A real-time operating system (RTOS) is a specialized OS that processes data and performs operations within specifically defined time constraints.
The automotive industry relies on RTOSes to enable advanced driver-assistance systems and autonomous-driving features that need to perform with a high degree of reliability without input from the driver. However, RTOSes are becoming even more critical as OEMs consolidate compute and increase integration between domains — requiring improved orchestration between safety-critical and non-safety-critical systems.
How is an RTOS different from a general-purpose OS?
A traditional operating system, such as Windows, Mac OS or Linux, provides a software interface between applications and the hardware. It accepts commands from input devices and executes those commands sequentially.
A general-purpose OS is not designed to meet the demands of embedded or safety critical systems, which require consistent response times to inputs from multiple sources, including cameras, radar and lidar.
What are the benefits of an RTOS?
RTOSes provide a host of benefits for software development teams:
Multitasking: An RTOS needs to be able to run multiple programs concurrently and seamlessly interrupt a scheduled process to shift resources to a higher-priority operation.
Speed: RTOSes are subdivided into “soft” and “hard” real-time systems. Soft real-time systems operate within a few hundred milliseconds and are used in applications like interactive multimedia. Hard real-time systems provide responses within tens of milliseconds or less and are used in the automotive, factory automation, robotics and aerospace industries.
Predictability/determinism: RTOSes are designed to deliver a predictable response that falls within the desired time frame, and to deliver the same result in response to the same input every time.
Safety and security: RTOSes are frequently used in critical systems where failures can have catastrophic consequences. They are built with higher security standards and more reliable safety features than a traditional OS.
Aptiv and Wind River
In 2022, Aptiv acquired Wind River, a leading provider of intelligent-edge software solutions. Wind River’s VxWorks® is the first and only RTOS to support application deployment through containers. This enables software developers to efficiently deploy targeted updates to safety-critical systems without compromising a system’s high-performance requirements.
Visit Wind River’s website for more details on the characteristics of an RTOS and the benefits of the VxWorks RTOS.