Need for Automotive OTA

With the development of Advanced Driver Assistance systems(ADAS) and the introduction of Autonomous Driving(AD or AV), vehicles are becoming more and more intelligent and complex. A large number of software programs running inside the vehicle, control these smart cars. Assume a software bug occurs in one of these programs. To fix the bug, the vehicle manufacturer usually issues a recall notice. This causes a two-fold problem. On one hand it leads to a lengthy vehicle down time, causing inconvenience and user dissatisfaction and on the other hand, its a logistics nightmare and costly to fix the bug.

In order to solve these issues, we can take a cue from the traditional IT and smartphone industry. We all have smartphones and receive regular software updates. These updates either add a new feature or fix an existing issue or improve the user experience. The same can be applied to the automotive industry. This is the purpose and application of Over the Air(OTA) updates in Automotive industry.

The below pictures visualize these two concepts

Convention Automotive SW update process
Conventional Vehicle ECU Software Update Process
Automotive OTA process
OTA Software Update Process

What is OTA in automotive Industry?

Over the Air or OTA refers to the technology of remotely managing the firmware, data and applications of ECUs in the vehicle.

OTA Technical Architecture

Currently, the Automotive OTA architecture can be visualized as below. It mainly consists of three components: OEM OTA Cloud Platform, OTA Client and the Target ECUs. We will look at them one by one.

Automotive OTA Architecture
OTA Architecture

OEM OTA Cloud Platform

OEM OTA Cloud Platform or OTA Cloud is an OEM proprietary cloud server. It typically contains the details of all the vehicle models, individual vehicles and the dependency between Software versions on multiple ECUs in the Vehicle. It contains all the required software and related versioning mechanisms.

OTA Cloud Capabilities

OTA cloud needs to have the following interfaces and capabilities.

  1. Version Update Check interface
  2. Update notification capability
  3. Update Download Interface
  4. Update progress and result report Interface
  5. Batch update task management
  6. Rollback mechanisms
  7. Real-time monitoring of vehicles

OTA Client

The OTA Client or the Telematics is present in the vehicle and it usually contains two sub-systems, OTA Engine and OTA Update Manager/Adapter.

The OTA Engine is responsible for the below tasks

  1. Establish and maintain communication with the OTA Cloud. This typically is an LTE or Wi-Fi connection.
  2. Authenticates the Vehicle and the Server.
  3. Handle loss of communication issues.
  4. Receive the update package from the OTA Cloud.
  5. Coordinate and schedule Target ECU updates.

The OTA Update Manager or Adapter ensures compatibility with different target ECUs. It encapsulates different implementations according to the requirements.

Target ECUs

The last elements of Automotive OTA architecture are the target ECUs which need to be updated with the latest software. Before issuing an update notification to the driver, the OTA manager queries the target ECU about the manifest data such as the current software version, current hardware version, feature string and so on. Depending on the received information, the OTA manager decides whether to issue an update available notification. And if the ECU need to be updated, the OTA manager issues a notification and the software will be downloaded to the target ECU via the Gateway using UDS. Once the vehicle is safely parked, the software is upgraded to the latest downloaded version. This is one of the types of update, there are other types also. Please leave a comment if you want to learn the update types.

That’s all about Automotive OTA and OTA architecture in Vehicles. Until next time!

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