Software-Defined Car

Software-Defined Car: Basics for cars of the future

Project with partners from science and industry to develop new methods and processes for the car of the future and its effective use of data

In some cases, more than 100 control units are installed in vehicles today. The high complexity of the electrical and electronic systems and their architecture continues to increase, but at the same time must remain manageable. In the "Software-Defined Car" (SofDCar) project, in which the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the University of Stuttgart, the Research Institute for Automotive Engineering and Vehicle Engines Stuttgart (FKSF), and the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, an innovation partner of KIT, are also involved, standardized rules and processes are now to be created so that the electronic components in the vehicle interact smoothly, can be updated at any time, and thus remain safe.

The goal of the "SofDCar" project is that in the future, all software updates and upgrades will follow rules and processes that make them controllable and subject to a consistent methodology for functional and IT security. This ensures that individual programs do not interfere with each other and that they work without errors in the system. This is the prerequisite for new functions in and around the vehicle to be developed more quickly in the future and to reach drivers safely.

"The large-scale SofDCar project is a prime example of how digitization in vehicle technology is being advanced - in close cooperation between companies from different industries and partners from the scientific community," says Theresia Bauer, Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Science. "With its focus on 'Software-defined Mobility', the InnovationCampus Mobility of the Future (ICM) at the University of Stuttgart and KIT offers the ideal cooperation environment for SofDCar, because excellent research, economic implementation, and academic qualification are closely intertwined here. It is precisely this close linkage that we are striving for in the state with the Strategy Dialogue Automotive Industry BW."

"We want to drive the transformation process towards environmentally friendly, networked and automated mobility with innovative ideas. The funding of SofDCar brings us a big step closer to this vision," said Professor Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs at KIT. "The Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future offers an excellent platform to conduct excellent, innovative, and interdisciplinary research."

"The approval of the BMWi project Software-defined Car is also a great success for the University of Stuttgart and KIT, since on the one hand the initiative of the joint consortium with the FKFS and FZI as well as, of course, the strong industrial partners came from the Innovation Campus Mobility of the Future, and on the other hand, with the thematic focus of the project, there is an almost ideal link to the new strategic field "Software-defined Mobility" of the ICM," emphasizes Professor Peter Middendorf, Vice Rector Knowledge and Technology Transfer of the University of Stuttgart.

A new digital twin for the vehicle architecture of the future

Part of the project is the development of an extended digital twin, i.e. a virtual image of the development and runtime data of a vehicle. In the future, this twin will encompass the data distributed in the vehicle and in the cloud - from the production of a vehicle to its scrapping. This means that it goes far beyond the image previously subsumed under the term digital twin, as it covers the entire lifecycle of a modern vehicle for the first time and also includes the domains cloud, apps, backend as well as development systems. The project aims to ensure that the information flow of vehicle data and software versions runs like a thread through all databases and servers. Software updates and new digital functions and services can thus be implemented more easily and, above all, more quickly at any time.

Safety and Reliability of Vehicle Software

In the "SofDCar" project, KIT scientists are looking at innovative development methods and quality assurance approaches for the automotive industry, especially with regard to IT security. "In addition to the close cooperation with the other research partners on IT reference architecture, our focus is on security and reliability," says Prof. Ralf Reussner from KASTEL - Institute for Information Security and Reliability at KIT. "For example, we are investigating how software functionalities can be easily, securely, and reliably updated after the purchase of a vehicle, taking into account a wide variety of customer-specific vehicle variants." KIT researchers also aim to improve information management and security checks, develop data analysis algorithms and privacy analysis, and provide identity and access management systems, update methods, and hedging strategies.

5G test track on the campus of the University of Stuttgart

On the part of the University of Stuttgart, under the leadership of Professor Michael Weyrich from the Institute of Automation Technology and Software Systems, eight working groups from three departments are contributing to the work on the software-defined automotive future. A major contribution is the construction of the hybrid demonstrator "Campus Vaihingen": Using a real-time 5G test track on the campus' ring road, test vehicles and other test setups from all partners can be tested on and off the road under realistic conditions. "At the University of Stuttgart, we will be working with our colleagues from Karlsruhe on an IT reference architecture for the vehicles of the future. This involves the use of software in the so-called edge backend, i.e. information nodes outside the vehicles in the future IT infrastructure," emphasises Weyrich. "Using the digital twin as well as the real-time 5G campus network, we can conceptualize the reference architectures for continuous and two-way data exchange for new functions in the vehicles of the future."

Autonomous driving test field Baden-Württemberg for evaluation

In addition to these aspects, scientists at the FZI Research Center for Information Technology, an innovation partner of KIT, deal with the validation, verification, and consistency maintenance of vehicle variants. Special attention is paid to the detection of limitations and weak points in the driving function, the evolution of both variants and individual functionalities, and the management of the resulting versions with the help of the digital twin. The identification and extraction of processes and other performance data should further enable quality-assured application processes across vehicle boundaries. The IT Security Competence Center at the FZI is also investigating applied issues relating to IT security, such as the security safeguarding of vehicle components using artificial intelligence methods and also with practical security tests on selected components.

"Together, we are also testing various aspects in the field of software-over-the-air, security and robustness enhancement in the Autonomous Driving Baden-Württemberg test field. Our test vehicles are also used in this context," adds Professor Zöllner, board member of FZI as well as professor at KIT. "Our goal is to continuously improve the safety of AI-based functionalities, also with the valuable evaluation opportunities provided by the test field."

Tests in the Stuttgart driving simulator

In the Software Defined Car project, the FKFS is developing technologies to optimize the customer benefits of connected cars: in the Stuttgart driving simulator, which is unique in Europe, the effects of online software updates on the driving experience are being investigated with test subjects from the population. Examples include new functions to improve the comfort and driving safety of partially and fully autonomous vehicles. "Intelligent functions in the cloud are being used to research the early detection and averting of impending defects in components in electric vehicles," says Professor Hans-Christian Reuss, board member of the FKFS and chair of automotive mechatronics at the University of Stuttgart. "This prevents the vehicle from 'stalling' in many cases, which has a positive effect on customer satisfaction."

Software-defined car: partners involved

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the project. In addition to consortium leader BOSCH BooleWorks GmbH, the project partners from industry include ETAS GmbH, Mercedes-Benz AG, P3 digital services GmbH, T-Systems International GmbH, Vector Informatik GmbH, ZF Friedrichshafen AG and, as an associated partner, the state agency e-mobil BW GmbH.