Beyond the Tipping Point: Two Ways Aptiv is Making Smart Vehicle Architecture a Reality Today

Combined, the automotive macro trends of electrification, safety automation, and connectivity are driving changes in vehicle architecture to an extent we’ve never seen before. With so many new features and requirements being added almost every day, the industry is beyond a tipping point. We’ve entered a brave new world of Smart Vehicle ArchitectureTM (SVA), and Aptiv is leading the way.

Why? Because only Aptiv possesses the unique blend of automotive foundation in architecture solutions, expertise in systems integration, and a comprehensive advanced technology portfolio to provide real answers to the four most pressing questions being posed by this revolutionary shift in the way the world builds cars:

  • How do we add new features, update software, or move existing software to a new piece of hardware without modification?
  • How can we bring new hardware more quickly into the vehicle?
  • How can we enable fail-safe operation in higher levels of safety automation without doubling the content?
  • How do we do all these things as affordably and as sustainably as possible?

Four tough questions. One simple answer.
How do we achieve all these objectives? By saying goodbye to the basic electrical architecture that was created in the late 90s and hello to a smarter way of designing and building vehicles. 

At Aptiv, Smart Vehicle Architecture is more than a catchy phrase, it’s what’s we do.

Let’s examine just two of the areas we reinventing to help bring SVA to life: The Power Data Center and the Open Server Platform every day. 

SVA’s launching pad: The Power Data Center
One of the most common questions we get from clients is, “How do I get to SVA from where I am today?”

The Power Data Center (PDC) is a logical starting point. We call it the universal docking station for SVA because it’s where we separate input/output (I/O) from compute.

Think of the PDC as a laptop docking station with multiple inputs that serves as the interface to all the devices we want to connect. When the laptop is docked, the power cord, the USB drive, and the monitor all “think” or behave as if they’re plugged directly into the laptop, even though they are not.

The PDC applies this same concept to SVA. We’ve essentially created a docking station for the central computer in a car, a single interface that has all the inputs necessary for your vehicle’s sensors, distributed audio systems, and zone control.

But it doesn’t stop there. The PDC also provides the system with a robust redundant power supply for safety automation, plus delivers the potential for wire harness automation and the promise of significant up-integration of existing controller features and functions. This is patent-pending, proprietary and only available from Aptiv.

Think of the value the PDC delivers.

  • For power, the PDC brings digital smart fusing solutions with the ability to switch the power supply within milliseconds if there is a failure.
  • For networking, we connect the sensors and peripherals with existing network technologies like Ethernet, CAN, or LVDS and tunnel them natively onto a redundant HDBaseT backbone.
  • For zone control, we have added a powerful application processor that allows us to up-integrate and control the various features and functions that reside within a particular zone.

This is a very powerful, sustainable solution the delivers some key benefits of SVA today and puts our customers on the path to a full SVA solution in the future.


A new, more logical approach to central compute.
Think about the impact on the compute of a vehicle if we remove two of its biggest architectural bottlenecks: I/O from compute and hardware from software.

Today we have logical domains but the features and functions of each domain are highly distributed among several physical controllers inside the vehicle. The result: a very complex architecture that presents challenges in integration and testing and is not scalable or future-friendly. 

With SVA, we have moved I/O out of compute, resulting in our Power Data Center, and created the central compute architecture of the future. 

Introducing Aptiv’s Open Server Platform. This flexible compute platform and software framework with intelligent abstraction addresses software workloads on a vehicle level and delivers the optimal balance between compute, graphics, artificial intelligence, networking, and functional safety.

With the Open Server Platform, we are able to scale each co-processor in relation to the total compute needs by workload inside a vehicle. Similar to how servers in the cloud work today where everything from payroll to the human genome run side by side, our Open Server Platform runs applications ranging from rear lift gate control to infotainment to full safety automation, side by side.

And, of course, everything is automotive grade. The open server platform not only consolidates compute; it also has a flexible software framework and intelligent abstraction, where the logical domains become almost analog to their physical representation.

This breakthrough allows software that has been developed and hardened on individual controllers around the vehicle to be “separated” and repackaged and up-integrated for use on our server. Decoupling software and hardware lifecycles to unlock innovation is the future of automotive compute, and it’s happening right now at Aptiv.

The roadmap to adoption.
We’re all familiar with the limitations of the star topology in traditional vehicle architecture. It’s inflexible and doesn’t lend itself to affordable redundancy. Additionally, the central node presents a single point of failure.

SVA’s ring topology is the intersection of flexibility and affordability, where each node connects to two other nodes, forming a continuous pathway – a ring – for signals to travel through each node. This approach is highly efficient and handles heavier loads better than traditional star topology, allowing us to achieve the redundancy we need in an affordable way.

As we look ahead to 2022, we see a hybrid architecture approach, combining elements of SVA, like the PDC, into traditional architectures. Fast forward to 2025, and it’s all SVA. We see server-based compute extended through the power data center, redundant design with ring topologies, and a unified software architecture with safety-critical and non-safety-critical domains.

Our OEM customers are at different stages in the transition from traditional to smart vehicle architectures, but make no mistake, they all need to get there, fast. Only Aptiv delivers a fully-functional smart vehicle architecture as well as the innovative solutions that form a bridge from where you are today to where we all need to be tomorrow.  

 
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