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Software for the NextGeneration Automobile

Craig Simonds
or years, people have proposed intelligent transportation systems, envisioning cars that think and talk, navigate, assist in trip planning,and even provide concierge services. Key to this vision are intelligent systems that connect the vehicle to emergency services, trafc information, accident-avoidAutomotive ance systems, entertainment electronic systems content providers, and so on. Many companies offer softare changing ware platforms that meet hardware specirapidly, requiring automotive cations, typically providing connectivity of all development tools based on a particular systems approach types. Fords (Java,Websphere or .NET,for prototype software example). Other platforms handle off-board data, such as framework lets real-time trafc information, and support communications manufacturers systems that provide locationrapidly tailor based servicesany service pertinent to where the confeatures and sumer is and what he is handle diverse doing at that moment. Unfortunately, existing methods communication of communicating to offboard systems are typically modes. insufcient and highly fragmented. In fact, all existing platforms are missing an important element: a robust, exible software architecture that lets large automobile manufacturers easily tailor their systems for each brand or vehicle program and offer their customers a high degree of personalization.A responsive architecture must thus let vehicle
1520-9202/03/$17.00 2003 IEEE

designers develop features quickly, enable diverse communication modes, and permit vehicle program managers to download applications and tailor them to specic consumer needs. The industry sorely needs a solution that can separate the longer hardware development cycles from software that designers can develop and implement more quickly. Motivating this solution is the industrys shift to a service-oriented mindset about functions and features.The aim is to provide driving experiences that involve a high degree of personalization and include considerably more real-time information, facilitated by off-board services. For example, having a map, and even turn-by-turn directions is useful at times, but what most people want is to know exactly where they are, where they need to go, and what they will experience along the way. Once they have determined their destination, the invehicle system can provide them the best route to take (right now), and notify them of any changes that may affect them as they travel. Because off-board systems vary considerably, XML is the most likely language for sending messages and data. It provides a single language for communicating with various systems, which is important in tapping the information most consumers store in their cell phones or other portable devices. By adding a small application to the

How Automotive Computer Solutions Differ
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Published by the IEEE Computer Society



experiencewhat they think of a certain manufacturer. In the past, designTable 1. Implementation requirements ers either physically attached each for electrical and electronic automotive systems human-machine interface components. (HMI) to the module or connected it through input devices like the brake Component characteristic Implementation requirement or gas pedal.The aim was to design the Durability 10 years or 150,000 miles module without any interface device attached. In that way, the manufacInterior ambient temperature 40 to 85C turer (brand) can design the method Thermal shock 25C per minute of user interaction, which can then Vibration 5Gs plus shock = 20Gs connect to the control module through a bus or network. Although this idea Resistance to uids Must resist corrosive beverages such might seem like old technology in the as coffee and soda IT world, it is still relatively new in the Electromagnetic compatibility 20 to 100 volts per meter automobile industry. Stringent requirements drive this interface-design approach, and manhandheld device that formats the data so that the in-vehi- ufacturers face many challenges in designing and building cle system can understand it, vehicle manufacturers can automobiles. Design issuespackaging, weight, power consumption, and usabilityare not independent, which provide many personalized services in the vehicle. Ford Research and Advanced Engineering is working makes the design and implementation of components and on a software architecture that provides the layers of systems complicated.Adding automotive requirements to abstraction necessary to realize this goal. The system, the mix makes the task even more difcult.Table 1 lists the Vehicle Consumer Services Interface (VCSI), offers the specications that electrical and electronic automotive sysability to flexibly personalize and upgrade systems with tems must satisfy. the level of security required for mobile services, as well as a plug-and-play approach to device connectivity. It uses Packaging XML to communicate with portable devices and off-board An automobile has only so much space, especially if the systems, providing Ford the freedom to offer the highest aim is to hide a component from the user.This issue is not degree of branding and personalization possible.We have only size or shape, but also climate. Many locations are demonstrated VCSI in various concept vehicles, including exposed to extreme temperatures or potentially destructhe Model U that Ford unveiled last January at the 2003 tive substances, such as road debris or corrosive uids.Also, North American International Auto Show in Detroit. some components generate significant heat and require adequate ventilation to function properly. Finally, all components must be crashworthy, according to a crashworthiVEHICLE DESIGN ISSUES Any software architecture must rst recognize the auto- ness specication. mobile industrys myriad unique pressures and ad hoc design practices. For example, although the automobile Weight industry relies on several physical standards, designers tend Body, chassis, and powertrain systems must function in to use them more as metrics than actual standards. For a relatively narrow weight range of payload: Increased example, DIN (Deutsche Institut fur Normung) is a weight means a change in the way the vehicle handles. German standard manufacturers use for car radios, navi- Also, a particular components weight could introduce gation systems, and climate-control modules.The standard safety issues, require redesigning certain structural comstates that the radio opening in an instrument panel must ponents, or affect fuel economy and emissions. be 7.2 inches wide and 2.11 inches high. In practice, production units often end up being some variation, such as 1.8 Power consumption DIN or double DIN. This is problematic because most The automobiles battery stores a finite amount of automotive displays are housed in radio-like devices, which energy, and the alternators ability to restore electrical means the displays must then also vary greatly in size and energy depends on engine speed. Because the battery obvifunction. ously cannot drain faster than the alternators average outAs in many industries, consumer-product interaction is a put, each component can have only so much energy.Thus, critical element of success. In the automotive context, how- the designer must ensure that each components power ever, it is the critical element to customer satisfaction requirement stays within the capacity of the automobiles because it is the primary way consumers dene their brand power generation and distribution systems.
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Ease of use
The concept is simple. When people are driving a 4,000-lb. vehicle, it is best not to distract them. Therefore, user interfaces must be easy to find and use (highly intuitive), and they must respond quickly. Component use must be a simple task that the user can do in a very short time.

