How to turn an ordinary car into a smart connected car?

How to turn an ordinary car into a smart connected car?

Smart cars are a well-established trend in the modern automotive industry. But the case is not only in producers but also drivers who want to track the whole vehicle systems, monitor and analyze diagnostic data. This significantly changes the driving experience. In this article, we decided to cover the main steps that car producers need to make if they want to create connected smart cars.

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Today’s cars have the power of several personal computers, are equipped with automotive software that contains millions of lines of programming code that produce gigabytes of information, but they are still different from connected cars.

A smart car is able to optimize its performance to lower fuel consumption, show the best route to follow taking into account current traffic and weather conditions, detect errors in the engine, and collect data to negotiate lower insurance rates.

What is needed to turn a car into a connected car?

Most cars and light trucks are equipped with on-board diagnostics or an OBD II port that provides access to data from the engine control unit (ECU). To get the information you need to plug in an external device.

The OBD-II specifications provide a standardized hardware interface - a female 16-pin (2x8) J1962 connector, so a single external device can be used for most car models. It also should have an Internet connection to transfer the collected data.

After the external device is installed, the car’s performance data can be fed into special software to provide information about what could be changed or improved, including:

  • Real-time powertrain information (engine, speed)
  • Real-time sensor data (temperatures, pressures, voltages)
  • Running distance and time
  • Vehicle Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs)

What can be modified through OBD-II in a vehicle?

  • Clear Vehicle Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTCs)
  • Manufacturer- or vehicle-specific ECU parameters
  • Accessing and controlling other control units, such as airbags or ABS

Today’s market offers many different OBD devices to plug into the car. Popular hardware solutions include:

  • VOYO - a plug and play system that fits in the palm of your hand and is set up in under two minutes. The VOYO app allows a user to lock/unlock car doors, detect malfunctions, send alerts to other drivers, and increases your car’s security and fuel efficiency.
  • Vinli - the ultimate driving companion. With Bluetooth and 4G LTE capabilities, your car is now connected to a new world of possibilities. Download apps, stream entertainment, connect with the world.
  • OBDLink - an easy-to-use, inexpensive, hacker-proof, lightning-fast Bluetooth OBD adapter that can turn your smartphone, tablet, laptop, or netbook into a sophisticated diagnostic scan tool, trip computer, and real-time performance monitor.
  • GoPoint - removes the risks and surprises from driving. It actually measures the efficiency of your vehicle, tells you when fuel economy drops because of your driving habits. For safety’s sake and peace of mind, the BT1 will speak with your vehicle to interrupt the dreaded CHECK ENGINE light.

No matter what OBD device you installed into your car when information is received and transferred it should be stored and analyzed using the software. For example, Cprime Studios has developed software that improves a car’s performance by analyzing driving modes - web and mobile applications that build dashboards, shows tips to reduce fuel consumption, insurance and maintenance costs, and other useful features.

The software is actually a more important part than an OBD device when turning a vehicle into a smart car. Head Unit Applications for car infotainment systems can be built in-house by OEMs or more commonly outsourced to tier-1 suppliers. The leading supplier of infotainment platforms is followed by Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive, which is used, for example, in Ford’s SYNC system. Market challengers are Linux with the open-source Genivi platform and Google’s Android, which is used in Renault’s R-Link system. The established platforms are used by OEMs primarily to reduce software development costs.

Requirements for connected car software

All connected car software should meet some important requirements. The requirements include functional and non-functional qualities (NFR). While functional requirements reflect the purpose of the software system, NFRs express the software system’s characteristics and attributes to make it useful and usable under certain stated conditions. So the software should have:

  • Compatibility and Interoperability. Interoperability addresses the ability of the different components to work with one another. Both compatibility and interoperability are important aspects of software engineering and therefore have to be taking into account during the system design phase.
  • Scalability. Compatibility and interoperability affect the scalability of a modular system. This is mainly related to the extendibility of the number of components. Also, the reusability of the system’s components increases with improved composability and therefore may have positive effects on the efficiency of the development process by making use of existing or legacy components.
  • Dependability. Operating within safety parameters and securing critical functions and dependability is of particular importance and must be forefront throughout system development, maintenance, and the final deployment of dynamic functions. This includes, but is not limited to, system security, reliability, fault tolerance, survivability, and performance.

Vehicle-related app development and integration strategies can also be completed simultaneously. Some OEMs such as BMW operate their own development platform, while also being part of the CCC’s MirrorLinkTM program. Due to the high degree of complexity, variety, compatibility issues, and the early development stage of connected cars in general, it is highly recommended that OEMs use external developers and expert partners to focus their internal resources on their business while producing a superior product.

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