomous but also regular cars that are part of the connected ecosystem. It minimizes downtime and ensures all mission critical functions are operating well without encountering any errors. eInfochips leverages its expertise across ADAS, Infotainment systems, Telematics, Connected Vehicles (V2V, V2X), EV Charging, and Multimedia Sub-systems to help global OEMs and Tier-1 companies deliver a superior experience, safety & efficiency.
Our services and solutions are right from core automotive product engineering, AUTOSAR compliant ECU software development, HMI design & testing, to next-gen technology enablement (edge computing, cloud, AI/ML, data analytics). When it comes to their automotive services, eInfochips is certified for ISO 26262.
To know more, and to understand our capabilities, get in touch with us.