Audi rainmaker sketches new computing architecture for cars

June 15, 2016 // By CHRISTOPH HAMMERSCHMIDT
Carmakers and suppliers are mulling new computing architectures that help meeting the challenges of autonomous driving and digitization. At the Automobil Elektronik congress in Ludwigsburg, electronics masterminds from carmakers and tier one suppliers discussed the demand for number crunching power in future car generations.

With the millennials being almost coming of age, usage patterns of cars are currently undergoing massive changes. This has consequences for the hardware and software installed in the next generation of cars. In his keynote speech at the Automobil Elektronik congress, Audi’s top electronics developer Ricky Hudy, discussed the current situation of the industry. “Our customers expect that the car integrates seamlessly into their digital living environment,” Hudy said.

 

Obviously, there is a gap between this expectation and the reality in today’s cars. Future vehicles, Hudy explained, will load the user’s profile and preferences automatically, to provide just a small example. “We need to establish an end-to-end user experience for our cars”, he said. What this means: Virtual vehicle cockpits, complete connectivity for cars and their passengers, the possibility to enjoy the same digital lifestyle as at home or in the office. This will, of course, only be possible if the car is connected – increasingly not only with the infrastructure and service providers, but also with the cloud. And, the other precondition, that it is capable of driving autonomously. Plus, the car will become a platform for new services and functions – which will require a depart from the concept of fixed functions in a car as it is the case today.

 

This is not just a philosophical or marketing consideration. Hudy, whose job is to coordinate the electronics development for Audi, explained in detail how these considerations are affecting the hardware and software in the car. “It is now the time to make the step from from traditional microprocessor and microcontroller architectures towards a more centralized computing architecture with strong ties to the cloud”, Hudy explained his vision. Of course the connection to the cloud is not a purpose in itself. Instead it is driven by new ways to handle data and to establish new business models. Given the fast design cycles in consumer electronics and