Continental enables OEMs to update car software over the air

June 14, 2017 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
With the amount of software in today’s cars in the dimension of millions of lines of code, updating vehicle software today is a cumbersome business. Now Continental has created the necessary technology and infrastructure to enable secure software updates over the air, doing away with the need to visit the garage for every update.

With significance for software for the user experience of car buyers updates having dramatically increased over the past decade or so, automotive manufacturers are feverishly working on solutions to establish similar mechanisms for their vehicles. So far, only Tesla dares to update the software of its cars automatically. All others look jealously over the fence, frightened by the prospect of a terrible glitch or, even worse, a cyber attack against the transmission path. Also, updating a vehicle’s software is somewhat more complex than updating a smartphone’s operating system: Up to 100 computers are involved, and since they are all connected, the activities of most of them can have side effects on others. Plus, the number of possible variants and options in a car is much bigger than in a smartphone. And last but not least, no one can afford a failed software update – in a car such a situation would have far more serious consequences than with a smartphone.

Therefore, despite intensive R&D activities by companies like RedBend Software or Harman, the roll-out of solutions for software updates over the air for cars seemed to got stuck for quite a while. Now it seems like Continental has made the grade: The automotive supplier has developed the necessary solutions at the hardware level in the car and established a reseller relationship with Texas-based company Carnegie Technology which offers a software update platform. Continental will integrate this software into its automotive telematics solutions. The software will run on the next generation of Continental’s telematics module along with a supporting cloud-based component for analysis and diagnosis functions.