Step by step the vehicle is becoming part of the Internet of Everything, interfacing with an ever expanding spectrum of vehicle manufacturer and commercial services while continuously increasing owner value with every passing year. As a consequence the software in modern vehicles has grown to millions of lines of ever-evolving code. Keeping this highly complex system of software, mechatronics and electronics up-to-date or even installing new software functions post sale has up to now involved a trip to the auto repair shop in most cases.

The international technology company Continental has helped vehicle manufacturers solve this problem with over-the-air updates for more than ten years and is today shipping various products capable of being updated over-the-air to different vehicle manufacturers. Now Continental is expanding its portfolio to enable updates of electronic control units across the entire vehicle from powertrain to infotainment systems. Together with the mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat, Continental is demonstrating its capabilities at the International Consumer Electronics Show (January 5th-8th, Las Vegas Nevada).

“Until recently the number of electronic control units in the vehicle connected directly or indirectly to the cloud has been extremely limited and the demand for updates was low. But uploading new functions, greater system complexity as well as the high need for security and safety has created a strong need for over-the-air updates.” says Helmut Matschi, member of the Executive Board at Continental and head of the Interior Division. “Continental and Inmarsat are now setting out to enable over-the-air updates around the globe for the entire vehicle electronics over Inmarsat’s satellite network at the simple push of a button.”

Reliable, efficient and cost effective – Solving the connectivity challenge

Together with Inmarsat, the industry leader in global, mobile satellite communications, Continental will be able to deliver over-the-air updates across the globe through a single network. The growing number of connected vehicles worldwide are driving an increased frequency of updates that demand a scalable, global solution. Inmarsat operates multiple geostationary satellite constellations that provide a two-way data connection combined with a global broadcast capability to enable rapid, responsive and efficient over-the-air updates to vehicles everywhere. This will allow Continental’s customers to deploy worldwide update campaigns at the push of a button, bypassing the complexity of dealing with multiple mobile network operators. The cooperation between the companies will also enable vehicles to leverage intelligent routing over satellite and terrestrial wireless (mobile, WiFi) networks to achieve the best quality of service, least cost, and highest availability.

“Satellite broadcast services will be a key enabler of the connected car, offering the most efficient and secure means to deliver common content to millions of vehicles; from software and cybersecurity updates to precise positioning data,” says Greg Ewert, President, Connected Car Program, Inmarsat. “Combined with a two-way data network to acknowledge receipt and installation of updates, Inmarsat’s global network brings an unparalleled capability to this important market.”

Intelligent antenna modules, telematics control units and gateways: completing the over-the-air portfolio

Thanks to a new gateway, state-of-the art telematics control units and an enhanced intelligent antenna module, Continental is taking significant steps toward the industry goal of full vehicle updates.

The connection to the outside world is provided by a so called network access device developed by Continental. This can either be integrated into the intelligent antenna module or used as a standalone telematics unit. With this, the company has created the optimal infrastructure to make the most of the opportunities already offered by the Internet of Everything. As intermediaries between the various network domains in a vehicle, gateways are currently seeing strong market growth among numerous automotive manufacturers all over the world.

The communication routers are centrally connected to all vehicle communication buses and have access to all relevant information. In this way, they provide the infrastructure required for over-the-air updates and, depending on the configuration requirements of the automotive manufacturer, can also temporarily store software downloaded from the cloud in enhanced internal memory and distribute it to relevant electronic control units. To minimize the risk from harmful software, Continental’s new gateway is equipped with various protection measures that represent a fundamental element in detecting hacker attacks and initiating countermeasures. “Security is a top priority for our developers. Therefore, our experts are developing hardware, software, and cloud-based approaches that can both detect and combat cyber-attacks,” explains Matschi.

Custom configuration

Continental also offers its customers other configuration and architecture solutions. This means that many functions of the intelligent antenna module can also be performed by a separate telematics unit, which can act as a backend interface and temporary storage area for vehicle electronics software updates at the same time. The gateway itself can be transformed from a pure information router to a central networking interface if the networking unit is directly integrated into the gateway. “Depending on the aspects required by the architecture of our customers, our gateway, telematics unit, and intelligent antenna module offer flexible and secure solutions, ensuring that every vehicle can become part of the Internet,” says Matschi

Continental develops intelligent technologies for transporting people and their goods. As a reliable partner, the international automotive supplier, tire manufacturer, and industrial partner provides sustainable, safe, comfortable, individual, and affordable solutions. In 2015, the corporation generated sales of €39.2 billion with its five divisions: Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tires, and ContiTech. Continental currently employs approximately 215,000 people in 55 countries.

In the Interior division, everything revolves around information management and beyond. The range of products for various vehicle categories includes instruments, multifunction displays, head-up displays, control devices, access and tire information systems, radios, infotainment and operating systems, climate control units, software, cockpits, telematics solutions and services, and intelligent transport systems. The Interior division employs more than 40,000 people worldwide and generated sales of €8.2 billion in 2015.

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