What Is a Central Vehicle Controller?

The central vehicle controller (CVC) is a specialized computer that plays a pivotal role in tomorrow’s vehicle architectures.

The CVC can be a power and body controller, propulsion and chassis controller, data network router, gateway, firewall, zone master and data storage hub all rolled into one – or it can perform a mix of some of those functions. More importantly, it is a key piece of the architecture that translates software code into physical action, from bits and bytes into mobility itself.

Signal to service

Vehicles have long been governed by signals, where a body controller sends a data frame to a specific device, which then reacts by performing a specific function. In a service-oriented architecture, functions are presented as more generic services instead, and any apps that require those services subscribe to them.

The CVC handles the details of communicating signals with hundreds of components in the vehicle and then can help abstract those functions as services to software applications. It allows developers to spend less time worrying about how to handle communications within a vehicle and more time creating features that add real value for consumers.

For example, an OEM may want to allow users to control vehicle climate through an app in its infotainment system. The CVC would present a service called “HVAC,” and the app would subscribe to the HVAC service, communicating with it through application programming interfaces (APIs).

When the user selects a temperature, the climate app in the infotainment system would use those APIs to tell the HVAC service to set the temperature to, say, 20 degrees Celsius for the right side of the vehicle. In turn, the HVAC service would send signals to the various actuators — to the compressor, the fans and the flaps — via zone controllers. The service would figure out when to turn the compressor on or off, which fans to activate, and how far to open the flaps and then send signals to the appropriate devices at the appropriate times. Where it makes sense, the services could focus on very narrow functions, or microservices, allowing for updates that are targeted to just those functions.

Through this abstraction, the infotainment system app in this example is completely insulated from the mechanics of climate control. It is not aware of the location of the climate control mechanisms or even of their existence. Because the developers of the infotainment system do not have to worry about those mechanics, they can instead focus on optimizing the user experience — and improving how they use climate control in various app innovations.

Without the CVC, the software-defined vehicle does not exist. As OEMs build the brain and nervous system that Aptiv’s Smart Vehicle Architecture™ comprises, they should not underestimate the crucial role of the central vehicle controller.

Learn more about the central vehicle controller in our white paper.