“Autosar should reflect electromobility challenges”
eeNews Europe: Vehicle developers drive innovation under many different types of technology; Connected car, automated driving, sensor fusion – which one of these challenges interest Vector the most?
Helmut Schelling: Actually, all of them. Vector addresses all electronic functions in the car. The connected car has multiple aspects to offer, from remote access to car functions via smartphone apps to vehicle-to-x communication (V2X) which enables cars to talk to each other or to the infrastructure to increase traffic safety and driving comfort. In all of these fields we have been active for several years; our advanced development team was involved in the first pilot projects of these technologies. In the connected car, a communication module is required to handle remote access although we don’t develop this by ourselves, it still needs to be connected to the car. – Another field we have been active in for several years is automated driving functions and the required sensors needed for this technology.
However, we do not develop driving algorithms, this task has been assumed by companies like Google or the well-known OEMs. Nevertheless you need tools to implement such functions, starting with measurement technology. In this area we recently widened our portfolio through acquisitions. An example is Baselabs, a company which provides comprehensive tools for the development of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). In addition, in IT infrastructure and ECUs, powerful computers and their associated real-time operating system software are required, which includes the software for data communication across the usual data buses including Ethernet. In all of these areas we are active, offering tools and software that contribute to the big picture compiled by the automotive manufacturers.
eeNews Europe: So your tools are covering all segments relevant for developers – in a certain sense they are technology and domain agnostic?
Schelling: Yes, as far as the basic versions of these tools are concerned. But we offer specific extensions for each of the application fields you mentioned. To develop a V2X system, you need a different system than to develop a radar sensor. The basic versions of these tools can be used across the entire application bandwidth, but to cover specific application cases you need specific tool versions.
eeNews Europe: Electromobility is an important field of innovation in the automotive industry that requires specific approaches and technologies. To which extend does Electromobility influences tool design?
Schelling: Powertrain and charging infrastructure of electric vehicles contain specific challenges. As an example, sampling cycles for electric motors are significantly shorter than for conventional internal combustion engines. Or take the drive battery and you immediately end up in the high-voltage area, which is not trivial to handle and requires very specific tools. Also important: Increasingly you find new players entering the value chain. In the past, manufacturers of high-performance electric motors were not necessarily encountered in the automotive markets. The new players first have to adapt to the conditions in this market where specific rules are prevailing regarding collaborative development. In this market segment we have made substantial contributions introducing new market players to the ways and approaches how development is done in the automotive industry, with all its data networks and technology infrastructure and so on.
eeNews Europe: You mentioned that there are new players emerging in the value chain. It looks like in particular that in the US one or two companies are not involved in the automotive value chain are about to enter this market.
Schelling: Exactly. Tesla is already well positioned in this race.
eeNews Europe: I am talking about Apple.
Schelling: It remains to be seen if Apple is really heading for the automotive market. Tesla’s approach needs to be taken very seriously. This company, being already one of our customers, is adopting a particular approach: Unlike the established carmakers, it does not partition the electronics into many separate control units but instead combines their functionality in a few yet powerful units. Nevertheless as far as we are affected as tool vendors, such an OEM does not make much of a difference – perhaps with somewhat different priorities under some aspects. Greenfield players can perhaps do some things differently.
eeNews Europe: One of Vector’s fields of activities is Autosar, the uniform software environment for automobiles across many vendors. Is Autosar as relevant for electromobility as it is for conventional vehicle architectures?
Schelling: Yes, of course. Because Autosar does not only comprise the powertrain but likewise all other vehicle functions – from multimedia to power windows and to safety systems such as ESP. In electric vehicles these functions are structured in much the same way. Autosar is relevant for all vehicle manufacturers. One might raise the question if electric mobility needs Autosar an extension. The answer is no, for normal operation modes. But when it comes to charging and the charging infrastructure there is a new perspective of the vehicle. Through the charging plug does not only flow energy but also data – payment data as well as control data. This holds true in particular for fast charging systems. There is a new access to the vehicle and it is necessary to include this topic into an Autosar environment.
eeNews Europe: Current technical development trends like Connected Car, sensor fusion etc. cause much higher amounts of data to circulate in the vehicle. Does this affect the data buses deployed in the car and what is Vector’s approach to handle this?
