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Exclusive Interview of Airbiquity VP Scott Frank.

Q1 – Will OTA software updates change the way vehicle maintenance is conducted?

A1 – Absolutely. New vehicles are increasingly reliant on software to make them function, and over-the-air (OTA) software update technology will allow automakers to more quickly and easily maintain vehicle software remotely versus relying on more time consuming and manual software update processes at local dealerships. With a projected 250 million connected vehicles on the road by 2020 (Gartner), and a greater percentage of connected vehicles enabled for OTA software updates going forward, the impact of OTA will be significant, providing a host of benefits for automakers, dealerships, and consumers.

 Q2 – How will these changes affect consumers?

A2 – OTA will improve the vehicle ownership experience by reducing the amount of consumer time and expense related to taking vehicles to dealerships for manual software updates. Consumers will also receive software updates more quickly, which is especially important for high-priority software recall and cybersecurity related issues. OTA will allow consumers to easily access and enjoy software-related vehicle performance and feature enhancements as they become available by using their smartphones or vehicle consoles versus having to wait for a trip to the dealership.

 Q3 – What effect will these changes have on dealerships?

A3 – Performing software updates is a low revenue-low margin vehicle service for local dealerships to perform. With a greater percentage of vehicle software management happening remotely via OTA, dealerships can concentrate their service resources on higher revenue-higher margin services. It’s actually a win-win for both automakers and dealerships.

Q4 – Can we expect to see these next-generation services in the next 5-10 years?

A4 – Definitely. All of the major automakers are planning to introduce OTA software update capabilities for their vehicle fleets, and we should expect to see an increased number of OTA-enabled vehicles in showrooms starting 2020. By 2030, the majority of new vehicles will be OTA enabled. Additionally, OTA technology will be especially important for enabling continued advancements in advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) and autonomous driving features which are heavily software-reliant and will require frequent updates to optimize performance and leverage data analytics.

 Q5 – Are there other areas of the automotive ecosystem where OTA updates will have a positive impact?

A5 – Security is a critical area. Connected vehicles require a higher degree of security to protect the vehicle and passengers from cybersecurity threats 24/7. Software embedded in the vehicle and running in the cloud will detect security intrusions the moment they happen, and quickly deliver software updates to mitigate the threat. OTA will also ensure cybersecurity threat response times are minimized versus the lengthier timeframe associated with manually updating software through dealerships.

 Q6 – Can you explain the minimum OTA requirements in terms of hardware?

A6 – Vehicle hardware devices will need to be designed to accommodate software and/or firmware updates. This will involve ensuring the devices can be reached from the cloud where OTA service delivery will be managed by the automakers and across the vehicle’s internal communication network. The devices will also need to have the appropriate amount of memory for current and future software updates. Device memory requirements will vary widely based on the function of the device and the amount of software code that is required.

Q7 – Is OTA supported on QNX or RT-Linux?

A7 – That depends on the flexibility of the OTA system designed by the automaker and/or the OTA supplier. For example, Airbiquity’s OTAmatic™ OTA software update and data management product has been designed to have a highly flexible OTA framework that allows it to port to any operating system, including real-time operating systems like QNX and RT-Linux.

Q8 – Are there partitioning requirements for OTA enabled devices?

A8 – OTA enabled devices do not necessarily need to have a dedicated software partition to accommodate OTA. However, if they do have a software partition, an OTA system will work more efficiently and better handle software update installation failure cases which is critical to maintaining vehicle operability and reliability. As you can see, there is a lot to consider when designing and integrating an OTA system into automotive electronics and platforms.

Q9 – What about cloud infrastructure requirements for OTA infrastructure?

A9 – Cloud infrastructure requirements vary based on the OTA service delivery strategy and technology being used. One important decision is where the OTA service will be deployed, or hosted. The primary deployment options are private clouds like Airbiquity’s Choreo®, public clouds like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, or automaker’s on-premise data centers. Another important decision is ensuring the deployment infrastructure has the necessary computing processing power, bandwidth, and scalability to reliably service the number vehicles receiving OTA updates and associated software and firmware payload sizes.

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