Success Story: Continental and Fraunhofer IKS make autonomous vehicles safer

From static to dynamic automobile architectures

To date, automobile software has been based on a fixed, functions-oriented architecture. Installing updates or resolving malfunctions requires bringing the vehicle to the repair shop and re-installing and swapping out the software. This process is much too slow for future mobility scenarios, particularly autonomous driving. In these situations malfunctions have to be resolved in all affected vehicles – immediately and without delay.

With this in mind, the goal of the joint project between Continental AG and Fraunhofer IKS was to dynamically distribute the individual functions within the vehicle architecture. A flexible architecture also makes it possible to more quickly implement updates or new functions. Using so-called over-the-air updates, software components can be implemented in all affected vehicles via a mobile phone network without taking the long route to a repair shop. In order to enable such scenarios while conserving vehicle resources and optimizing system performance, the functions have to be dynamically distributed across various processing units in the vehicle at runtime.

Flexibility even for safety-critical applications

Autobahnauffahrt aus der Vogelperspektive
The dynamic distribution of functions makes autonomous driving safe.

The system should be designed so that each function can be flexibly utilized and exchanged at any time. This is the high-level vision of the complete dynamic distribution of functions across a system. However, this represents a challenge in safety-critical scenarios such as vehicles operating in road traffic. After all, in these situations the system has to ensure the availability of all critical functions at all times. This is the only way to avoid system malfunctions and thus potentially dangerous traffic situations. To permit the safe dynamic distribution of software functions across the vehicle computing platforms and thus foster future applications such as autonomous driving, Continental is relying on the expertise of the Fraunhofer Institute for Cognitive Systems IKS.

Continental and Fraunhofer IKS develop a concept for the dynamic distribution of functions

Together with Continental, researchers at Fraunhofer IKS evaluated a concept for the dynamic allocation of functions – in other words for distributing services in the vehicle – based on application scenarios and improved the functional safety aspects. The most important element was a comprehensive safety analysis. Using the proposed architecture from Continental, the analysis specifies the safety requirements that are necessary for a completely dynamic allocation of the functions. From this, the project team was able to derive safety goals and measures for the key hazards. Several issues are highly-problematic when it comes to safely distributing vehicle services, such as non-activated functions, outdated or incorrect software or when a function unexpectedly stops. For these risks, corresponding concrete safety goals were derived such as »correct function installed« or »software should be up-to-date«.

Safety concept enables function allocation for autonomous driving

Together with Continental, Fraunhofer IKS was able to create a concept for the dynamic distribution of vehicle functions and develop a technical safety concept that describes an implementation of the identified safety requirements such as »required updates should be immediately installed« or »outdated software should not be distributed«. The technical concept takes into account hardware and software solutions for the dynamic function allocation in order to meet the formulated safety goals. With this jointly developed solution, Continental can also distribute functions across multiple platforms in safety-critical domains such as autonomous driving since dependable and safe distribution is guaranteed.

Your customer benefits

  • System flexibility: new services are provided faster and with more flexibility
  • Fail-operational and high-performance systems
  • Support for solutions for the distribution of functions
  • Systematic safety analysis for the validated implementation of dynamic functions allocation

Leistungszentrum »Sichere intelligente Systeme«

This project was part of the High Performance Center »Secure Intelligent Systems«.

The High Performance Center is an initiative of the six Fraunhofer Institutes AISEC, EMFT, IKS, IBP, IGCV and IVV from the Greater Munich area together with the Technical University of Munich, the Bundeswehr University and the Munich University of Applied Sciences.