How Automotive Infotainment Can Benefit from OTA Updates

March 13, 2020 Cameron Hosner, Vice President and General Manager, OEM Business Unit, Alpine Electronics

In-vehicle infotainment (IVI) is an increasingly important factor for car manufacturers as they seek to differentiate their vehicles from the competition. When all cars are safe, comfortable, and efficient, IVI can become a significant reason for buyers to prefer one model over another.

In-vehicle infotainment market demands and corresponding solutions demonstrate the need for rapid evolution and architecture adaptation.  Planning IVI solutions involves feature compliance and enhancement, robustness, time-to-market, and cost factors – but it also requires a level of flexibility to adapt to changing demands and fashions, which can best be handled by over-the-air (OTA) updates.

Standard and Agnostic

An approach that can be standardized across a great variety of host architectures can greatly ease integration efforts and maximizes reuse. Infotainment modules may range from a single entertainment display to an expanded cockpit instrument cluster. These modules may connect to the cloud via a smartphone, Wi-Fi or over a network connection (such as Ethernet or CAN) to a telematics unit.

This topological complexity, in combination with meeting customer-specific interaction requirements, leads to a portfolio of infotainment platforms that may use a variety of hardware solutions (including SiP, SoC and server architecture), operating system solutions (such as Android, Linux and QNX), and software architectures (including split core, hypervisor and standard).

Development within this framework that is necessary to meet the demands of multiple OEMs increases costs. Standardization on a single OTA approach can help automate integration and reduce costs.  

Enhancing the User Experience

User experience is a critical selling point for infotainment and an area of rapid improvement. This is one reason why IVI head units were among the first automotive devices to implement OTA. An industry-wide OTA standard simplifies the tracking of new network developments and security practices, and supports continuous IVI improvement.

The first generation of automotive OTA solutions demonstrated the importance of download flexibility and robustness, however infotainment system and OTA capabilities were usually isolated from other in-car technical domains. Now, in newer cars, the in-vehicle display becomes an important mechanism for involving the user in the update process for all devices.

In the presence of increasingly complex network architectures, we need to minimize the disruption caused by delivering continuous updates to dozens of ECUs. A single standard OTA pipeline can help ensure conformity to regional guidelines, configuring when and how users initiate updates, how they approve OEM-initiated updates, or even how they are notified when the updates are performed automatically.  

A bi-directional pipeline providing both OTA updating and data collection (for off-board analytics) supports continuous IVI improvement such as HMI optimization to reduce the time and user burden for executing functions, and generally minimizing driver distractions. 

Payload transport within the IVI domain may differ from other domains. Maps or entertainment content and even new applications can be downloaded frequently while the car is in operation - on an as-needed basis determined by bandwidth (and cost) and content consumption rates. In contrast, this is often not the case with automotive control devices, which may well require the car to be parked before updating.

This dual characteristic is a defining feature of the automotive OTA environment that should not be assumed in OTA technologies that have evolved in the consumer markets (where safety systems are not implemented) or in industrial control environments (no streaming entertainment).

By standardizing on a common OTA approach, Tier 1s and automakers can ensure their IVI systems can keep up with the latest demands from car buyers, whilst giving themselves a vital competitive edge no matter what the consumer tech industry thinks up next.

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OTA Considerations: A blog post series by members of the eSync Alliance, an open industry consortium dedicated to automotive OTA software standards. www.eSyncAlliance.org

About the eSync™ Alliance

The eSync™ Alliance is an industry initiative to drive a multi-company solution for over-the-air (OTA) updates and diagnostics data in the automotive electronics space, potentially saving billions of dollars per year for automakers. By working together in the Alliance, companies will benefit from a simplified development environment made possible by a standardized yet customizable open platform. The Alliance released version 1.0 of the eSync specification in April 2019. A synopsis is available at https://www.esyncalliance.org/downloads/

About Alpine Electronics 

Alpine Electronics Inc., a part of the Alps Alpine Group based within its parent company, Alps Alpine Co., Ltd., develops, manufactures, and sells audio products for automobiles and information and communication products. For more information please visit https://www.alpine.com

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