Connected System Thinking

A systems approach to developing complex connected car ecosystems

24. October 2016 | Engineering Service

OEMs face many challenges with connected vehicle components and systems in both current and next generation programs. A significant takeaway for FEV has been that the entire ecosystem and lifecycle of the program needs to be managed and viewed through a connected system thinking mentality and process. This approach covers the whole process from the design to integration and eventual validation of a connected vehicle and assures a robust and reliable end-to-end system.


The individual pieces of a telematics system or an autonomous vehicle need to be designed from the ground-up with connected system thinking. Otherwise, thousands of small components comprising the system, often provided by a large number of suppliers, will result in an end product that fails to meet general consumer expectations and may not even function properly, not to mention that it would likely provide a poor customer experience. “When we send a simple text message to our friends or colleagues who, many times, are sitting in the same building, we rarely think of the complexity of the foundational infrastructure for this process – despite the knowledge that such a message must pass through numerous technologies and interfaces” explains Dr. Thomas Hülshorst, Group Vice President Electronics und Electrification at FEV. “The automotive industry often seems to underestimate the tremendous complexity that makes up the connected vehicle ecosystem. Infotainment, telematics, ADAS, autonomous driving, cyber security, OTA, eHorizon, Car2X, the cloud, Backends, etc. are all interconnected with various new and legacy systems from a group of different suppliers that, combined, add up to thousands of interfaces that all need to communicate reliably during normal and high-stress vehicle conditions in order to be considered safe and reliable.”

FEV as End-to-End Solution Provider

FEV designs hardware components for its customers in the connected vehicle space. We also develop control software and the company tests and validates the features and functions of different domain controllers. In parallel, we integrate these pieces from different suppliers and industries into the end-to-end system and validate them in the connected vehicle ecosystem. Connected system thinking is at the core of FEV’s design, integration, and validation activities; in all of these tasks, the one thing that is stressed from the beginning, is to do everything with the entire system in mind. The use of automated development and test tools is critical for these types of activities. While this is certainly true for individual components such as an ADAS forward facing collision avoidance control system, it is also true of the sub-system and the end-to-end system making up the complete ecosystem of a connected vehicle.

process graphic - connected car

Connected vehicles must be understood as integrated systems. FEV supports its customers during all development phases and offers turnkey development from one hand.

Sophisticated Tools and Processes are Becoming More Important

The use of sophisticated simulation and modeling tools for component and system automation testing is only slowly gaining traction and acceptance in the automotive space. Many suppliers and OEMs still rely predominantly on manual testing done on simple benches or in vehicles. But such an approach does not support the lifecycle of the technologies used nor is it compatible with the compressed development time cycle that the OEMs aspire to. While vehicle testing has a place in the integration and validation phase of nearly all programs, it should not be considered as the primary means of validating critical functions such as ADAS, autonomous driving, and telematics. Over-reliance on manual testing (often done using resources with little or no domain and system experience and expertise) represents significant risk to any connected vehicle program.
FEV engineers have demonstrated the advantages and benefits of simulation and modeling capabilities and technologies for development and testing purposes and they put them to work for the company’s customers every day. FEV’s customers realize the benefits of using sophisticated connected vehicle HiL systems such as FEV’s Telematics System Tester (TST) or the HMI Test System (HMIts) for testing features and functions of connected vehicle applications like GPS, cellular, WiFi, BT, LiDar, Radar, and DSRC — rather than performing such testing with separate and standalone systems in the lab.

Transfer of Tools and Methodologies

To build up an acceptable foundation for connected vehicle infrastructure and systems, it will be necessary to not only embrace a new way of thinking that is adapted to the connected space, but also to adopt a mentality of applying tools and methodologies that have become common practice for other vehicle domains (such as powertrain and high voltage systems). HiL systems have been widely used in these areas for some time. In addition, heavy reliance on processes such as functional safety have brought significant improvements in reliability, robustness, and quality to these areas of the vehicle. FEV believes that dismissing such methods and tools as not being applicable to the connected vehicle space would be a profound error in judgement. Connected vehicle engineering must embrace and apply these tools. As vehicle components and sub-systems become one large, cohesive and interdependent system, design and validation processes and tools need to become similarly unified for all vehicle domains. Quality, safety, and security are no longer limited to a few areas of the car, but have become part of the entire ecosystem of a connected car (inside and outside the vehicle). Cyber security, e-Horizon, and OTA software updates, all very critical components of ADAS, autonomous driving, and telematics, have at least 50% of their functionality and complexity ‘located’ outside of the car. Yet all these features and functions impact sub-systems inside the car and have a high degree of impact on a vehicle’s reliability, safety, and security.

Safety first

FEV has been working in the powertrain domain space for over 30 years, a period during which quality and reliability have steadily improved. Today, the company supports its customers as they adopt similar methods and tools in the design, integration, and validation of connected vehicle applications. A well-engineered system starts with thorough and detailed requirement specifications that begin by incorporating the need and provision for validation. Functional safety (ISO26262) is an important design practice that needs to be adopted by the connected vehicle community. Unfortunately, today, it is only applied in the case of ADAS and autonomous driving. Cyber security, still a very new, yet ever-present and dangerous threat to the connected vehicle, needs to receive more attention and will require new design and validation practices to which the automotive space has not previously been accustomed to. Though ad-hoc testing has always been a part of the auto industry, cyber security penetration testing throughout the entire ecosystem (vehicle, cloud, apps, backend, etc.) is new and needs a different type of skillset than what a traditional automotive test engineer possesses. Understanding and considering all of the vehicle domains and the ecosystem is critical when designing and validating a connected vehicle. Thousands of existing use cases must be considered and hundreds of new ones will be added on a regular basis during the lifecycle of a connected car.

Your Engineering Partner

The foundational system challenges facing the connected vehicle are numerous, highly complex, and continuously evolving. The industry has not seen or dealt with many of these new, emerging technologies before, nor does it have substantial experience with the influence of previously disconnected industries coming together or the potential impact of parts being supplied by a supply-base that is now much larger and more diverse. The complexity of the applications needed in a connected vehicle cannot be supported by the existing foundation – proper subject matter experts must be available and the development process must assure that the fundamentals of the entire system are addressed. FEV engineers help their customers to bring it all together and make the complete end-to-end system work consistently and reliably through connected system thinking. This process and methodology incorporates connected vehicle design, integration, and validation of the components making up the connected vehicle system – both inside and outside of the car. FEV’s approach to connected system thinking is the key to a safe, reliable, secure, and successful connected vehicle program.

Inner city - connected vehicle

The complexity of the connected vehicle eco-system is very challenging.