Automotive Hypervisor

What Is an Automotive Hypervisor?

A few decades ago, vehicles were electromechanical systems, and applications such as telematics and in-vehicle infotainment were largely standalone and simplified. But modern-day vehicles may contain more than 50 electronic control units (ECUs), and it's impractical and cost-intensive for OEMs to develop and maintain independent systems.


The solution lies in merging several control units into a single hardware, made possible by hypervisors. A hypervisor is a software that creates and runs virtual machines, allowing multiple systems to run on a common hardware platform. 

 There are two main types of hypervisors. 

Type 1 hypervisor: Type 1 hypervisors are installed on top of a physical server, and there is no host OS. 

Type 2 hypervisor: Type 2 hypervisors have a layer of host OS that sits between the physical server and the hypervisor. 

Benefits of an Automotive Hypervisor

Today, consumers want their cars to be connected, software-defined, and autonomous in the digital age. As a result, OEMs use high-performance computing hardware platforms to keep up with current and future software needs for automobiles. A hypervisor system consolidates multiple embedded systems onto a single high-performance system on a chip (SoC)—which has the additional benefits of lowering costs and improving integration. 

The key benefits of an automotive hypervisor include: 

Speed: Hypervisors create virtual machines instantly, making it easier to allocate resources for dynamic workloads while providing higher peak performance.

Cost: Hypervisors enable cost and energy efficiencies as several virtual machines run on one physical machine.

Automotive virtualization, achieved with automotive hypervisors, is used to model futuristic in-vehicle electrical architecture, infotainment systems, and digital cockpit applications. It can also provide integrated disaster recovery and application provisioning options. 

Virtual machines can support legacy applications, which reduces the cost of migrating to new OSs for OEMs. In addition, hypervisor-based virtualization solutions are highly flexible and relatively inexpensive compared to hardware realizations.

Automotive Hypervisor for Compliance

The rising implementation of integrated systems and embedded hypervisors in automotive also increases the need for security and compliance constraints. Running different OSs with a hypervisor can lead to security threats and the possibility of one program interfering with another. 

OEMs must live up to international functional safety standards and regulations such as ISO 26262 and IEC 61508 which define vehicle automation design and development and risk assessments. In many ways, auto virtualization reduces security threats as it isolates different runtime environments and prevents the exposure of sensitive information in case of a malfunction. 

The QNX® Hypervisor is a real-time, Type 1 hypervisor that offers virtualization technology and enables the secure separation of multiple operating environments on a single SoC. It also facilitates safety regulations defined by the ISO and offers broad design flexibility. 

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