Saturday, 30 March 2013

car software stacks

Car operating system update via USB stick
I'll move away from talking about cars soon, but there's a few extra things I've noticed recently because of the sudden and unexpected range of vehicles that I've been driving.

It's the increasing complexity of the software required to make them work. A case in point is that a couple of the cars I've been using have that little extra 'Windows' button on the steering wheel. It helps with phones and media control.

It mainly works, but there are also some incompatibilities.

A case in point has been the upgrade required for one of the systems so that it could recognise the various phones being used.

It's a Microsoft devised solution for end users (drivers) and involves downloading a software system description from within the car onto a USB stick plugged into the car. Then plugging the USB into an internet attached computer.

The USB stick's content is then used by a web site to determine which files to download. After that completes, take the USB stick back to the car, plug it in, switch on the car ignition without starting the engine and wait for the car to update.

An 'updating' message displays on the dashboard. It is supposed to take about 10 minutes. The radio switched on and off a couple of times and then the update finished.

It worked but was hardly intuitive.
Telemetry OS schematic for car
As shown in the simplified diagram, there's quite a lot of subsystems to make it all work, and even then, some of the parts like navigation are shown 'outside' of the solution.

I got the phones working, but there were a couple of loose ends, so I had a quick peek at the full manual. I know, manuals are usually a last resort. On this occasion I was also struck by how old some of the documentation is, for items that are in 2013 edition cars. I suppose it's the lag between invention and distribution.

It's making me even more impressed by space travel.

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