The car as internet hardware

The car as internet hardware

More and more a car resembles a computer. However, its information architecture is still based on principles that have grown over the last hundred years. Already, more and more breakdowns are due to electronics. In the near future, cars will also be able to communicate via the Internet and drive remotely or autonomously.

For the Visio.M scientists at the TU Munich have now built a completely new IT architecture. Similar to a smartphone, it is divided into two layers: In one layer all driving and safety relevant functions run, in the other all comfort functions as well as the communication of the system with the driver and the internet are located.

The system is protected against external attacks primarily by the fact that the two systems run on different platforms. A central control unit with a controller area network (CAN) bus regulates all functions important for operation. A web-enabled computer is responsible for the driver and Internet communication. Its basic architectural principle is the "Automotive Service Bus" developed by the researchers.

Automotive Service Bus as a message channel

The Automotive Service Bus functions like a message channel. All components can send and receive messages via this channel. It is essential for safety that the components can only read vehicle data. Only in defined exceptional cases for previously specified functions does the central control unit also grant "write" rights. For example, remote control of the vehicle can be implemented, as shown at the CeBIT at the booth of the German government (Hall 12, Booth C79).

Basically, there are three types of "messages" here: Events provide information, such as the current speed or the current position. Commands enable interactions between individual components, such as a new target temperature for the air conditioning system. Preferences are messages that contain driver-specific information, such as music preferences or home address.

"All components have to adhere to the grammar of the Automotive Service Bus, that's all that's required," says Michael Schermann, head of the Automotive Service Laboratory at the Chair of Information Systems at the Technical University of Munich. "Like apps on a smartphone, components can be updated, added or deleted without the need for a workshop visit."

Uniform user interface

A graphical user interface forms the interface to the driver. A screen in the dashboard displays the information essential for driving. "We can freely design the display on this screen" says Michael Schermann. " In the Visio.M, we opted for a more classic display with round instruments."

Input from the driver is accepted by a centrally installed touchscreen. To minimize distraction while driving, the device responds to simple swipe gestures. Unlike a smartphone, no elements have to be "hit" with the finger.

If components are now added or changed, the user interface remains essentially the same. Only additional or other functions are available. On the other hand, users can also adapt the interface to their personal needs without having to make changes to individual components.

Whereas previously a car could hardly be changed over its entire useful life, the separation of the two layers allows updates and adjustments to be made at any time. "The Automotive Service Bus is also the ideal basis for 'premium services'. For a small extra charge, there can be access to the personal music collection in the cloud in the rental car, for example," says Michael Schermann. "If I prefer the navigation of a particular provider, the system can offer me its service – without any change to the vehicle."

Automotive Service Bus as Open Source Software

In October, the Visio received.M with this system its road. After the end of the Visio research project.M, the developers at TU Munich are now placing the Automotive Service Bus under an open source license. "This gives developers worldwide the opportunity to use this platform for their own research," says Michael Schermann.

The Automotive Service Bus is based on the OSGi software platform (Open Service Gateway Initiative). It is Java-based, so it runs on all major operating systems, such as Windows, Linux or Mac OS. The hardware platform is a Pandaboard, a single-board computer based on a chipset from partner Texas Instruments and running a Linux operating system. An Apple iPad serves as the touchscreen. The central control system is a controller from project partner IAV.

The research project "Visio.M" (www.Visiom-automobile.De) participated, in addition to the automotive companies BMW AG (consortium leader) and Daimler AG, the Technical University of Munich as a scientific partner, and Autoliv B. V. & Co. KG, the Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt), Continental Automotive GmbH, Finepower GmbH, Hyve AG, IAV GmbH, InnoZ GmbH, Intermap Technologies GmbH, LIONSmart GmbH, Amtek Tekfor Holding GmbH, Siemens AG, Texas Instruments Deutschland GmbH and TÜV SÜD AG. The project was funded within the framework of the funding program IKT 2020 and the funding priority "Key Technologies for Electromobility – STROM" of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) over 2.5 years and has a total volume of 10.8 Mio.

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