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When the Car Suddenly Takes a Back Seat

Nothing works in the car without connectivity. But interconnected services present new challenges for development. The Connectivity Technologies department at IAV secures Connected Car Services with fully automated end-to-end testing and a state-of-the-art mobile communications laboratory.

Starting the parking heater from your breakfast table using a smartphone and being warned of a traffic jam by vehicles in front and listening to the end of your favorite podcast in your car: Connectivity is becoming more and more important for convenience and safety in the car – and thus also increasingly relevant for car buyers. For OEMs, Connected Car Services represent a paradigm shift – especially in development. Because the days when a function was controlled by a single ECU are over. With interconnected services, several decentrally distributed components communicate with each other inside and outside the car. This increases the degree of complexity – and the number of imponderables. “Here, manufacturers are faced with the challenge of ensuring a long data transmission chain that cannot be completely influenced in order to guarantee smooth communication and thus function”, says Björn Steffen from IAV. As Head of the Connectivity & Analytics department, this is precisely where he and his team come in: Around 70 employees are working on developing telematics systems holistically and securing them with their own tools, for example for automation and monitoring from an end-to-end user perspective – something that is fundamental to the “Quality of Experience”.

The vehicle in the supporting role

After all, the interconnected vehicle is no longer an isolated object, but part of a digital ecosystem in which it interacts with many other components – and sometimes plays a new role. Take the example of auxiliary heating: When the customer gives the order in the morning on his mobile phone to switch the auxiliary heating on in the car, this requires at least a smartphone, app, backend, various servers and verification that the right customer is driving the right car, that he has an active contract, that the function does not break local laws and that it is safe. “90 percent of these processes take place outside the vehicle and are subject to constant change”, says Steffen. Safety-relevant functions such as traffic jam detection, in which intelligent vehicles ideally inform each other across automotive brands about spontaneously occurring traffic jams, are made or broken by just one thing: the guarantee that the required information can be exchanged at any time, anywhere and under any conditions. But the beautiful new interconnected world is fragile, and sources of error lurk everywhere – from incompatible app updates to problems in the mobile network. A visit to the workshop rarely helps here, as the cause is not necessarily to be found in the vehicle. “But if the heater doesn’t turn on and the user has to scrape ice off the windshield, he is frustrated with the car that doesn’t perform as well as he actually expects. Even if the reasons for this may be in areas that the manufacturer actually has nothing to do with anymore”, says Steffen. For car manufacturers and independent service providers alike, it is therefore as important as it is challenging to develop their services throughout the entire system network – beyond the actual vehicle.

«We are usually called in when new territory has to be entered or when customers are confronted with extreme complexity.»

Björn Steffen — Head of the Connectivity & Analytics department at IAV

Objective measurement of service quality

In order to ensure availability and functionality, IAV’s fully automated end-to-end test systems measure the service quality and robustness of connected car services from the user’s perspective in a wide variety of vehicles. “The use of state-of-the-art laboratory technology enables us to simulate virtual journeys and communications in practically every country and mobile phone network in the world, even under conditions of the latest 5G mobile communication standard”, Steffen explains. After all, with a 5G laboratory and the planned construction of our own 5G campus network at the Gifhorn site, the foundations have been laid for mediating the quality of a interconnected service with all conceivable connection qualities and thus optimizing the overall system. For example, the team is clarifying for customers how fast their online services are in the car, i.e. how long the user has to wait, for example, until his podcast starts in the car. The monitoring and analysis results in anomalies – and thus the necessary adjustments to improve the user experience. “We are usually called in when new territory has to be entered or when customers are confronted with extreme complexity. We specifically address the parameters of variance and complexity, which increase with each mobile phone and app generation, each update, each new vehicle model”, says Steffen. Manufacturers must make these parameters manageable in their balancing act between the classic product- and hardware-driven automotive industry and the interconnected mobility universe of the future. Steffen: “Here at IAV, we have both worlds in focus. This bridge helps us a great deal – and thus also our customers.”

The article was published in automotion 02/2020, the automotive engineering magazine of IAV. Here you can order the automotion free of charge.

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