Ever since Tesla showed the way to improve features of an entire vehicle via over-the-air software updates, traditional car OEMs started claiming that they, too, are ramping up software development efforts to design “software-defined vehicles.”
However, as The Essex once sang, “it’s easier said than done.”
While software-centric vehicles make a good talking point for automakers’ shareholders, the idea of actually building and maintaining a huge in-house software team is more pipe dream than in-the-pipeline — especially for automakers whose forte is not exactly in writing tens of millions of lines of code.
Apparently, Elektrobit (Erlangen, Germany), a leading embedded software supplier for the automotive industry, saw this coming.
The company unveiled Wednesday “an industry first software platform” called EB xelor.
The software platform is designed for car OEMs and tier ones to accelerate development of next-generation automotive architecture. EB xelor consists of production-proven software from Elektrobit, in addition to open-source and third-party software. EB xelor is a collection of foundational software — mostly non-differentiating — that OEMs and tier ones can simply pick up and turn on, instead of chewing up time and engineering resources to reinvent someone else’s wheel. EB xelor, thus, frees up OEMs’ time, allowing them to focus more on developing their own differentiating software.
Elektrobit stressed that EB xelor’s software components are “secure, stable and easily upgradable.”
In an interview with EE Times, Artur Seidel, vice president for the Americas at Elektrobit, estimated the non-differentiating software components amounts to roughly 60 percent of the software inside a vehicle.
He also explained, “These foundational software pieces [made available on EB xelor] have been independently developed, integrated and maintained…[but] we are making sure they all work together, and we will maintain them for the next 10 to 15 years.”
Egil Juliussen, a veteran automotive analyst, told EE Times that EB xelor reminds him of how chip designers build a complex SoC by leveraging reusable IP blocks. “Elektrobit is offering ‘software of SoC.”
EB xelor: Under the hood
EB xelor essentially is an integrated software package consisting of EB products, third-party software and open-source components. Included in the EB xelor platform are:
- a high-performance functional safety software stack based on Linux and Adaptive AUTOSAR
- a real-time and safety software stack based on Classic AUTOSAR
- EB tresos — a hypervisor
- software for high-performance automotive SoC updates
Two automotive SoCs the EB xelor platform currently targets are chips from NXP and Renesas. Elektrobit offers system-level validation on these SoCs. Car makers can then add vehicle-specific software to these stacks, Elektrobit explained.
The EB xelor software platform also includes “health management capabilities, along with tools and services to automate builds and facilitate integration,” according to Elektrobit.
The EB xelor block diagram shows that in addition to the Linux Quality Manual that runs non-safety critical applications, it’s offering something called Linux (Safe). Asked to explain Linux (safe), Elektrobit’s Seidel said it will be open-source Linux tailored to such safety standards as IEC 61508 and ISO 26262. Elektrobit is working with SUSE in hopes of making Linux (safe) available globally for OEMs in 2021.
Elektrobit – VW
Elektrobit understands that any car OEMs could use a foundational platform like EB xelor. This is because when carmakers move away from legacy vehicles to an advanced vehicle platform based on consolidated, central high-performance controllers, they must write not only oodles of new code, but also integrate lots of open-source oodles. The collaborators in any such software project are a car OEM, a tier one and a lot of third-party software developers.
Elektrobit saw an example when it worked with VW whose ID.3 was its first full electric vehicle with several high-performance ECUs. Elektrobit’s Seidel acknowledged that his company worked with VW on developing software for highly consolidated ECUs that range from body controller/gateway and infotainment to the on-board communication unit and transceiver module.
Elektrobit is licensing EB xelor within the automotive industry. The subscription fee ensures “long-term security.”
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