MOTOR Magazine

A MOTOR Magazine Newsletter
June 22, 2017

Contributed by Bob Chabot
Data Drives the BUS

Burgeoning data management demands require an overhaul of electrical architectures

"With the fixation on automated cars, advanced propulsion systems and renewable energy, we almost missed it," shared Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer and executive vice president. Missed what, you ask? "The key to the future of the automobile: Data, or more accurately, the ability to move and share data at very high speeds within and between vehicles and their environment." Here's what's coming.

Enabling advanced safety, telematics, connectivity and self-driving technology requires a vehicle architecture overhaul. (Video — Delphi Automotive)

The Amount of Information Generated by Vehicles is Exploding
Market researcher IHS Automotive forecasts 152 million connected cars will be on the road by 2020, which will grow significantly to 2 billion connected vehicles by 2025. "The average car today has more than 50 electronic control units and uses in excess of 100 million lines of software code to function," Owens explained. "Delphi itself ships more than 20 billion lines of code daily. Yet as complex as that sounds, in some ways the 'nervous system' of today's car is antiquated."

In addition to the volume of data generated by vehicles themselves, he noted drivers and passengers also use and create massive amounts of data as well. In February 2017, for example, General Motors released a report that demonstrated this: Vehicle owners used more than 4.2 million gigabytes of data in 2016 alone, an increase of more than 200 percent over the previous year. That's the equivalent of more than 17.5 million hours of video.

Today's vehicles do more than transport. The automotive competitive landscape is now all about features and functionality. Vehicles have to connect, entertain, inform, protect and more. This challenges automakers to incorporate in-demand features without adding substantially to a vehicle's mass or cost. This is driving the development of entirely new electronic/electrical architectures. (Image — Delphi Automotive)

Rethinking the Vehicle as a Network
"We stopped thinking about architecture as a wiring harness made of copper and plastic, but rather as a nervous system that moves massive amounts of data around your car at incredible speeds — safely, seamlessly and securely," explained Glen De Vos, Delphi's chief technology officer. "With all the talk about automated driving and advanced safety systems, infotainment systems and in-car WiFi, people don't think about what it takes to make all of that happen. It’s the car's nervous system."

And that nervous system is about to get a lot more complex, De Vos claims, as automated driving, advanced safety systems, infotainment systems, in-car WiFi and more data-driven technologies proliferate automobiles. By the year 2020, new vehicles will need as many as 350 more connectors — a 25 percent increase over those built in 2016. Even more astounding is these same cars will need a 67 percent increase in cabling — nearly 5,000 meters.

"What will these systems enable?" he asked. "Everything in that car, including exchanging 100,000 data messages per second. Think about that for a second: Your vehicle has to deliver every message, every piece of data and every signal flawlessly under all conditions. That's the new age automotive grade."

Enabling advanced safety, telematics, connectivity and self-driving technology requires a transition to high-speed electrical communication architectures. (Image — Delphi Automotive)

Timely Data Management is Essential to Automobiles
"We are reaching a limit to what the vehicle can do, so the auto industry must find a new way to move more data and information much, much more quickly," Owens emphasized. "For Delphi, the answer lies in a new vehicle architecture, based on multi-domain controllers, or 'uber brains,' that manage a number of functions and data at once."

Increased active safety and connectivity content in the car will cause the number of computers on the average car to swell from 50 to 70 or more electronic control units within the next five years, according to Owens. The introduction of multi-domain controllers — a powerful control center that brings multiple electronic sub-systems together — could help lessen that burden by increasing computing power in smaller and fewer, but more powerful controllers.

"We are creating a vehicle architecture that will have enough processing power and flexibility to add features in the future that don’t exist today and add those features to older model cars," continued Owens. "These multi-domain controllers, can process massive amounts of data and manage several functions simultaneously, unlike current domains that can only control one function at a time. Although the number of modules in the car will continue to grow as the demand for content in the car increases, uber brains will allow vehicles to manage it with fewer controllers."

