Scoping Out the Software-Defined Vehicle: The Benefits of OTA Updates & Open Source

February 23, 2024

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Scoping Out the Software-Defined Vehicle: The Benefits of OTA Updates & Open Source

Welcome to the fifth installment of Scoping Out the Software-Defined Vehicle, a series brought to you by the Eclipse Foundation to take an inside look at one of the top trends in the embedded space — software-defined vehicles. In this installment, we spoke with Masato Endo, group manager of Toyota Motor Corporation's open source program group, about building an open platform for use in SDVs.

We’re all decently familiar with the concept of over-the-air (OTA) updates — that’s generally how we get those software updates on our smartphones and other mobile devices that contain bug fixes and new features (among plenty of other functions) every handful of months. Smartphones have been something of a paragon for OTA updating technology, but over the years, it has spread into other spaces as well, like IoT. But how often do you think of OTA updates in congruence with your car?

From our previous installments, you’ll know this series is about the rising trend in tech spaces of software-defined vehicles. Having your car’s operations controlled in such large part by software, it basically turns the vehicle into a big smartphone on wheels — you may have heard this comparison made before. Running with that metaphor, you don’t take your phone into a storefront every time you need a software update, right? Likewise, with SDVs, you don’t take them into a dealership to update that software either. Vehicle manufacturers like Toyota have been using OTA technology for a while now to send updates to their vehicles’ software.

So, what does this have to do with the Eclipse Foundation’s Software-Defined Vehicle working group? Masato Endo, group manager of Toyota Motor Corporation's open source program group, spoke on how the use of OTA updates and open-source software in their vehicles contributes to efficient production of their products, especially in the wake of manufacturing hurdles that have been felt worldwide and across industries (think things like the semiconductor shortage, worsened during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic).

According to Endo, sustainable, efficient production and maintenance is a key consideration for his company. Automotive manufacturing timelines, especially when discussing the widescale implementation of advancing technologies, are not short. So utilizing OTA technology to send smaller updates to SDVs to keep them as current and modern as possible becomes a great solution. Essentially, utilizing OTA updates helps maintain a balance between consumer demand for rapid improvement and the slower cycle of automotive developments.

In previous installments of this series, our other guests have highlighted the importance of collaboration in advancing the automotive industry, be it through implementing and improving upon existing open-source software and hardware or working on developing new open-source offerings, like the hardware platform the Eclipse Foundation’s SDV working group is addressing. As a member of the working group, Toyota shares this belief as well, as evidenced by their use of open-source components like Automotive Grade Linux (AGL), among others, in their vehicles.

With this mind toward collaboration, it would indeed seem that the future of automotive relies on manufacturers and developers working together as a community to advance standardized, sustainable ways to keep the industry up to date with new, innovative technologies.

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