5 reasons autonomous vehicles are not smartphones on wheels: a storage software perspective

Recently, Automotive News Europe published an article of mine – 5 reasons autonomous vehicles are not smartphones on wheels. In the article, I explain how critical software is for vehicles and why comparing them to smartphones doesn’t do them justice. Thank you to the people at Automotive News Europe for featuring the piece; if you haven’t seen the article yet, please feel free to head on over and give it a read.

The topic is extremely interesting for me, and I wanted to elaborate more some of the key points.

Storage software – an automotive frontier

Research from McKinsey indicates that the automotive-related software market will double in the next ten years, reaching roughly USD 469 billion by 2030. Additionally, software will account for 90 percent of innovations in the vehicle. Undoubtedly, OEMs and car manufacturers want a slice of the cake, and no one wants to end last in the CASE race. Autonomous cars not only require a significant amount of development, but also a change in the mindsets of most car manufacturers. Mobility players are pursuing several strategies to build the next-generation vehicles. Some, like Tesla, are developing their own full self-driving chips. Other companies, like Volkswagen, are bringing software capabilities in-house. Partnerships, acquisitions, and venture investments are commonplace these days. This software-based approach to car design has inevitably led to coined terms like “smartphone on wheels” or “rolling data centers”. This type of thinking is necessary if automotive companies want to devise new service business opportunities and ways of monetizing transportation beyond the car, pushing the industry forward while bringing added value to their users and differentiating themselves. Yet the car is a tough environment, and if OEMs want to avoid situations like the resounding case of Tesla’s flash memory issue, or even delays in launches, they should not forget certain inherent characteristics of a vehicle that make software design for cars an altogether different matter. Let’s approach this from a storage software perspective.

Performance

Who hasn’t experienced laggy playback of a video or an application freeze for apparently no reason on their smartphone? Often a reboot – temporarily – fixes the problem, with no more harm done than a momentarily frustrated user. However, in a safety-critical environment such as the car, there is minimal room for latency and communication challenges; real-time, rapid response times are a must.

There are several factors that play a role in performance, like the file size, the way the device is partitioned, the file system implementations themselves, and contrary to popular belief, fragmentation. Automotive systems must handle multiple data streams – for example, video from dash cams, sensor data, GPS data, and log files are all being written at the same time. This type of heavy-write workload fragments the storage to a great degree, quickly degrading performance. Automotive OEMs should therefore look for solutions that prevent fragmentation in the first place, and that can keep sustained and consistent performance for long periods of time under intensive write operations.

Storage capacity

Autonomous vehicles will largely exceed the storage capacity of typical consumer electronics devices. While most flagship smartphones average an internal storage capacity of 256 GB (with the exception of the Samsung S10+ which has a 1TB version), data storage requirements for cars with a level 4 or 5 autonomy raise that figure up to 5 TB.  Cameras, radars and sensors, ADAS features, infotainment and HD maps, mandatory event data recorders (EDRs, popularly “black boxes”) and driver monitoring systems (DMS), regulated OTA updates, and applications enabled from added connectivity to the vehicle are the main drivers behind this increase in storage, making automotive Tier-1s shift from eMMC to UFS and NVMe SSDs. This change is not trivial, as eMMCs are soldered directly to the motherboards while SSDs are removable modules. Another key difference is that eMMCs are managed NAND devices while SSDs are traditionally raw NAND devices, requiring an external controller for managing the flash memory.

Temperature

Automotive components must withstand operating temperatures of -40°C to 125°C whereas consumer electronic devices should work on the range 0-70°C. Temperature plays a great role on a drive’s endurance and data retention. SSDs store data in cells comprised of floating-gate transistors which are surrounded by an oxide layer that traps electrons. The strength of the oxide layer is affected by temperature – the hotter the temperature, the higher the risk of bit errors due to electrons leaking and voltage changing. Similarly, extreme cold temperatures cause their own performance issues. If the SSD cannot correct and handle these bit errors, system errors will occur. Automotive grade SSDs implement additional error correction techniques to prevent this from happening and ensure the integrity of the data. However, there is a tradeoff – these additional techniques mean more program and erase (P/E) operations, which shorten the lifetime of the media. This brings me to the next point.

Lifetime

Consumers replace their smartphones every 2 or 3 years, but they expect cars to last at least 10 years. As such, the Automotive Electronics Council (AEC) assumes a product target lifetime of 15 years in their specifications for non-volatile memory meant to be used in automotive environments. To support such a long operating lifetime, flash media software and file systems play a critical role that is often overlooked. Flash memory suffers from write amplification, an issue caused by the need of erasing the data before it can be rewritten. Because the erase operation is coarser than the write operation – erase is done in wider blocks compared to writing – the actual amount of data written physically to the storage device is more than the logical amount intended. The write amplification factor (WAF) represents how efficiently the flash is used. The higher the WAF, the faster the memory will wear out and be rendered unusable. At this point, wear leveling techniques used to reduce premature flash wear become crucial – who would want their car to be recalled because an SSD needs to be replaced? OEMs should implement software and controllers that make use of intelligent wear levelling mechanisms, ensuring that reading and writing data is done in the most efficient way possible, so that the storage achieves its longest possible lifetime.