Schelling: The large data bus trend is Ethernet in the car. Ethernet increasingly assumes the function of a data backbone, especially if fast sensor systems are part of the game. There are also considerations to make the venerable CAN bus faster and thus extend its life span. This is what CAN FD has been created for. All these elements are new to the tool landscape. Our experience is that new buses will continue to be added while the old ones remain in place. Perhaps one or another is taking a back seat, such as the MOST bus which perhaps will be replaced by Ethernet AVB in the medium term. But we expect that in the near future all of these bus systems – CAN, LIN, Ethernet, FlexRay etc. will be found in state-of-the art vehicles.
eeNews Europe: Even FlexRay? It seems that FlexRay gets under attack from two sides – from CAN FD and from Ethernet.
Schelling: From our perspective, FlexRay is really well suited for suspension control applications. Perhaps it did not quite become the backbone solution its creators hoped, but for specific control applications where fast reaction times are a factor, FlexRay is still unbeatable. Perhaps at sometime time-triggered systems eventually could replace FlexRay but not in the foreseeable future.
What does Vector have to deal with bus systems? Let me put it this way: Vector is pleased with any new bus system because this means that our basic tools have to be equipped with additional options to support this new bus. Our customers need multi-bus tools that help them to perform measurements across multiple vehicle data buses with the same timing basis. We have a strong focus on integrating new buses into our measurement environment. For one of our most important tools, CANoe, options and plug-ins for all relevant buses are available. Testing new vehicles increasingly generates more data. Therefore, it is necessary to transfer measurement tasks into upstream hardware to be able to meet the speed requirements.
eeNews Europe: This means, Vector generates additional sales with hardware?
Schelling: PCs typically do not have a CAN interface. Therefore, users need an interface hardware. Depending on the task this hardware has to handle and in some cases they need to be almost as powerful as a PC because they have to perform pre-processing to reduce the amount of data so that it can be processed by the main PC.
eeNews Europe: Let me come back to an aspect we touched in the beginning: Apps that provide automotive functions like opening doors. It has shown that such functions contain new challenges with regard to security. How does Vector handle this topic?
Schelling: You are touching a very hot point. One has to discriminate between safety and security, but both cannot be discussed independently of each other. In the automotive industry, safety is reflected by the ASIL levels defined in ISO 26262. These levels play a significant role for the Autosar basic software we provide to our clients. It is necessary to design this software such that in can be applied to all ASIL levels up to D. The automotive OEM or tier one can use our software to provide safety evidence.
Security is very important for other functions, for instance for the access to the vehicle and for the integrity of the control software. For quite a while there have been efforts to equip the Flash Boot Loader with the necessary security features such as digital signatures. A second issue is the data communication related to battery charging for electric vehicles.
It is necessary to make sure that no unauthorised person can access user accounts at energy providers. In this field, Vector has been active for quite a while. The significance of this topic is rising so strongly that we have launched an own team dedicated to this topic in our advanced development unit. This team takes on the challenges related to security on a fundamental level.
Likewise, key management for OEMs and tier ones are activities the classical software development did not really deal with. Our new advanced development R&D team will devise focused solutions to counter these challenges. Later, these solutions will be merged into our products. In general it is fair to say that the basic security techniques are known. The challenge is to transfer these approaches into the automotive industry’s development and production processes. OEMs and tier ones have yet to agree on a role allocation.
eeNews Europe: Does Vector also plan to offer key management tools?
Schelling: We will offer everything that is going to be integrated into ECUs. We are building up the necessary expertise in this sense and can offer advice to our customers as to what a key management tool can look like. But we will never claim the right to explain to our customers the basics of security. Vector provides components and measurement instruments – or, in the case at hand, Flash tools that enable OEMs and tier ones to get their task done.
eeNews Europe: Vector has entered a strategic cooperation with Red Bend Software, a company dedicated to OTA (over-the-air) software update services. What is the goal of this cooperation?
Schelling: Red Bend is an entrenched player in the OTA business, not only in automotive but also in the telecommunications market. Our contacts date back for at least ten years and it was their concern to transfer this technology to the automotive industry. Since we are familiar with this industry and provide Flash Boot Loaders as well as basic software, we were the obvious partner for Red Bend. We have entered this cooperation to bring this kind of functionality to the prototype level. However this partnership is not exclusive. OEMs chose partners who from their perspective can offer the best solution. For this reason, we are open to other partnerships as well.
eeNews Europe: Does the acquisition of Red Bend Software through Harman affect your cooperation?
Schelling: The takeover will have a rather little impact. Harman is not a competitor to us but instead a good customer. It is certainly useful for our collaboration that Harman already has extensive experience with the automotive industry.