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Wireless Comunications up the updated vehicle and the dealer charges the OEM for the recall labour. The update duration changes significantly depending on the module size and the speed of the serial protocol; however due to a lot of overhead, dealers are charging from one to two hours of labour for this service. There are some car models where the update can take more than two hours. It should be noted that programming tools are rather expensive, so there is a limit to the number of simultaneous re-programming. Cable connection disadvantages There are limitations and constraints with current software distribution and software update processes. Any update is distributed to all dealers. This takes time and resources. It may also cause delays in getting the latest software to the vehicles. In addition, all dealers need to maintain a software version library, which consumes resources. The download process and the manual setup take a long time, resulting in higher labour cost, inconvenience, and customer dissatisfaction. Due to this long duration, the consumer needs to drop off the vehicle and return later to pick it up. What’s more, the process cannot be scaled or performed in parallel, as it involves a physical connection. Some existing re-flashing methods require sequential updates, meaning from version 1 to 2 to 3, which can make the entire update process longer. Sometimes (for off-highway vehicles), the re-flashing equipment needs to be mobilized to the vehicle. It may take a long time from when the customer is notified to the time the vehicle is actually updated. Many customers do not respond to recall notices. For older vehicles, the OEM may not have the latest vehicle owner information, meaning some vehicles never receive needed updates. Conducting a successful recall depends on the customer cooperation. Because the reprogramming of the ECU is performed manually, Fig. 1: The new ECU update process (FOTA versus cabled connection) the customer becomes aware of the problem and overall customer satisfaction decreases. Benefits of a cable-based reprogramming approach Of course, there are also some advantages to the current reprogramming (cable-based) method. While FOTA is gaining wide acceptance for new automotive platforms, it will take few years until it is a widely adopted solution in the automotive industry. Connecting the car physically to the reprogramming equipment means it is reprogramed in a controlled environment. Because the vehicle immobilized under close supervision from a technician, any problem that occurs has more chances to be detected immediately. Vehicle wired serial communication protocols and algorithms for reprogramming are proprietary and closed source by nature. As such, protocols provide an added layer of security against unauthorized software changes. Last but not least, this methodology is proven and has worked in the past. Firmware Over-The-Air (FOTA) updates The current method of updating software in cars was suitable when the amount of software was minimal. Now that software has become vital to the operation and feature-set of cars, the software updating process must be improved. It is clear that performing the update where the customer is instead of having to bring the car to the dealer represents a better and more optimized method in term of cost savings and user experience. However, it can introduce some potential procedure challenges such as how to make sure that the car will not be driven in the middle of the update. Therefore, FOTA adoption in the automotive industry will take more time to become fully operational. The FOTA update process comprises three primary stages: generating the update, managing the delivery of the update, and performing the update. Generating the update package To perform a FOTA update, a software update package containing defect fixes or new features must be generated. In order to make this package as small as possible (in general it is less than 5% of the original software size), the update package includes only the changes (also referred to as the “delta”) between the version that already exists on the ECU and the new version being deployed to the vehicle. This update package is typically generated by the owner of the software, most often a tier 1 vendor. Update package delivery Once generated, the update package is published to a distribution platform. In the mobile industry, this platform is managed by either the mobile phone manufacturer or the network operator. In the automotive sector, this platform is managed by the OEM. This platform manages the various versions of the update packages and handles the actual network delivery (download) of the packages to the appropriate vehicle model and specific ECU. There are typically multiple versions of update packages, each intended for particular vehicle models and configurations. This portion of the process can be an integral part of an overall 32 Electronic Engineering Times Europe October 2013 www.electronics-eetimes.com


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