The Benefits of Commonality
Despite its highly competitive environment, the automotive industry is set to cooperate and establish an open standard for electrical and electronics architecture. This is one example of a generic trend seen in many industries and we think it will soon be seen in security too.
Electronics, computer power and intelligent solutions are increasingly common in modern vehicles. Now the car industry is looking at open industrial standards (OpS) as a reasonable way to maintain control of the development, quality, scalability, and costs in this field.
Autosar (Automotive Open System Architecture) is an outstanding example of this trend. Since 2002, a partnership of carmakers and first tier automotive industry suppliers is moving towards a standardized platform for all embedded computer power in vehicles.
Carmakers BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Volkswagen initiated discussions in mid 2002 and were soon joined by Ford, Peugeot – Citroën, Toyota, and most recently GM. Leading automotive industry suppliers such as Bosch, Continental and Siemens complete the list of Core Partners. Practically all major players in the automotive industry have since joined the project.
“All carmakers will benefit from not having to develop everything within the platform by themselves. The standard will create a marketplace where the industry will be able to buy the majority of the implementations,” says Thomas Sandén, a Volvo Cars consultant representing Ford Motor Company in the Autosar Project Leader team.
Sandén describes a process in which 600 experts, on behalf of about 100 companies, are working to establish this common standard that could be compared with the Windows operating system in the PC world.
“This will not bring any new application functionalities in itself. By creating and streamlining a common framework, the development of functionalities will become quicker and less expensive. That is the concept behind Autosar,” says Sandén.
Autosar is not about inventing or developing new technologies. The common platform will have more or less the same functionalities available today. The objective in this field is rather to identify best practices in the industry and then create a core standard based upon them.
An Architecture Protocol—consisting of a detailed description of how to develop, design and integrate new application software independently of the computer being used—is another crucial objective of the Autosar initiative.
“I would say 99% of the software today is developed for different computers. The Architecture Protocol will mean that carmakers will be able to access functionalities as purchasing items. And this could also mean buying a functionality from one supplier and engaging another supplier to integrate it to the platform software,” says Sandén.
“The suppliers may lose part of their market, but the business concept of making money by adapting functionalities to different platforms was not sound,” he says.
Eric Michélsen, director of interconnectivity at ASSA ABLOY’s Hi-O brand for intelligent lock solutions, sees open standards as a logical development. And he doesn’t consider it a threat to the industry suppliers.
“Suppliers will, of course, be exposed to more competition. But in the long run, there is no doubt that standardization will create a more open market in which players will compete for higher volumes than today.”
“Nevertheless, you have to keep in mind that a common standard and architecture will not define the applications and functionalities but only the interface. Knowledge will still be a supplier’s most competitive resource”, he says.
The automotive industry is under great pressure. While oil prices are not encouraging sales, new players are entering the global market and competition is fierce. But Eric Michélsen is not surprised by the fact that carmakers and industry suppliers are working together to try to define an open standard. He underlines that carmakers have achieved a great number of commonalities across brands and countries before, such as for tires and voltage.
“Demands for more and better functions in vehicles mean that carmakers and suppliers cannot keep developing proprietary solutions indefinitely. Systems are becoming too complicated. It is too expensive for each company to have its own”, he says.
As ASSA ABLOY has adopted the standardized network technology CAN for door solutions, and that CAN was originally designed by the car industry, there is a natural interest to learn from the Autosar project in terms of software platforms. As a car user, Michélsen hopes that Autosar succeeds in creating a common standard for the automotive industry. And he has good reason (see box Goals).
“I don’t know if we need more functions in our cars right now. But I think existing functions will become more reliable and integrated when an open standard is established,” he says.
In any case, Thomas Sandén from Autosar is cautious about consumer expectations.
“The immediate impact of standardization of electronic architecture will not be greater than the impact that the standardization of connectors or wiring would have. For us it’s simply a matter of infrastructure,” says Sandén.
THE AUTOSAR GOALS
• Implementation and standardization of basic system functions as an industry-wide “Standard Core” solution
• Scalability to different vehicle and platform variants
• Transferability of functions throughout network
• Integration of functional modules from multiple suppliers
• Consideration of availability and safety requirements
• Redundancy activation
• Maintainability throughout the whole “Product Life Cycle”
• Increased use of “Commercial off the shelf hardware”
• Software updates and upgrades over vehicle lifetime
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