Drivers to Subscribers

Software Defined Cars: Turning Drivers to Subscribers

October 12, 2020

Residential roads, highways, offroading. . . a software defined car will provide added functionality to drivers, enhancing their driving experience. Both in day and night. In all road conditions. Rain, snow or shine.

In the very near future, drivers will tap and swipe a screen to instantly load an app to help them with the drive ahead. For example, a winter-tuning app will adjust a car’s steering, brakes, engine performance, tire pressure and other functions to optimize for winter driving conditions. An off-roading app will optimize sensor functionality, enhance GPS capabilities and provide a more accurate balance meter and slope indicator.

Operators of connected vehicles are changing from Drivers to Subscribers of automotive features but also opening themselves up to increasing connected vehicle vulnerabilities

We are entering the next automotive revolution –– a brave new world with vehicles that optimize their own operation and maintenance as well as enhance the convenience and comfort of their passengers.

Breath-taking Innovations are turning drivers into subscribers of services and apps.

Digitization of the Vehicle

Over the last few decades, electronic control units (ECUs) and automotive computers have gradually replaced many of the mechanical and pneumatic control systems in vehicles. Soon cars will need to process 1GB of data per second! A typical car now hosts more than 150 ECUs and the number is still growing. Orchestrated by more than 100 million lines of software, vehicular ECUs monitor and adjust numerous essential and other functions from spark-plug firing to suspension, from navigation to music channels.

ECU Soup car


Connectivity: The Evolution of the Software Defined Car

During the same period, vehicles have become more connected both externally and internally. Drivers today use In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) systems with streaming radio and video, apps to remotely start a parked car, Wi-Fi hotspots, and more. 

At this very moment, over 381 million cars and trucks are equipped with Internet access, mobile network communications and even wireless local area networks. This number will double in only the next few years. Connected vehicles are now able to act like PCs, sharing internet and cellular network access with other devices beyond the vehicle. They can upload performance and personal data and receive information about their surroundings automatically.

We can now provide an unprecedented driver experience through specialized apps and enhancements. Of course, these connections increase the attack vectors of vehicles making these cars more vulnerable to various types of hacks. But this can be resolved by using new and innovative cyber security systems.

The Customized Driving Experience

We are just about ready to consider the vehicle to be an endpoint (like a PC or mobile phone, but with real mobility) that can be instantly customized to the driver or fleet manager’s delight. The industry refers to this capability as “the software defined car”.

New features and functions are changing the roles of drivers but also opening new venues of connected vehicle vulnerabilities

The convergence of digitization and connectivity delivers countless opportunities to generate exciting new revenue streams. Here are some examples of vehicle software in action in the world today:

  • Preceding Hurricane Irma in Florida, Tesla remotely boosted the batteries in certain models. This provided drivers an extra 40 miles of range to escape the storm. . . and opened the doors of opportunity for manufacturers (and possibly third party vendors) to provide other urgent or timely services remotely.
  • In late 2018, China’s electric vehicle sales soared 51% and continued growing in Q1 2019, making China the leading market for electric vehicles. Nio is one of the players and offers more than just a battery-operated vehicle. The company provides innovative charging stations, battery as a service, Nio House cafes, and an app with over 800,000 users. The CEO wants to build a community “connected by cars.”
  • Porsche Connect enables a new level of human-vehicle interaction. Drivers can choose from a menu of downloadable apps at the Porsche Connect Store to add exciting new functions such as vehicle data, AC control, vehicle tracking and theft notification. Navigation and Infotainment services keep drivers informed of what is happening in the world in real time. Message Dictation reads messages aloud and, through the Voice Control feature, helps the driver construct a response without taking hands off the wheel. When the Porsche is in need of fuel, the Gas Station Location service automatically finds a station nearby and guides the driver to it. Connect services integrate seamlessly with smartphones and watches.
  • gathers all vehicle information and stores it in an app on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or other device. The remote service platform enables the driver to find a destination via an app on the smartphone and sends it to the vehicle’s navigation system, making the car ready for its journey even before the driver steps inside. Subscribers can also use Google Local Search or Point-of-Interest to find nearby attractions and gas stations with the cheapest fuel. Other features include vehicle tracking and parental controls that allow parents to set travel zones and curfew reminders for their kids. Parents can also receive alerts if speed limits are exceeded.
  • Volvo’s On Call service offers a mobile app, Wi-Fi, and connected services as far as giving drivers an “eye in the sky” by helping them find a store, an address location, or even an unknown address or phone number. It also activates a parking heater to warm the car’s interior before the driver enters, connects to personal calendars, and keeps a driving journal to track business expenses, among other helpful features.

This list consists of only automotive manufacturer apps. However, mobile network operators are getting into the act, too. Vodafone has created a popular mobile app that, among many other functions, enables a Geofence whereby alerts are sent to a mobile phone as a vehicle moves in and out of a user-definable zone, and Remote Engine Lock that aptly describes the feature.

Innovations are Turning Drivers into Subscribers

The list of innovations could continue, well, until the cars come home. There are so many ways to get into the act. Every car manufacturer and OEM is considering them as are other companies and individuals, too. The connected vehicle and the acceleration of intra- and extra-vehicle communications have given rise to an exciting new industry that will soon mimic the breathtaking proliferation of mobile phone apps.

Drivers are turning into subscribers. Wise automotive manufacturers, OEMs and other players will employ this new and expanding concept to invent opportunities for new, ongoing revenue streams.

GuardKnox is the world’s first Cybertech Tier supplier and is poised to revolutionize the automotive supply chain by consolidating components and applications into integrated products that are high-performing, cost-effective, and secure by design. By partnering with GuardKnox, OEMs and Tier 1 vendors can provide advanced app capabilities through the latest technologies required for enabling today’s software-defined vehicle to take  advantage of a new architecture platform keeping the vehicle’s performance at a level needed for tomorrow’s drivers.



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