Wipro’s Cloud Car platform makes cars better, cheaper, Auto News, ET Auto

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<p>“A car has over a hundred distributed electronic control units (ECUs). These ECUs, if you add all the code together, have a hundred million lines of code, that’s more than probably 10x what is in a commercial airplane, like a 787 Boeing airliner.”</p>
“A car has over a hundred distributed electronic control units (ECUs). These ECUs, if you add all the code together, have a hundred million lines of code, that’s more than probably 10x what is in a commercial airplane, like a 787 Boeing airliner.”

Thomas Mueller is based out of the US and is the CTO and automotive lead for engineering services at Wipro. As he candidly says, he isn’t an auto engineer at all, instead his expertise lies in developing software in the most efficient way to build applications. When Thomas first entered the automotive world, he was baffled by the way software was written for cars. It was not only outdated but it also reminded him of a huge piece of ‘spaghetti code.’“A car has over a hundred distributed electronic control units (ECUs). These ECUs, if you add all the code together, have a hundred million lines of code, that’s more than probably 10x what is in a commercial airplane, like a 787 Boeing airliner.”

Once you grasp these facts, then it becomes easy to understand why cars traditionally haven’t gotten frequent software updates like all of our other appliances and apps. “If you look at how cars were shipped 10 years ago, they were basically leaving the factory as is. The software was rarely if ever changed and software upgrades were absolutely rare.”

This was a serious issue, because updating any part of the code and developing new features was a painstaking, monumental task. Which is why when General Motors came to Wipro in late 2015and asked them to solve this problem, Thomas and his team of engineers set about developing what they call a ‘Cloud Car’ platform to remedy the situation.

The first thing they did was analyse the crux of the problem – you cannot update the computer in a car easily. “You cannot just walk up to the car and take the PC out and put in a new one. So how do you build a system that can grow in software for at least 10 years, while not swapping the hardware?”

That’s where Cloud Car came in, where the software is written in cloud-native ways. “The software is written in small, reusable parts from a service oriented architecture. We call them microservices. They’re shipped in small containers. They run in a cloud environment within the car.”

Building this concept was challenging because software residing in a car can be critical to the safety of the occupants. “We needed to ensure that the critical software was protected when we rewrite software in containers.”
Their approach, Thomassays, was to take the software from the spaghetti code and disaggregate it.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) played a major role in the process. “Everything in the car can be described through an API, so the temperature monitor can be an API, the braking an API, steering another API. That sounds a little bit scary, but ultimately the ‘APIification’ was fundamental for the ‘softwarisation’.”

It allowed the hardware tobe separate from the software. “As a result, we now have the ability to use less costly updates to the software. We don’t have to test all the pieces of software when we make changes, we only need to test those areas that are really affected by changes. And we can make changes at a higher frequency. The result is that you can make software updates every single day potentially, which is novel for car makers.”

Cars using this can leverage AI and ML to constantly gather data, which will provide automakers with a wealth of info which can be used to build innovative new functionalities, make changes at scale, and maybe, eventually usher in fully autonomous vehicles.

Thomas says platforms like the Cloud Car will also help make cars more affordable. “The over hundred ECUs will shrink to probably less than 50 initially. The amount of wiring harnesses required will come down as well.”
Thomas says the Cloud Car platform is already being adopted by major automakers and the first cars enabled by the platform will likely roll out of production facilities later this year.

  • Published On Jan 27, 2024 at 09:10 AM IST

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