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Thursday, September 17, 2020

CEO Insider

You Can’t Leave Reliability On ‘Cruise Control’: 2021 will Bring Advances in the Automotive Tech Industry

There’s little doubt that advanced processors will drive tomorrow’s cars, SUVs, and trucks. They’ll be expected to interpret their surroundings and safely take control of steering, braking, and other functions.

There is also no question that the automotive industry is growing increasingly dependent on software tools. The average new vehicle already requires over 100 million lines of code to come off the production line, more of a software platform than a traditional car product.

Turning to an Open Standards-Based Software Environment

Adopting industry-wide standards allows auto manufacturers to take advantage of the latest algorithms and techniques to test, improve, and evolve systems without wasting valuable time and resources. It’s no wonder autonomous car manufacturers now insist on open standards in their requests for vendor proposals. While proprietary formats are perceived to offer the fastest way to develop the latest solutions, these allow rapid demonstrations but need to be re-written to achieve production quality, ultimately wasting development resources and losing any competitive advantage gained.

To move forward with reliability, developers can no longer cruise along with yesterday’s systems. Today’s increasingly complex automotive systems require the highest reliability to meet safety-critical environments. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), such as self-parking, collision avoidance, and highway self-drive features, extensively use complex vision processing and call for reliable hosting of applications on wide-ranging heterogeneous SoC products. Functional safety and high-quality processes from all contributors need to be aligned, from the processor IP, the semiconductor companies to the Tier1 integrators.

Open-standards based programming can facilitate the development of ADAS systems today and progress to fully autonomous systems tomorrow. Today’s car companies often rewrite their entire ADAS/AD software for each new generation of cars. Instead, car companies should write ADAS software today to continuously develop and create the fully autonomous vehicles of tomorrow.

Such efforts support the prototyping and evaluation of today’s needs, testing new algorithms and vision devices. But also, the integration and qualification can be a combined effort when everyone is aligned on industry standards. Then the route to fully autonomous vehicles will be quicker and more reliable. The goal is to provide complete development control tools and software libraries that can be developed and improved over many years as technology advances. Source code licensing, validation suites, and the right tool kit will dovetail with a rapidly expanding ecosystem, one that provides automotive clients with a repertoire of customized options across hardware platforms and software applications.

Fast and Easy Updates for Years to Come

All cars will need updates throughout the lifetime of the vehicle, this is already being specified by governments and will become a legal requirement. OTA updates are already extensively adopted in consumer products and will be the only way to maintain a car in the future. Open standards-based software will benefit the hockey-stick ramp up in car firmware updates. GM, Ford, VW, and many others plan to constantly maintain and advance their vehicle systems using OTA, far beyond the infotainment systems updates seen today. Tesla can currently update a vehicle’s powertrain and infotainment system wirelessly. It won’t be long before all new vehicles can be enhanced and maintained with recall fixes to critical safety and functional updates.

Taking MISRA and AUTOSAR into the Fast Lane

MISRA and AUTOSAR provide frameworks that have been tasked to develop ‘safe’ automotive software. Developing safe and secure systems in C++ remains a challenge, but there are overwhelming benefits to using it in automotive. Areas of ambiguity, interpretation, and memory handling call for considerable skill and experience. One must choose the right coding standards, tools, and programming techniques. Codeplay is involved in C++ to enable developers to write AI software in C++ and SYCL for systems where safety is a requirement.

As part of the open-standards philosophy, firms like Codeplay are working within Khronos, AUTOSAR, and MISRA groups. This includes bringing high-performance acceleration technologies to MISRA and Adaptive AUTOSAR. Those high-performance technologies require C++ as a minimum, but also require extra features, such as SYCL. to support the definition of functionally safe C++ with coding rules. MISRA is relatively old and needs modernizing to provide support for standardizing modern C++ methods. AUTOSAR is a substantial organization covering many areas of automotive so it will take more time to achieve standardization. To keep the core standards going forward, Codeplay also chairs the SYCL standard and the Khronos Safety Critical Advisory Panel (KSCAP).

Keeping an Eye on Code Quality 

To ensure that every line of code is safe, secure, and reliable, many developers turn to automated tools, such as static code analyzers and fault injection to verify code safeness. This ensures that robustness, excess complexity, coding deviations or hard-to-spot dataflow bugs can be detected early

These automated tools need to be updated to support AI and the latest vision processing techniques. By using an open standards approach, all the different tools-vendors can work together to provide a complete set of development and verification tools and integrate them. Without these standards, it becomes very difficult, bespoke, costly, and dangerous for different tools and suppliers to work together to validate and guarantee a safe application.

Safety-Critical Versions of Emerging APIs

There is a growing need for safety-critical versions of established or emerging APIs. The challenge in ensuring safety is how to unite the latest software needs with non-safety critical APIs, and create discrete systems capable of making fast, reliable decisions. Present systems fall short for all these goals. To ensure the safety of autonomous vehicles for the future, the automotive industry must insist on software that embraces safer versions of the latest compute open standards.

To manage the growing complexity of today’s vehicle systems, open standards-based architectures like help standardize and future-proof software systems for automotive. These architectures enhance collaboration among software teams, ensure compliance, longevity, improving time-to-market, and most importantly a strategy for continuous development. Coding standards and guidelines are also needed to ensure that software components are safe, reliable, secure, and easy to maintain. There has never been a more urgent need to provide continuous development in automotive software.


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Charles Macfarlane
Charles Macfarlane is the VP Marketing for Codeplay Software. Codeplay Software is a world pioneer in acceleration technologies for AI, having developed some of the first tools to enable complex software, such as AI, to be accelerated using graphics processors. Today, most AI software, including for cars, is developed using graphics processors designed for video games. Charles Macfarlane is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.