Steps OEMs Can Take to Distinguish Themselves in 2022

Hypervisor environments, coupled with modest investments in hardware, together can create the best opportunity for automotive OEMs to differentiate platforms while harnessing the massive ecosystems around open source.

Ian Ferguson

March 9, 2022

4 Min Read
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Tesla boasts advances in both automotive software and hardware.

In the past five to 10 years, the automotive industry has made great strides technologically. This is represented by companies such as Tesla that have a clear lead in innovation in the space by creating their own silicon chips to differentiate in the hardware area.

There’s no doubt more players will enter the space in the next few years and create more competition. The electronics are what sells a vehicle today, so to be competitive and successful, OEMs would do well to fully own this area.

But with more competition entering the space, how can these manufacturers differentiate themselves? The relationship between hardware and software plays an important part in this answer.

Exploring Two Automotive Operating Systems

Before we dive deeper into how automotive OEMs can differentiate themselves through software and hardware, let’s first look at the different automotive operating systems and what requirements they should meet in terms of scalability, security, compatibility, etc.

There are operating systems on platforms that directly engage with consumers and operating systems that keep those humans safe and secure, known as embedded operating systems. Embedded operating systems themselves can be further classified as carrying the mission-critical functionality of the car – meaning that the system must always work in a deterministic way to keep drivers safe and secure no matter what else is happening in the vehicle. Even if the operating systems aren’t mission-critical, most should only be accessible to the vehicle manufacturer.

For example, the users shouldn’t have access to the operating systems that enable the electric windows or air conditioning to work correctly, as having access to these elements of a car would raise concerns about safety and security. The needs of each of these systems are so unique, it is unlikely there will ever be a comprehensive solution suited to the security requirements of both.

Taking Ownership of Automotive Electronics

The question we should ask is whether the operating system itself is the right area of focus. The automotive OEM must own and monetize the services that need access to embedded platforms. Those systems cannot let consumer-facing platforms access critical automotive software. They must act as the “police” to ensure that critical systems remain uncompromised and fully functional. OEMs should be focused on creating a secure environment for the embedded platforms for services that need to access vital car functionality.

On the hardware front, a number of changes are under way in the automotive world. This includes a focus by manufacturers on bringing down the cost, power and footprint of electronics that will shift the car to adopt fewer, high-performance processing systems. These processing systems will be “mixed criticality,” meaning they will be running consumer-facing and embedded workloads. This becomes the absolute control point where car OEMs should be focused.

Overcoming Challenges of Developing Automotive Operating Systems

Automotive OEMS also should be aware of certain challenges in the development of automotive operating systems. There are three main challenges to discuss: support of mixed criticality systems; ensuring strengthened security architecture; and managing the complex supply chain.

Recently, there’s been a push toward consolidated hardware that is being used for both consumer-facing and embedded applications, requiring a shift to hypervisors that can support mixed criticality systems. This means software must be reliable and proven to separate applications, data and system resources from each other while ensuring the real-time performance demanded by embedded applications.

This is a big obstacle given the distinctive and comprehensive requirements of each set of applications and system resources and will take time to come to fruition.

The second challenge involves security architecture. We’ve seen the great benefits of highly connected systems with data that can improve consumer experiences, make systems safer and improve efficiency.

But this benefit comes with cybersecurity risks as well. A system’s architecture needs to offer proper protection from internal and external threats. A response plan and business continuity plan need to be in place in the event of a disruption. It’s critical that these systems know when they’ve been compromised and should be able to continue functioning.

Lastly, a diverse set of chip processor architectures are being explored, which makes managing the supply chain complex. How can OEMs adopt the new emerging technology in a way that enables automotive applications to track closer to the edge, but also reduce exposure to changes in supply?

Ian Ferguson Headshot (002).jpg

Ian Ferguson Headshot (002)

One path is to create your own silicon chips. A number of automotive OEMs are pursuing this path and I expect a number of announcements this year, similar to Tesla’s announcement in 2019.

A Bright Future for Automotive OEMs in 2022

Automotive OEMs have a potentially strong play as we look ahead to 2022 and beyond. These companies have a direct relationship with the customer and own the creation of the mission-critical electronics. Hypervisor environments, coupled with modest investments in hardware, together can create the best opportunity to differentiate platforms while harnessing the massive ecosystems around open source.

Ian Ferguson (pictured, above left) is vice president-sales and marketing at Lynx Software Technologies.

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