While consumers are used to upgrade their electronic devices through simple software updates, car OEMs are only starting to offer some form of user interactivity, with customer-centric features. But as the number of sensor nodes and ECUs increases throughout the car, each configured and networked differently depending on the car models and features (due to different engine architectures, seating, infotainment etc…), OEMs face an increasing number of network configurations, where each introduction or removal of an ECU for the relocation of specific functionalities calls for a new round of validation.
"The high number of static network configurations currently used imposes limitations on how new features can be updated" said Ziehensack, "We need to adopt a more dynamic methodology to configuring E/E networks, else we'll hit a brick wall".
Moving away from designing static, manual network configurations, Elektrobit's idea is to maximise hardware and software re-use between different configurations. Not only novel features should be supported without necessarily changing the hardware, by sharing sensors and actuators across multiple features that could be located in different parts of the vehicle. But also on the software side, one should build services as re-usable discrete pieces of code instead of monolithic implementations serving the whole car, Ziehensack hinted.
To complete the picture, a flexible network configuration should be able to support increased bandwidth "on-demand" for future features, by simply upgrading the links between its switches. Summarizing what he would see as fit for the evolving automotive industry, Ziehensack described a structured network with different speed grades giving access to any service from any sub-network or bus, where every function in the car could be represented as a service offered to apps or to the user.