A Software-Defined Vehicle (SDV) is one where its core functions are managed by a software layer sitting between the driver’s or fleet manager’s interface and vehicular functions and sensors. This enables the manufacturer to improve both the usability and features dynamically via updates, including wirelessly.
Traditionally, automakers have relied on bringing together “best-in-breed” components for each of the key functions of a vehicle from a wide variety of third parties. But while some of these will be designed to work together, overall, these features will operate independently and upgrading them can be problematic as a result.
With an SDV, the hardware features might remain fixed, but the way they are used by the vehicle can evolve because they are part of a shared central platform. This will be particularly valuable as cars gain more autonomous features. Sensors might output the same type of data, but the Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS) can be enhanced to deliver greater safety and autonomy as the software is improved, without the need for hardware upgrades.
What Is an SDV Platform?
An SDV Platform is a standardized software layer that enables user interfaces on the front end to communicate with hardware on the vehicle. By employing standard protocols, the SDV Platform abstracts the hardware layer so that developers don’t need to be specialists in each piece of hardware, just how the data from that hardware is used to provide services.
The SDV Platform will provide two-way access to vehicle components—receiving data from sensors and enabling control over component functionality. This must be performed with the highest embedded system security because the safety of vehicle occupants and other road users is critical.
One of the critical capabilities of an SDV Platform is enabling the connected vehicle with the ability to receive over-the-air (OTA) updates for remote improvements that don’t entail a visit to the manufacturer’s service centers. A connected vehicle is also able to contribute local data from the vehicle to the cloud; this data can be used to provide insights to manufacturers, fleet operators and end users, as well as control over vehicle functions such as remote control of the HVAC system or monitoring charge level on an EV.
Examples of SDV Platforms
Aside from proprietary platforms that are manufacturer specific, such as Tesla’s, several standard platforms provide access to some or all vehicle systems. Here are some leading examples:
BlackBerry IVY: A scalable, cloud-connected platform focused on security that can consistently leverage vehicle sensor data locally on the vehicle and in the cloud. BlackBerry IVY also enables third parties to develop connected services.
BlackBerry QNX: An embedded real-time operating system that can form a solid foundation for an SDV Platform. Currently used in 235 million vehicles worldwide.
AWS IoT FleetWise: A platform for collecting vehicle data in near real-time, enabling analytics and machine learning to improve quality, safety, and autonomy.
Harman Safe OTA Solution: A platform for delivering OTA updates securely and in a controlled way.
Sibros Deep Connected Platform: A platform for orchestrating OTA updates with real-time data logging, fleet management, diagnostics, and AI-powered analytics.
Eclipse Foundation: A technology platform for accelerating SDV platforms and automotive-grade software stacks based on open-source standards.
How to Choose an SDV Platform
Some manufacturers choose to build their SDV from the ground up. This gives the automaker complete control over their software stack, including how everything interoperates and connects with vehicle hardware. But it also necessitates strong expertise in every domain of vehicle design, including every hardware component.
Even the biggest manufacturers realize they can’t be specialists in every domain. Trying to go it alone in every area can end up with mediocrity in some of them, which won’t lead to a top-quality car.
A better approach is to choose a standardized platform that enables the automaker to focus on its core competency of making great cars. The manufacturer can then build software capabilities for the end user, and fleet owners that delight and deliver valuable functionality that fits the brand image and intentions. As the focus of vehicles switches from mechanical to software features, choosing the right SDV Platform will be crucial for success in the future of the automotive industry.
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