Modern vehicle E/E architecture vs Connected vehicle UX

Will modern vehicle electronic architectures actually result in worse connected car user experience?

August 5, 2020

There is change afoot in the world of vehicle electronic architectures - a centralised approach to on-vehicle compute power instead of independent domain controllers and ECUs.

It is hard to argue against this move as it drives down unit cost and weight, putting more emphasis on software virtualisation and runtime capacity management, marshalling the compute resources to those functions that need it most. It also puts more of a burden on vehicle OEMs to ensure that the components they are putting into a vehicle will play nicely with each other. Perhaps one outcome of this will be a rationalised supply chain to ease vehicle development, or ultimately perhaps more in-house development. Tesla are of course kings of this approach - doing so much in-house makes it easier for them to consolidate software from disparate parts of the vehicle.

Considering power draw

In new vehicle architectures from some of the top OEMs we are seeing the infotainment system being used as that capable, central computer, and this is understandable because the workloads run on this unit are typically the most demanding on the vehicle already.

However, another objective of modern EV architectures is to minimise power draw to protect the main battery and ultimately the driving range. This requires intellgent power management and the shutdown of compute nodes when not in use, typically when the user is away from the vehicle.

This is where the conflict occurs: centralisation of compute + aggressive power management vs Connected vehicle user experience.

Connected vehicle user experience is highly dependant on a low latency response from the vehicle. Customers have got accustomed to the 'always-on' nature of IoT and expect this to extend into their vehicle too; if their lightbulb can be controlled instantly with a tap of their phone, so should their vehicle.

The intelligent, always-on edge

In conclusion, there are a number of reasons why keeping the connected vehicle edge compute separate from the central vehicle compute is advantageous: 

  • Allow the edge to be always-on with low quiescent power draw.
  • Reduced latency and improved connected vehicle UX because it is always-on.
  • Isolated from central vehicle compute for improved cyber security.

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