Software-Defined Car: Fundamentals for the Cars of the Future

The project with partners from science and industry aims to develop new methods and processes for the car of the future and its effective use of data

Consortium leader Bosch develops the software-defined vehicle. (Photo: BOSCH)

Consortium leader Bosch develops the software-defined vehicle. (Photo: BOSCH)

Today, more than 100 control units are sometimes installed in vehicles. The high complexity of electrical and electronic systems and their architecture continues to increase, but at the same time must remain manageable. In the “Software-Defined Car” (SofDCar) project, in which the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University of Stuttgart, the Research Institute for Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKSF) and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, an innovation partner of KIT, are involved standardized rules and processes are to be created so that the electronic components in the vehicle interact smoothly, can be updated at any time and thus remain safe.

The aim of the “SofDCar” project is that in future all software updates and upgrades should follow rules and processes by which they can be controlled and are subject to the use of a consistent methodology for functional and IT security. This ensures that individual programs do not interfere with each other and work properly in the system. This is the prerequisite for new functions in and around the vehicle to be developed more quickly in the future and to reach the drivers safely.

"The major SofDCar project is a prime example of how digitization is being advanced in vehicle technology - in close cooperation between companies from different industries and partners from science," says Baden-Württemberg Minister of Science Theresia Bauer. “The InnovationsCampus Mobility of the Future (ICM) at the University of Stuttgart and KIT offers the ideal cooperation environment for SofDCar with the focus on 'Software-defined Mobility', because excellent research, economic implementation and academic qualification are closely interlinked here. It is precisely this close connection that we are striving for in the state with the Automotive Industry BW strategy dialogue. "

“We want to drive the transformation process towards environmentally friendly, networked and automated mobility with innovative ideas. With the funding of SofDCar we are taking a big step closer to this vision, ”says Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs at KIT. "The Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future offers an excellent platform for doing excellent, innovative and interdisciplinary research."

"The approval of the BMWi project Software-defined Car is also a great success for the University of Stuttgart and the KIT, because on the one hand the initiative of the joint consortium with the FKFS and FZI and of course the strong industrial partners from the Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future came and for Others, with the thematic focus of the project, have an almost ideal link to the new strategy field “Software-defined Mobility” of the ICM ”, emphasizes Professor Peter Middendorf, Vice-Rector for Knowledge and Technology Transfer at the University of Stuttgart.

A new digital twin for the vehicle architecture of the future

Part of the project is the development of an extended digital twin, i.e. a virtual image of the development and runtime data of a vehicle. In the future, this twin will include the data distributed in the vehicle and in the cloud - from the manufacture of a vehicle to its scrapping. This goes well beyond what was previously referred to as the digital twin, since for the first time it encompasses the entire life cycle of a modern vehicle and also includes the cloud domains, apps, backend and development systems. The project aims to ensure that the flow of information from vehicle data and software versions runs like a red thread through all databases and servers.

Vehicle software security and reliability

In the “SofDCar” project, the KIT scientists consider innovative development methods and quality assurance approaches for the automotive industry, particularly with a view to IT security. "In addition to the close cooperation with the other research partners on IT reference architecture, our focus is on security and reliability," says Prof. Ralf Reussner from the KASTEL - Institute for Information Security and Reliability at KIT. "For example, we are investigating how software functionalities can be updated easily, safely and reliably after purchasing a vehicle and how a wide variety of customer-specific vehicle variants can be taken into account." In addition, the KIT researchers want to improve information management and safety checks,

5G test track on the campus of the University of Stuttgart

On the part of the University of Stuttgart, eight working groups from three departments, under the direction of Professor Michael Weyrich from the Institute for Automation Technology and Software Systems, are involved in the work on the software-defined automotive future. The construction of the hybrid demonstrator "Campus Vaihingen" is a major contribution: Using a real-time 5G test track on the ring road of the campus, test vehicles and other test setups from all partners can be tested on and off the road under realistic conditions. “At the University of Stuttgart, we will work with our colleagues from Karlsruhe on an IT reference architecture for the vehicles of the future. It is about the use of software in the so-called edge backend, in other words, information hubs outside the vehicles in the future IT infrastructure, ”Weyrich emphasizes. "Using the digital twin and the real-time 5G campus network, we can design the reference architectures for continuous and bilateral data exchange for new functions in the vehicles of the future."

Test field autonomous driving Baden-Württemberg for evaluation

In addition to these aspects, the scientists at the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, an innovation partner of KIT, deal with the safeguarding, verification and maintenance of the consistency of vehicle variants. Particular consideration is given here to the recognition of restrictions and weak points in the driving function, the evolution of both variants and individual functionalities, as well as the management of the resulting versions with the help of the digital twin. By identifying and extracting processes and other performance data, quality-assured application processes should continue to be made possible across vehicle boundaries.

“Together we are also testing various aspects of software over the air, security and increased robustness in the Autonomous Driving Baden-Württemberg test field. Our test vehicles are also used here, ”adds Professor Zöllner, Chairman of the FZI and Professor at KIT. "Our goal is to continuously improve the security of AI-based functionalities, also with the valuable evaluation options provided by the test field."

Tests in the Stuttgart driving simulator

In the Software Defined Car project, the FKFS is developing technologies to optimize the customer benefit of networked automobiles: In the Stuttgart driving simulator, which is unique in Europe, the effects of online software updates on the driving experience are examined with test subjects from the population. Examples are new functions to improve the comfort and driving safety of partially and fully autonomous vehicles. "The early detection and prevention of impending defects in components in electric vehicles is being researched with intelligent functions in the cloud," says Professor Hans-Christian Reuss, board member of the FKFS and holder of the chair for automotive mechatronics at the University of Stuttgart. "This prevents the vehicle from 'stalling' in many cases, which has a positive effect on customer satisfaction."

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