In the rapidly evolving world of automotive technology, a critical challenge has emerged. The automotive industry is facing an agility crisis as traditional development and update cycles fail to keep up with consumer demands. Vehicle platforms take years to bring to market and months to update, while consumers expect new or updated products at a much faster pace. To stay competitive, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) need to accelerate innovation and maximize their return on investment.
Software-Defined Vehicles (SDVs) as a Solution
Software-defined vehicles (SDVs) have emerged as a potential solution to this problem. These SDV architectures consolidate software from small, specialized electronic control units (ECUs) into larger, centralized computing platforms capable of hosting multiple functions. Additionally, over-the-air (OTA) software updates enable OEMs to deploy fixes and features to vehicles after they’ve been sold, eliminating the need for customers to visit dealerships.
Despite the promise of SDVs, adding or modifying features on these platforms still requires full-scale application development, testing, and integration. OTA updates can be time-consuming and bandwidth-intensive events, often needing preparation and scheduling well in advance. As a result, it may take six months from coding and testing a new feature to installing it in a vehicle, hindering agility.
The Need for Agile Feature Development
To overcome these time and cost barriers, even with new development methods such as DevOps and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD), OEMs require tools that enable fast, low-cost, low-risk feature development throughout the product lifecycle.
Introducing Workflow Recipes: A Game-Changer
One innovative approach to achieving this agility is the deployment of lightweight workflow recipes. These recipes, instead of new code, carry out a series of actions and can be sent from the cloud to an agent within the vehicle. The agent autonomously orchestrates multiple parallel or sequential functions to achieve the desired results.
Each recipe contains instructions to string together a series of actions, allowing new vehicle behaviours to be implemented without changing any underlying code. Remarkably, these recipes are mere kilobytes in size, placing minimal demands on bandwidth and computing resources. They can be created quickly through an intuitive user interface, empowering various stakeholders, from product planners to fleet managers, to innovate.
Moreover, these recipes can incorporate or be triggered by parameters from both inside and outside the vehicle, including time, location, weather data, sensor readings, and API calls from other applications. They can be deployed exclusively to vehicles with specific characteristics and activated when specific conditions are met. Remote analytics tools can monitor the execution of recipes in individual vehicles or entire fleets.
Recipe Use Cases
Workflow recipes offer a more efficient, less expensive approach to software-defined mobility, significantly expanding the range of static features and functions that can be made dynamic. They have major implications for various use cases, including:
- Prototyping and Testing: OEMs can quickly try out potential features and refine them through rapid iteration and A/B testing before committing them to code.
- Feature Updates During Production: OEMs can apply quick fixes based on customer feedback to vehicles under production before integrating a permanent solution into the code.
- Rapid Upgrades: Workflow recipes allow OEMs to add new capabilities to vehicles within minutes after sale, enabling them to match competitors’ offerings before developing and rolling out final OTA updates.
- Field Diagnostics: OEMs can use recipes to activate automated self-tests in vehicles after sale, detecting issues that require urgent attention, potentially saving billions in recall costs.
- Fleet Management: Fleet owners can carry out large-scale actions or individual actions, helping them manage their fleets more efficiently and cost-effectively.
- Connected-Car Services: Recipes empower vehicle owners to configure workflows, such as smart-home settings or specific conditions for different drivers, enhancing the user experience.
In summary, workflow recipes are transforming the automotive industry by providing a faster, more flexible approach to feature development and updates. This innovation is poised to meet evolving customer needs, making the industry more agile and responsive. Sonatus, a key player in this field, has recently introduced a platform for configuring and deploying these workflow recipes, promising a brighter, more adaptable future for the automotive industry.