Thought Leadership

Automotive cockpit software consolidation

By Colin Walls

Away from my immediate professional colleagues, if I talk about my work, I am commonly asked questions like: What is an embedded system? Where can I see one? The answer to the first question can be framed in various ways – I just need to shy away from presenting a digital electronics or computer science 101; it is usually best addressed by reference to examples: mobile phone, washing machine, laser printer, etc. I normally address the second question by suggesting that my questioner imagine the start of an ordinary day. Wake up and cancel the alarm [embedded system #1]; put on the news on your smart speaker [#2]; prepare breakfast using the toaster [#3] or microwave [#4] or induction hob [#5] and coffee machine [#6]; eat your food while reading on your e-reader [#7]; get in the car to go to work [#8 …]. Before you leave the house, you have probably interacted with at least 6 embedded systems – it might be quite a few more. But, when you get into your car, things get very interesting …

Cars mean different things to different people. To some, they are status symbols. To others, they are a source of fun and excitement. To me they are just a tin box to get me from A to B – which is why mine is 13 years old, a bit battered, and has 180,000 miles on the clock. But, to me, a car is also a mobile embedded system – or really a bunch of embedded systems in a tin box. Even my old car has a lot of electronics. I was amazed some months ago, when the roadside assistance guy plugged his computer into my car and emailed me the diagnostic information my garage would need to fix it. More modern cars have taken things to a new level.

In recent years, the trend has been to incorporate electronics [embedded systems] into every imaginable part of a vehicle:

  • drivetrain
  • braking
  • steering
  • battery management
  • instrumentation
  • infotainment
  • seating adjustment
  • heating
  • climate control
  • lighting
  • mirrors
  • cameras

And these are examples – not a complete list! The result is that modern cars are more comfortable, efficient and reliable than ever before.

But all of this comes at a cost. Although it sounds logical – distributing and localizing the computing power to where it is needed – this increases overall system complexity. More complexity results in higher costs, possible reliability issues [faults can be harder to locate] and performance limitations resulting from latencies in data sharing between sub-systems.

The solution is to consolidate a number of sub-systems onto a smaller number of powerful ECUs. This leverages the immense computing power of modern SoC devices, along with their support for multiple safety integrity level domains. This approach yields 4 key benefits:

  • utilization of state-of-the-art technology
  • time and money savings
  • reduced system complexity
  • increased system reliability

This change in design strategy may be facilitated by the recently-announced VCO2S (Vehicle Cockpit Consolidation Solutions) range of products. VCO2S enables developers to integrate instrument cluster and In-Vehicle-Infotainment (IVI) systems on the same ECU, which saves space and cost. The fusion of instrument cluster and IVI functionalities running separate operating systems within a single ECU eliminates latencies associated with data sharing between distributed ECUs, while supporting multiple safety domain levels (ASIL and QM) and offering features such as graphics, video and audio sharing.

You can learn more about this technology by attending this free webinar, which will be available as a recording after the live event.


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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at