In view of the explosive growth in the complexity of vehicle electronics with ADAS, infotainment, electrified powertrains, automated driving and always-on connectivity software, electronics and software developers have become convinced that zone or central computers should replace the previous countless ECUs distributed throughout the car. The task of the ECU hardware will then be performed by virtual machines implemented as software code and running on the zone or central computers. This results in profound changes to how software is being developed, deployed, and managed.
This, in turn means that cloud-native development, best known for driving reductions in cost, time and complexity across the cloud infrastructure industry, is more applicable to automotive development than ever before.
To ensure that the virtualisation of ECU functions does not simply shift complexity from the hardware to the software level, new development procedures are also required. Arm’s group has therefore developed a standardised framework, the “Scalable Open Architecture for Embedded Edge” (SOAFEE). It is intended to accelerate the development of vehicle software in two ways and reduce costs at the same time: Firstly, by using a standardised software architecture, and secondly, by introducing development methodologies that are already common in business IT. These include, above all, Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) and containerisation. Here, development is shifted to the cloud within a virtual environment; the apps developed in this way are then downloaded onto the vehicles. An orchestrator ensures that applications with mixed criticality can run in the target environment – for example, a non-critical infotainment application can run together with a highly critical ADAS application on the same platform without affecting the timing of the more critical application.
SOAFEE combines cloud-based and vehicle-based elements
At the start, SOAFEE includes not only the architecture definition itself but also a reference implementation that initially runs on a hardware platform provided by computer manufacturer and SOAFEE partner Adlink.
The platform, powered by Arm Neoverse-based Ampere Altra cores, will allow workload exploration and development on Arm-based silicon using the SOAFEE reference software stack for applications such as cockpit, ADAS, powertrain and autonomous driving. The development platform is comprised of a developer workstation plus a rugged in-vehicle product. General availability is expected in Q4 2021.
Initially, almost 20 technology partners are in the SOAFEE boat, including Volkswagen’s software company Cariad and Toyota’s Woven Planet, the automotive supplier Continental as well as Amazon’s cloud provider AWS and the software companies Green Hills, Red Hat and Suse – to name just a few. Riclef Schmidt-Clausen, Head of Intelligent Cockpit and Body at Cariad, comments “The software-defined car is coming much sooner than anticipated and the infrastructure needed for this is being developed right now, however the industry faces some macro challenges. These include enabling software portability across a wide range of hardware platforms and building the cloud-native software infrastructure to ensure seamless deployment of applications developed in the cloud to a heterogeneous edge platform. As the pioneers of this new evolution, Cariad and Arm are working closely together to solve key technical challenges and lay a strong foundation for the software-defined future.”
A Special Interest Group (SIG), which has already been founded, is to drive the development forward, and other partners are welcome to join, said Chet Babla, vice president of automotive at Arm’s Automotive and IoT Line of Business.
The SOAFEE reference implementation can be downloaded here.