How the automotive industry can prepare for the transition to Cloud-first SDVs

How the automotive industry can prepare for the transition to Cloud-first SDVs

The automotive industry is moving towards developing software-defined vehicles (SDVs). These sophisticated, connected vehicles will completely redefine the driving experience, providing digital experiences that drivers already expect on smaller connected devices. 

It will be commonplace for SDV drivers to enjoy enhanced functionality and software updates, delivered over the air (OTA). It will mean that vehicles can be ‘future-proofed’. Instead of having vehicles with a fixed set of features that become instantly out-of-date as soon as they leave the showroom forecourt, they can be improved and enhanced throughout their lifecycle. 

This digital evolution gives OEMs the opportunity to generate customer revenue beyond the sale of the vehicle by offering additional services. Fancy a new infotainment package? You got it. Want new suspension capabilities? You can have that too; just buy and install this plug-in. 

At the core of the connected SDV offering is cloud computing. This is not just for delivering experiences and enhancements, however. It is fundamental at the design stage.


SDVs will redefine the way vehicles are designed

Software for the modern vehicle involves millions of lines of code. This code needs to be developed, stored and processed. The Cloud is a perfect environment here. It is scalable and cloud-native tools and techniques make this approach extremely cost-effective. 

The Cloud also empowers manufacturers to test new ideas easily and frequently, helping them hone the offering and bring new features to market faster. And, if there is ever a software problem, it can be resolved with a simple OTA update rather than a costly recall. 

With a cloud-first SDV design process, OEMs can cut development time, improve the quality of their products and prevent younger innovative manufacturers, such as Telsa, Lucid, Rivian and Nio, from stealing a march. 

How can vehicle makers move to a cloud-first environment? 

The movement to cloud-first SDV design, however, requires OEMs to migrate from a closed development model, that has been based on providing a fixed set of features for a vehicle’s lifecycle, to one that enables continuous change. 

This transition will involve significant upheaval for traditional vehicle makers. They will need to make the move while still developing and maintaining their legacy products.


Before this is possible three key steps will need to be taken. These are:

1)       Industry commitment to a centralised architecture: Currently, vehicle computing is fragmented. There are typically more than 100 electronic control units (ECUs) in a modern vehicle, managing everything from windscreen wiper controls to heads-up displays. To enable a cloud-based approach with OTA updates and a containerised approach to deployment, a simplified, centralised architectural approach is key. The good news is we are already seeing organisations, such as the SDV Alliance, working to develop this standard industry framework. 

2)       Investment committed to parallel systems: The transition to cloud-first SDV development will take several years. We will not be able to move to a centralised system immediately. It is likely we will first see OEMs move to a zonal architectural approach first. When doing this, it will be best to simultaneously develop a centralised architecture. While this will increase short-term costs, it will reduce disruption and costs over the long term. 

3)       Built-in redundancy and regulatory collaboration:  A centralised architecture will create a huge amount of complexity and remove the physical independence between ECUs. To enable this approach, the industry will need to ensure that vehicles remain both safe and secure for cyber hackers. This will likely require the deployment of redundancy measures, such as hypervisors that can split critical and non-critical systems. There will also need to be close collaborations with regulators to develop complex safety systems – just as we see in the aerospace and nuclear sectors. 

If you would like to learn more about the movement towards cloud-first SDV development and what the industry must do to ensure the transition enshrines the safety of the vehicle, please read Mobica’s latest whitepaper, Cloud-first SDV: Three steps towards a new automotive paradigm. We expand on the themes covered in this blog post and explore the steps needed to ensure industry-wide consensus.