Automotive Computing in the Cloud

What Is Automotive Computing?

Automotive Computing is a specialized form of computing aimed at vehicles. Constraints on the space and power consumption limit the processing power that can be installed within a car. Although the computing is based on similar technology to general-purpose mobile devices, it has customized components and functions, making it narrower in focus.

Throughout most of automotive history, functions such as engine control and braking systems were separate pieces of engineering and often provided with the help of third parties. In the 1970s, these functions started to get their own electronic control units (ECUs), but their integration with each other remained limited.

In the last few years, however, the advent of the Software-Defined Vehicle (SDV) has been defined by much greater interoperation between different car functions and their ECUs. This has placed automotive computing in a central position within the vehicle architecture, orchestrating the functions together for new capabilities.

Automotive Computing in the Cloud

Automotive Computing in the Cloud is a natural part of the shift to SDVs. Vehicles are developing towards a Connected, Autonomous, Shared and Electrified (CASE) future. The Connected element means that the computing can proliferate beyond the car while communicating wirelessly with it.

Automotive computing takes place on three levels.

1. Onboard

Computing can be onboard the car itself, supporting automated safety features, collision warnings and cooling management.

2. At the Edge

Computing can also be at the edge, e.g., in intelligent traffic management systems that provide information to the car via wireless connectivity.

3. Outside the Vehicle

The cloud can provide additional automotive computing outside the vehicle itself. The cloud can deliver over-the-air updates, extended infotainment features, and even office capabilities within the car. It can also enable data collection from the car to provide additional connected features to drivers, fleet managers, and automakers.


Connectivity is the critical enabling technology for Automotive Computing in the cloud. While 4G offers the bandwidth for streaming media infotainment services, over-the-air updates generally require a WiFi connection to broadband. In contrast, 5G offers a dramatic increase in throughput (five-to-ten times that of 4G) and much lower latency. This will provide a leap in cloud-connected capabilities for automobiles, including “vehicle-to-everything.”

However, with increased connectivity in Automotive Computing will be an increased focus on cybersecurity. A connected SDV potentially provides a broader attack surface than a non-connected one for criminal activity.

Trends in Automotive Computing

Computing is taking center stage in automotive, with SDVs integrating functions so they can benefit from data sharing. For example, a vehicle’s parking cameras can be used to enhance safety in higher-speed driving scenarios. Sat-nav GPS data can customize the car setup regarding expected road conditions derived from map information.

More vehicles are proactively contributing to live traffic condition data, enabling more accurate smart management of gridlock and easing road congestion. Some national governments are also exploring the ability to prevent vehicles from exceeding prevailing speed limits through Automotive Computing features.

As Automotive Computing becomes central, solutions are emerging to deliver the supportive hardware and software that deliver functionality to drivers, automakers, and fleet managers. Alongside these ecosystems, hardware and software are being decoupled, with increased use of virtualization. This will enable hardware and software to be developed independently, with software potentially being upgraded with a much more rapid cycle than the underlying hardware platform. For example, a vehicle’s sensors could remain the same after manufacture, but more sophisticated autonomous driving features could be added later via software updates.

Automotive Computing ecosystems will take two primary forms. In closed form, an individual automaker or group will define a restricted membership with proprietary standards. Alternatively, any company can espouse an open ecosystem involving global standards. Some companies will also blend open and closed models to improve time-to-market while maintaining control over key functions.

The Shared Mobility part of CASE is also enhanced by connectivity and cloud computing. Vehicle locations and status can be tracked in real time, facilitating car-sharing services in cities. Current position and remaining range can be delivered live to a smartphone app, with user accounts managed in the cloud.

The most significant trend for Automotive Computing is autonomy. This is primarily available in Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) enhancements. For example, automatic emergency braking has become more intelligent and reactive to real-world conditions. Drivers can be warned when they stray out of their lane on a highway. The vehicle can even steer itself under the driver’s supervision.

However, more sophisticated self-driving is being tested by some automakers. An increasing number of cars are being sold with sensors and computing hardware to support this feature when it becomes commercially available. 

Benefits of Cloud Computing for Automakers and OEMs

Cloud Computing can open a new world of features for automakers and OEMs to deliver to their customers. With an SDV, faults can be fixed, and new features delivered over the air without the need to bring the vehicle in for service.

Services delivered from the cloud, such as traffic information or new infotainment capabilities, can be kept current without needing local updates. Vehicles will access these services dynamically over an integrated mobile data connection, allowing them to be delivered directly from the cloud.

Connecting car sensor data to the cloud can enable new services. Telematics can enable remote vehicle diagnostics, which can provide data for predictive maintenance. This capability will be beneficial for fleet managers wishing to minimize their costs. Instead of scheduling servicing at fixed intervals, this could be dynamically related to vehicle use, condition, and need. The necessary replacement parts could be ordered in advance, reducing the need for an inefficient inventory of components held “just in case.”

Vehicles that can report their location and status to the cloud can also become payment devices. They can pay for tolls in controlled areas or parking lots and automate fuel payment, with greater security from fraud.

As self-driving develops, the ability of the cloud to collect real-world data from vehicles will be essential to improving autonomous models. Alongside simulations, this data can be fed into machine learning systems as the next self-driving update is developed.

AWS for Automotive

Amazon Web Services now offers solutions to accelerate the digital transformation of the automotive industry with purpose-built cloud capabilities. These include solutions for SDVs, connectivity, autonomous driving, digital customer engagement, and manufacturing supply chains.

Amazon and AWS have a global network of partners to deliver a portfolio of capabilities. BlackBerry is forging robust cloud connectivity in partnership with AWS via QNX® in the Cloud and BlackBerry IVY® . AWS’s partners have already created the following:

  • An automated map-generation platform
  • Improved self-driving models
  • The collection and processing of telematics data
  • The ability to simulate vehicle features before delivery

As vehicles become more software-defined and customers grow to appreciate and demand cloud-based services, it will be increasingly important for automakers to build partnerships across the ecosystem, including cloud vendors, to ensure best-in-breed capabilities for their products.

As the developer of BlackBerry® QNX® , we are one of the leading organizations in the Software-Defined Vehicle space. For more than forty years, we’ve worked tirelessly to build safe, reliable, and secure embedded systems. And we’re not stopping there—in addition to investing heavily into autonomous vehicle research, we’re also working to enable the connected car.

That’s where BlackBerry IVY® comes in. Leveraging BlackBerry QNX, edge computing, and the cloud, BlackBerry IVY empowers developers and automakers with a secure, reliable way to share vehicle data, deliver new features and functionality, and fuel innovation. BlackBerry IVY is compatible with most platforms and shares close ties with BlackBerry’s broad development community.

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