Over-the-air automotive updates save millions in recall costs

December 4, 2017 Shrinath Acharya, Excelfore

Today’s cars incorporate dozens, if not hundreds, of software-driven sensors and controllers. This number has grown rapidly, due to the fast development of infotainment, automated driver assistance, and autonomous driving technologies. Electronics has now grown to be the leading cause of automotive recalls and warranty repairs. Some automakers are suggesting that the growing complexity of electronics will soon contribute more than 35% to recall expenses.

To manage all these devices, automakers need to be able to update software over-the-air (OTA). They can then avoid spending millions of dollars on recalls, as well as improve features and patch security vulnerabilities. In addition, safe and reliable OTA capability can reduce development times.  Production can begin on new model cars before the last stages of software development and testing have been completed, with full confidence that the software can be installed quickly and easily after the cars have left the production line.

In-vehicle OTA updates

Only a few solutions currently exist to meet this need for OTA. To address this requirement, Excelfore has developed eSync, a solution for providing OTA updates to in-vehicle devices. It has also led to the creation of the eSync Alliance, a community of companies that cooperate to provide standardized and interoperable OTA and diagnostic-data solutions.

eSync is an end-to-end cloud platform, which securely updates software and firmware on devices including head unit components such as system partition, guest OS, primary OS, kernel, drivers, and human-machine interface (HMI). It can also update Electronic Control Units (ECU) connected to wide range of in-vehicle networks including LIN, CAN, FlexRay and Ethernet.

The eSync system can reach any number of components in the vehicle. It can update multiple different devices, from different vendors, running different operating systems, across multiple networks through a single OTA update.

A single OTA update can also reach similar ECUs in different vehicles. This means that automakers can easily manage the distribution of new software updates across their entire fleet of models.

Industry alliance

To reduce the time and risks of developing and deploying fully connected cars, Excelfore has led the formation of the eSync Alliance, a group of automotive suppliers working together to provide eSync-compliant components.

The eSync Alliance enables companies across the automotive value chain to offer products that are capable of OTA updates. With a common mechanism for cloud connectivity among many suppliers, this means that OEMs are no longer limited to proprietary single-vendor solutions.

The eSync-compliant mark will ensure a common OTA data path reaching all the different electronic devices in the car, thus streamlining integration and testing efforts. The eSync compliance program provides not only the path to push software updates to the devices in the car, but also to pull diagnostic data from those devices.

Several automotive suppliers have already joined the eSync Alliance, with more expressing interest in becoming members. We aim to be inclusive and to open up the group to as many companies as possible, helping solve the auto industry’s software update issues, and making OTA a simple, easy to implement technology.

Shrinath Acharya is the CEO of Excelfore, an innovative provider of cloud platform and connectivity applications for intelligent transportation.

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