Automated vehicle technologies are on the rise, but how do engineers keep electronics from becoming too complex and costly? In this episode of SAE Eye on Engineering, Senior Editor Lindsay Brooke looks at Delphi's new Multi-Domain Controller. (Video — Society of Automotive Engineering)

Ethernet, Connectors and Data Lines Will Anchor Data Transfer
Emerging vehicles' required exchange of high-volume and high-speed data is driving fundamental shifts in vehicle architecture for the first time in years. Inside vehicles today, most information is being moved at less than one megabit per second, depending on the function, using a common language that was created in the 1980s. Going forward, the speed will need to increase by 1,000 times and decisions will need to be made by a well-connected system of controllers.

"If you think of automotive systems in terms of traffic flow, the architecture of our cars today is beginning to look like a Shanghai traffic jam," Owens said. "It's rush hour and no one is moving. With all the benefits coming down the pike — from active safety, more efficient engines and controls and more connectivity — we are going to need the equivalent of a new super highway where vehicles can move at 200 miles per hour and not worry about traffic."

He noted the information being sent throughout the car — like braking, acceleration, temperature, pressure, voltage, steering angle — is critical, for one hiccup could lead to a serious problem. Data lines and connectors will act as the Super Highway to handle the transfer of data at lightning speed. Ethernet will dominate the backbone of new electrical architectures because of its bandwidth capability, common language and protocols — the ability to control passing information and avoid simultaneous transmission by two or more systems.

If electrical architecture is the nervous system, then electronics are the brain. Both are essential to moving and processing data. The key is to design the optimal configuration that ensures the highest performance with the greatest reliability. (Image — Delphi Automotive)

Vehicle Data is Becoming a New Currency
"There is enough powerful data being created by vehicles that a new car economy is emerging," explained De Vos. "The amount of data produced by cars will only exponentially increase with the addition of input from more sensors – all the sensors needed for safe autonomous cars – such as cameras, radar and LiDAR. There is so much valuable data being created by vehicles, that there is a flat-out race to figure out how to manage, harvest, package and broker it."

He then cited three new technologies Delphi is using to make this happen:

  • Control-Tec — In fact, new vehicles actually produce too much data to move from the car into the cloud, so there is a need to aggregate and curate the data and send only what is important. Delphi’s Control-Tec technology captures and filters and sends only what's important to the cloud. In addition, that technology also pinpoints any issues before or after vehicles leave a facility.
  • Movimento — There is also data that needs to travel the other direction — from the cloud to the car. Just like your computer at home or work, whenever a vehicle software security fix, electronic controller reflash, or operating system/applications upgrade needs to be installed, Delphi’s Movimento technology delivers over-the-air (OTA) updates to vehicles quickly, easily and painlessly.
  • otonomo — People enjoy their smart phones because apps can be used to personalize and customize them with favorite music, books, people, fitness trackers, kid trackers, etc. With the help of otonomo, vehicles are about to get a whole lot more personal too. otonomo has created a cloud-based data marketplace for connected cars.

"The technologies from these three recent Delphi acquisitions are helping to create a revenue stream for automakers by brokering data to service providers — such as retailers, insurance and smart cities," De Vos shared. "It enables a platform for data created by vehicles to be interpreted and then made into tailored options and monetized offerings for consumers — only what they want, when they want them."

Moving data on, around and off of vehicles is fast becoming as important as moving the vehicle itself. (Video — Delphi Automotive)

A Watershed Challenge
"The future of driving, especially automated driving, hinges on whether the auto industry can find a new way to move information much, much more quickly," Owens advised. "It's easy to talk about an upgrade, but it's not easy to accomplish if there isn't any room for it."

So expect vehicle electrical architectures of the future to have enough bandwidth to allow automakers to imagine features years before consumer offerings. Also, they will be able to replace and upgrade systems with over-the-air upgrades.

In addition, Owens said Delphi anticipates a transition toward open architectures that enable automakers to choose unique, tailored-made functionalities that can be integrated during vehicle development or well after a vehicle is sold as scalable and flexible systems solutions.

[Editor's note: Visit for the latest diagnostic and service insights.]

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