How Automotive Computer Solutions Differ

There are a few signicant differences in the ways automobile manufacturers implement IT-related solutions, as compared to those in the personal computer industry. The following examples highlight these differences in three key areas:

Mobile services

A flexible, robust software architecture must also account for the consumers growing reliance on mobile services. Previously, Human machine interface vehicle manufacturers have permanently Computer manufacturers dont seem to mind their user interfaces installed an in-vehicle phone to provide looking like a Microsoft product, but automobile manufacturers want mobile services, burdening consumers with their products to be fully branded. A Jaguar product should look, a second mobile phone bill, which most feel, smell, and function like a Jaguar, for example, not like another found unacceptable. The emergence of companys product with a Jaguar emblem tacked on. newer Bluetooth profiles like SAP (SIMcard access prole) and the proliferation of Flexibility/upgradability the Global System for Mobile CommuniUnlike the PC industry, most in-vehicle systems have little exibility, cation (GSMC) have provided much more being designed for a singular purpose, and the software cannot be attractive options. In some cases, consumers upgraded. More exible solutions are more costly to implement, and will be able to install their existing SIM card there is no room for increased cost in markets outside luxury cars.Thus, in their vehicle. In other cases, the vehicle heavy competition and small prot margins keep most manufacturers will use Bluetooth to control the confrom designing upgradable vehicle functions. sumers phone. As automotive designers combine the information in phones, PDAs Product life cycle (personal digital assistants), and other While new PC and consumer electronics products are released portable devices with real-time off-board every few months, automobile manufacturers take more than four services, they will be better able to offer years to move a new product from concept to production, and prodconsumers a personalized and precise set uct freshenings can take two to three years. of travel-based services. The appointment a consumer places in his handheld calendar, for example, will serve as the basis for an intelligent vehicle system to determine the best trav- A FLEXIBLE FRAMEWORK eling route, the people the consumer needs to contact, the Providing the features and services automotive constops he needs to make, the trafc he will face along the sumers want in a consistent manner, across a diverse set way, and the time it will take to accomplish the required of vehicle lines (Ford,Volvo, Jaguar,Aston Martin, and so tasks. on) while addressing these vehicle design issues is a comThe service possibilities are endless. Many companies plex problem.The VCSI approach addresses this problem that provide products and services to mobile consumers by letting manufacturers develop subsystem components are already implementing WiFi hotspots in range of parked more generically, providing them a much higher degree of automobiles. Adding WiFi connectivity will enable wire- flexibility in tailoring systems. Ford suppliers receive a less toll, fuel, and food purchases, for example, and let users common specication and application programming interdownload multimedia content from their home or ofce face (API), which lets them maintain the proprietary PC into their vehicle systemsall with the best available nature of their products, while using the Ford-dened APIs security measures.Automobile manufacturers will provide to interact with other systems, both off-board and in the software updates through various Web-based services and vehicle. Also, suppliers will be able to design components thus will be better able to respond to specific customer that perform particular tasks and sell them to various vehiissues. cle programs instead of just one. Software specic to the The How Automotive Computer Solutions Differ side- brand or vehicle is added later. bar shows differences between how automobile manuBecause we designed VCSI to allow upgrades, manufacturers and the personal computer industry implement facturers will be able to provide consumers with the latest IT-related solutions. in features and services through most of the vehicles life.
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example, can use voice commands to set the vehicles temperature, while the frontseat passenger might use a Applications button or touch screen for the same function. Navigation API HMI API Media API Home API Commerce API This exibility is signicant because most actuators and Telephony API PIM API Personalization API Diagnostics API VSI+ API sensors are conned to a particular subsystem. To allow one subsystem to get data Security API Policy API Communication API Storage API from a sensor in another subProvisioning API Resource management API Event manager API system, designers must adapt both systems, typically by adding buses. Although this App manager Open services Registry aids information sharing, the gateway initiative systems remain primarily Services closed. Moreover, communiJava virtual machine cating subsystems dont necessarily come from the same Java native interface supplier, so providing a conLow-level software nection requires either estab(drivers) lishing a standard that both Protocols suppliers accept or encourag Protocol 1 Protocol 2 Protocol N ing both suppliers to reveal their specifications. Neither Devices option is well received. Many of the latest intelliThe gure shows an in-vehicle computing platform. Devices can be anything from gent vehicle systems are vehicle sensors and actuators to radios, climate control modules, cell phones, or designed around telematics, PDAs. The protocols layer indicates that most of these devices will be accessed but VCSI is designed to manthrough some sort of bus or network (such as MOST, CAN, LIN, and so on). age more traditional vehicle Above that are the drivers and interfaces between the hardware and the VCSI systems and functions as well. APIs. The applications layer sits on top, and the VCSI APIs provide a layer of In fact, implementing the abstraction from the hardware. Applications can thus be written once and used VCSI approach has many across many vehicle programs, and possibly over several model years. benefits, even without telematics-like features. The commonality of components is a huge design advantage, for example. Most systems (even How it works As Figure 1 shows, within the framework, designers can radios) are tailored for a particular vehicle model and use sensors, actuators, and modules for various functions model yearand thats alland Ford can have more than or services and for a single vehicle or a variety of vehicle 30 radio types in production for a given year. Imagine the lines.They implement the software portion separately and benet of having one tuner and just a few avors of ampliare free to tailor it to the specific vehicle and customer er for all products. Moreover, these devices are not conpreference. Fords proprietary XML-based interface, fined to a single model year; the software can change as VUML (Vehicle User-Interface Mark-up Language) sep- manufacturers develop and implement new ways of proarates the HMI from the core application, which lets viding and managing entertainment content, but the comdesigners use many HMI component types from knobs, ponents remain reusable. VCSI is based on Java, so designers can use a Java Virtual switches, and buttons to touch screen displays and conversational voice-activation systems.Thus, manufacturers Machine (JVM) to abstract it from the platform and opercan offer various features and functions in their products ating system (OS). We are currently using the QNX platby choosing the HMI type that best aligns with their brand form for embedded devices, but designers can implement attributes and their customers preferences. Using various VCSI on any platform that meets the specication and proinput methods, consumers can easily control a particular vides a JVM. With the CDC, Foundation profile (one of function from more than one location. The driver, for the standard proles for handheld devices that use Java)

