Software makes the difference

December 22, 2020 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Software makes the difference
In future generations of vehicles, software will play a more important differentiating role than the hardware. Some OEMs, such as BMW, Daimler or Volkswagen, therefore are busy to develop their own operating system. Does that make sense?

It is becoming apparent that in future domain or central computers will control cars instead of numerous monothematic ECUs. It is also clear that these computers will be real-time capable and that they will map the various ECUs as software tasks. A virtualisation layer is absolutely necessary for this, which safely separates the individual tasks from each other. This allows several operating systems to run independently of each other on a domain or central computer. And such operating systems are already available - QNX, Green Hills Integrity or PikeOS are just a few examples. Google is building a bridge to professional IT systems with its "Car" operating system - and has already found OEMs with General Motors, Polestar and Volvo who intend to use it.

Why some car manufacturers nevertheless do not shy away from the huge effort to develop their own operating system becomes clear in an interview that Christoph Grote, head of BMW's Digital Car unit, conducted with the "Handelsblatt" paper. Daimler and Volkswagen are much more cagey about their goals and technologies, but Grote's views are probably not dissimilar to those of his competitors.

BMW is currently working on a new operating system to replace the currently installed Lunix-based collection of routines and interfaces, called BMW OS7, next year. The new system software is to be installed for the first time in the iX electric-powered SUV, which will be launched in 2021. Important features of the new software are primarily a new, more intuitive operating concept and support for 5G mobile communication.

Low-latency, high-bandwidth communication is of central importance. It enables many functions of automated driving, such as extended V2X functions that go beyond pure short-range communication between the participants: They make it possible to tap into the virtually unlimited data stores and information sources of the cloud infrastructure virtually without delay. The cars thus "know" not only what is going on in their immediate vicinity, but also where a traffic jam is building up a little further away on their travel route. Likewise, 5G enables access to numerous customisable data services ranging from the display of point-of-interests to music streaming - and above all to services that do not even exist today. Thus, cars are becoming more future-proof.


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