Adaptive vehicle software architecture will correct malfunctions

October 07, 2013 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
In modern cars, software controls many functions - including safety-critical ones. For drivers (and for the industry, too) it would be a horror vision if a software bug would trigger a potentially fatal accident. Researchers now are developing a software architecture that compensates for such malfunctions.

Increasingly mechanical components in vehicles are replaced and displaced by electronic controls. The deployment of these x-by-wire systems does not stop short of safety-critical functions. A standard approach is to safeguard such functions by redundancies, at the expense of costs and energy consumption. For this reason, Fraunhofer Institute for Embedded Systems (Munich) has joined with a group of companies including Delphi Germany, Duracar, Fico Mirrors, Tecnalia, Pinifarina, Siemens and TTTech and launched the SafeAdapt research project that aims at developing an adaptive software architecture for vehicles which avoids these shortfalls. This adaptive system is based on the standardized automotive software environment Autosar and supports safeguard processes according to ISO 26262. To enable developers to immediately utilize this architecture, the consortium develops the corresponding design methodology. This includes the early definition of an abstraction which eases and streamlines the vehicle design process.

The approach to create the necessary safety measures in software instead of hardware redundancies enables designers to omit additional control units in the vehicles and thus reduce complexity, cost and not least weight. The concept supports the reuse of ISO-compliant software components which in turn enables designers to reuse specific software components in different vehicle types.

Adaptivity is a paradigm that reduces the vehicle's susceptibility to software errors during operation. Currently, designers have to anticipate all possible driving situations and turn them into software code. This high effort and complexity is limiting the flexibility to add new software functions or replace old functions by new ones. With SafeAdapt, developers only define the degree of adaptivity instead of describing each single potential scenario. It facilitates reducing hardware redundancies since it eliminates the need to have a second, redundant control unit in standby mode. Instead, any other ECU which is not busy at the moment can execute the respective software function.

The partners will implement a vehicles prototype as a proof that the concept does not only work in theory. The