Figure 1. Fords Vehicle Consumer Services Interface (VCSI).


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enables a VCSI-based solution to perform very well, providing all the desired functions and services. Ford has established a set of OS criteria that focuses on robustness and real-time execution specications. One key element is that the OS must be able to start and stop device drivers and applications without having to reboot. This is especially important in a vehicle because consumers need devices and off-board connectivity at different and unpredictable times.

Application programming interfaces

The VCSI specification includes various APIs that let developers write applications for in-vehicle systems, offboard communications, and interactions with portable devices. The APIs address HMI, personalization, policy, security, safety, and the like. Manufacturers have developed several other APIs for the VCSI.The few previously mentioned provide examples of the issues that must be addressed in the automotive environment. The descriptions that follow are of the current API set. Human-machine interface. With the HMI API, automotive engineers can package components in ideal locations, separating the part of the system the consumer touches from the controller itself. Common user interface devices, and separation of the interface from the electronics of each subsystem, reduce the size and weight of electronic modules (radio, climate control, and so on).The result will be better designs, more robust and potentially less expensive systems, and more satised consumers. Policy. Because of all the safety and regulatory issues involved in building cars, the policy API is key.Policy in this sense is not the typical software policy in many software architectures. Rather, in the automotive world, policy focuses primarily on the safe and appropriate use of systems and functions.With the policy API, Ford can implement various features that consumers desire, while still complying with regulations and established safe-driving practices. In many countries, for example, it is illegal and impractical for the driver to display video and other distracting graphical information while the vehicle is moving. Designers can easily implement a policy that complies with this requirement, but still lets the driver use the display for video when the vehicle is parked.Also, many of these rules do not apply in certain regions or even in all 50 states in the US, so designers can write policies that use GPS location data to determine when and where to implement certain regulations. Drivers can even download these rules from an off-board server once the infrastructure is in place to deliver them. Likewise, if not done correctly, voice-based systems can introduce unnecessary complexity and distraction. While studies are still being done to quantify the problem and determine what is best, most researchers agree that simplicity is a must. Often, voice control is combined with audible (text-to-speech) and visual (textual displays) feed-

back. If the driver is forced to remember too much information or must look at a display too frequently, the voice system becomes more of a problem than a solution. Implementing the appropriate policies can alleviate driver distraction, while still enabling full functionality for other passengers or for the driver when the vehicle is stopped. Personalization. This API is critical to customer satisfaction. Each year, manufacturers design more and more vehicle systems that customers can personalize.Very soon, almost everything in a car will have the capability to be recongured and to comply with the users preferences. In the near future, consumers will be bringing their preference information with them, stored in either a cell phone, a PDA, or even a smart key fob, and they will need wireless transmission when moving the data to the vehicle. Once technology enables this wireless transmission, the only requirement will be on-board storage for these preferences. The widespread use of rental and fleet vehicles makes wireless personalization even more attractive.

The automobile industry is experiencing a major mindset shift. Increased competition and consumer demand are forcing a signicant change in the way we design and build cars, and in the way we address consumer needs. Clearly, companies must be willing to embrace those changes if they want to survive.At Ford, we believe the VCSI is a step toward the right solution.I Craig Simonds is vehicle system integration team leader at Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. Contact him at

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