“The term “software-defined vehicle” means that many key features and functions of the vehicle are realized through software. This shift from hardware-based to software-based has transformed the car from a functional tool into a user’s living space. In addition to unlocking new safety, comfort and convenience features, software-defined vehicles also have many advantages over the original hardware-defined vehicles, while also providing outstanding performance. The next generation of software-defined vehicles will continue to improve safety features, while adding more autonomy, functionality, and safety-related software updates, as well as software platforms for connected services such as infotainment.
Author: Adam Kimmel
The term “software-defined vehicle” means that many key features and functions of the vehicle are realized through software. This shift from hardware-based to software-based has transformed the car from a functional tool into a user’s living space. In addition to unlocking new safety, comfort and convenience features, software-defined vehicles also have many advantages over the original hardware-defined vehicles, while also providing outstanding performance. The next generation of software-defined vehicles will continue to improve safety features, while adding more autonomy, functionality, and safety-related software updates, as well as software platforms for connected services such as infotainment.
Technical overview of software-defined features
The three main factors that have prompted automakers to increase the use of sensors include:
・ Improved chassis road performance
・ Passenger experience (cockpit and exterior)
These factors determine the application of the sensor and explain the reason why software control has emerged.
Following the early oil, coolant, and fuel measurement, federal emission regulations forced automakers to upgrade their sensor technology to monitor combustion performance, which resulted in emission output values. Engineers developed a Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensor to control engine performance and reduce emissions. The MAP sensor can measure the manifold pressure, and the engine control unit calculates the air density and mass flow rate from the measured pressure. Through these parameters, the fuel consumption control can be automated to make the combustion as full as possible. Combustion chemical reactions that are as close as possible to the ideal ratio can make combustion as full as possible, thereby limiting unnecessary combustion reaction products and reducing harmful emissions.
With the further tightening of automobile exhaust emission regulations first implemented in the early 1960s, the demand for automobile manufacturers to improve the measurement sensitivity and performance of on-board sensors has also increased. In order to meet this demand, they developed a microelectromechanical measurement system (MEMS) sensor. These new sensors were used to achieve engine control through pressure measurement, and soon expanded to the entire vehicle. Two interrelated factors of MEMS sensors make them very suitable for engine control: the integration of Electronic intelligence and mechanical measurement parameters, and the small space occupied by the sensor in the car. The combination of these two factors provides an economical, high-performance solution for data acquisition and software control. At present, all vehicles shipped out of the factory use MEMS sensors to improve engine performance, reduce emissions, improve safety and increase convenience, and software-driven combustion and emission optimization has become increasingly important.
Chassis road performance improvement
In addition to the improved performance of the power system, the sensors that measure the road performance of the chassis have also made great progress. This moment is a turning point in the history of auto-driving-related functions of vehicles. Examples of these applications include automatic braking systems (ABS), road noise cancellation, traction control, and automatic parking. The sensor also measures vibration data to control stability, and measures tire pressure to prevent punctures. The software can use the collected data to adjust vehicle performance to reduce excessive vibration and resolve tire fatigue issues without the driver taking any action.
In principle, these functions are centered on safety, while also bringing additional benefits such as a smoother driving experience. Engineers can use these data to design a more stable frame, optimize the distance and position of the tires to achieve balance and support, and reduce braking time by using traditional driving habits to improve ABS performance.
Like cruise control passively adapts to changes in road gradients or other driving conditions, software-driven operations provide safety by improving driving performance, doubling the benefits of using this method.
Passenger experience (cockpit and exterior)
The third area where sensors are increasingly popular is the cockpit and external passenger experience that values comfort, convenience, and safety. With the rise of smart phones and interconnected technologies, car drivers have become users of connected interfaces and customizable technologies in the car. MEMS sensors put safety at the most important position in the automotive industry, improving the mode and timing of the front and side airbags. It can also predict more accurately when the headlights should be turned on when the ambient lighting conditions change.
In terms of comfort, engineers can use sensor data to remember driver preferences and functional settings, such as seat temperature and direction in the cockpit. In addition, sensors can also assist navigation, and the driver’s preferences for the user interface can guide the software to control preferences. Finally, when the vehicle deviates from the route due to driver fatigue or other conditions, the increased external data will tell the central processor. This function can significantly improve safety by ensuring vehicle operation and drastically reducing human error.
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As electric vehicles receive more and more attention, the integration of software-defined functions that can improve exhaust emissions, vehicle road performance, and driver experience, convenience, and safety will be further enhanced. When designers use local MCUs and MPUs to assist in real-time processing of large amounts of sensor data, they can use the existing processing infrastructure to create conditions for software-defined cars and promote autonomous driving.