OTA Technology Required to Perfect GPS Systems for Self-Driving Cars

Movimento Blog

Every once in a while, we hear terrible GPS stories – a young girl who drove into a lake; a man who drove onto railroad tracks. We do not take these stories seriously and shake our heads at people who do not pay attention to where they are going. But we have all had moments where our GPS systems have acted up, causing us brief moments of hesitation: “I know I should turn here – I have done it before – but the GPS tells me something else.”

Faulty GPS and bad maps are more a reflection of technology rather than the human behind the wheel. As cars become more autonomous, and we move toward Level 4 and Level 5 of automation, we will have more and more ‘drivers’ who, by definition, are fully controlled by their cars’ algorithms and decision-making.

This is not to overstate the issue; self-driving cars will be remarkably safe. But maps are imperfect and roads keep changing. In order to ensure that maps stay in tune with the reality of the road and that connected cars are always on the right track, OEMs will need to rely on over-the-air (OTA) software updates. A constant and secure update process is vital for the future of the automotive industry.

Maps Do Not Always Reflect the Real Roads

There is no question that GPS and mapping technology have improved vastly over the last five years. You can be in your car and get instant, real-time updates of accidents ahead, with suggestions for alternate routes. When you begin a journey, and enter your destination into your GPS unit, you will receive a to-the-minute prediction of when you will arrive. This calculation is adjusted during the trip, of course, as you stop for gas or unexpectedly get caught in heavy traffic, but it is remarkably accurate.

While GPS has improved at getting drivers to their destinations on time, the destinations themselves are not always accurate. The government’s GPS website, for instance, has received many complaints from businesses whose addresses show up in the wrong place, making it difficult for customers to find them. Deliveries might also be sent to the wrong location, which can be crippling to businesses. And sometimes businesses just do not appear at all. This problem has driven the government to establish a well-used process for fixing it.

Of course, these flaws can be compounded by sudden road closures, renaming of street names, and faulty map updates. This last issue is what recently happened to Lexus.

As BBC reports, “the buggy update – which was delivered via a wireless transmission – is causing affected vehicles’ infotainments systems to stop working. This prevents drivers from getting navigation directions, climate controls and digital radio.”

The bug required Lexus owners to take a trip to the dealership for a system reset. Luckily, most people can look at a different map or just remember the road to the destination if they run into these types of issues. But a self-driving car with a buggy or non-existent map is either dangerous or useless. You may never get to the right destination in that situation.

OTA Updates and the BMW Model

Some automotive companies are already looking for ways to prevent the problem. According to their blog, BMW recently launched an OTA program for their navigation systems:

“BMW is unveiling an update to the Navigation Maps in BMW cars. The Navigation system Professional has represented the ultimate in convenience and information en route to the destination ever since it was launched. When paired with the latest generation of this system, BMW ConnectedDrive enables regular automatic navigation updates. With the help of the vehicle’s built-in SIM card, the data is transmitted over the air via the mobile phone network, with no licensing fees or transmission costs for the end user.”

This is a necessary model. OTA software updates are needed to make GPS maps reflect the reality of the roads, consistently. In order to work efficiently and keep customers safe, these updates must be:

  • Quick: They need to be ready to go as soon as new information or technology becomes available, which will require a smart, adaptive delta compression updating system.
  • Centralized: A cloud-based updating system allows for instant transmission around the world.
  • Secure: Cybersecurity means making sure all updates are protected. It also means providing OEMs the ability to instantly transmit security patches and protect cars throughout the system so that hackers will not be able to tinker with GPS systems.

We do not anticipate a future where cars suddenly go careening off the road or into a lake due to a GPS glitch. There will be backup systems and algorithmic improvements to recognize situations that do not seem right. For any problem, there is a solution based on the ingenuity of human engineering. But this does not mean any system is ever going to be perfect. With OTA technology, however, the future of automated driving can be protected, updated, and constantly improved.

As the auto industry is changed by technological and economic currents, OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers will need to partner with technological specialists to thrive in the era of the software defined car. Movimento’s expertise is rooted in our background as an automotive company. This has allowed us to create the technological platform that underpins the future of the software driven and self-driven car. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can work together.

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