Data processing

Consumer electronic devices are resource-constrained, but through mobile cloud computing they are able to bypass their limitations and bring rich experiences and applications to their users. This is achieved by offloading data processing and data storage to the cloud. In autonomous vehicles however, that concept has been shelved in favor of in-vehicle processing. Sensor data will account for approximately 90% of the data onboard a vehicle, and an enormous amount of possible interactions and corner cases must be processed locally or at the edge. Then, when that data is no longer necessary, is simply discarded on the ground. In addition, the car has numerous concurrent applications that access the same data or files. For example, maps data is used by both the infotainment system and the cluster, and sensor data can be used by both ADAS and EDR systems. Centralized architectures and the use of hypervisors and virtualized environments – in which different automotive functions, operating systems, and applications run on the same hardware – have been the answer so far to avoid having a trunk full of data. While this approach helps automakers reduce their BOM and hardware costs, it also means that they need a storage software stack that is up to the task, equipped with file systems and storage management tools that make full use of its hardware capabilities while optimizing CPU consumption. In this case support features would also be needed, such as parallel processing, active caching, and compression.

Autonomous Vehicles Smartphones Key storage attributes
Temperature -40°C to 125°C 0 to 70°C Data retention and integrity
Lifetime +10 years 3 years Wear leveling
Storage capacity 1-5 TB 256 GB Efficient allocation and management tools
Data processing Local + Edge Cloud Parallel operations
Performance Safety-critical + UX User Experience Fragmentation

Table 1. Differences between smartphones and autonomous vehicles based on storage attributes.

Final thoughts

In an environment where many components are becoming a commodity, automotive players have turned to software as the driver for their breakthroughs and main differentiators. For end-users, the software features of a vehicle are a key factor for car selection; only safety and reliability play a more decisive role. The tremendous amount of data associated to autonomous vehicles is acting as a catalyst for new services and businesses, and carmakers are looking at other industries and markets for ideas. The answer might not be there, as the car and the infrastructure around it are full of peculiarities not seen in other fields. Storage software is one of those aspects that can be easily overlooked but is critical for the safety, performance, and user experience of a vehicle. What is clear is that the automotive industry is experiencing a revolution not seen since the motor engine, and success awaits to OEMs and suppliers who can seize these new opportunities.

Car makers and Tier-1s, let’s solve your automotive embedded storage challenges.

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GENIVI AMM 2019 Tuxera

Are carmakers becoming the new software houses? Viewpoint from the 19th GENIVI All Member Meeting.

Since 2009 GENIVI has been driving the adoption of open source software for the connected car. The last 10 years have been incredibly successful for the GENIVI Alliance and the automotive open source community. Initially focused on Linux-based IVI and automotive open source software, GENIVI is expanding its scope to become the leading platform driving the efforts for the integration of the multiple operating systems that are present in the centralized and connected cockpit.

We wrote about ECU consolidation in the past, but which other trends are currently being discussed in the automotive industry? This is my perspective based on the discussions at the latest GENIVI All Member Meeting and Open Community Days.

From Operating Systems to Platforms – Embedded Android and multi-OS integration in the vehicle cockpit

Driven by the consumer demand for bringing their digital ecosystem into the car, and in hopes of a seamless user experience that will encourage people to keep their phones in their pockets when driving, automotive OEMs are turning to embedded Android. Native Android Automotive infotainment systems have already made their way to the dashboard of Volvo’s spin-off Polestar 2, and reportedly the Renault–Nissan–Mitsubishi Alliance and FCA will be next. According to Patrick Brady, the head of Android Auto, carmakers that are adopting Android as the built-in system in the car represent over 50 percent of annual car volumes. But the premise of an experience where all the devices around you are seamlessly integrated is not exempt of challenges, like having to deal with more frequent software updates, and with special regional requirements (for example in China). To ease the adoption and integration of embedded Android GENIVI launched the Android Automotive Special Interest Group, where OEMs, suppliers, and software developers can discuss how to work together with the Google Android Automotive team on the centralized car cockpit.

In addition to the Android Auto SIG, GENIVI also launched a multi-OS Integration Project. The focus areas of the project are cluster and IVI integration, partition lifecycle management, and hypervisor-OS standardization and specifications. These initiatives will help OEMs to integrate and manage Linux, AUTOSAR, Integrity, QNX and other in-vehicle operating systems into the central cockpit efficiently and at less cost.

The vehicle software architecture of the future is data oriented

The data explosion currently driven by ADAS systems, and in the future by fully autonomous vehicles, has just begun. We estimate that autonomous cars will generate more than 300 TB of data per year, but what are the use cases for that amount of data and where, how, and by whom is it going to be stored and managed? The concept of “extended vehicle”, in which third parties can access vehicle data as per ISO standards (20077-1 and 20078-1) puts a stop to the notion that a car is a thing to get from A to B. The sharing of data with third parties will enable new use cases and new revenue streams on the fields of insurance, fueling, parking, or car maintenance, just to name a few. For example, the telematics insurance market will grow to 2.2 billion USD by 2020, according to Statista. We will also start seeing more and more companies monetizing on services for when the car is on the road and targeting the automotive market. There is still a long way before we see a vehicle functioning in the cloud (on ideal conditions and with 5G technologies a car could only upload and download about 10% of its collected data), but regardless of where the data is stored and processed, in the cloud or at the edge, the automotive industry is working to simplify the handling of vehicle generated data. GENIVI has established several expert groups that work on defining standard interfaces (APIs) and is promoting the idea of a neutral server and Auto API, an open protocol that specifies car data and functions in an abstract format, removing the specifics of car model or brand.

Final thoughts

The amount of software in a car is sharply increasing, and the automotive industry is experiencing its major disruption since the introduction of the internal combustion engine. Consumers are in awe of the experiences provided by newcomers like Tesla, who are able to start from scratch and think of the car as a whole, without any legacy. But established automakers are far from staying still. Associations like GENIVI (of which Tuxera has been part since 2011) are of incredible help in supporting the adoption of standards for increasing the functionality in our vehicles. I believe in collaborative development and open source as a pillar for innovation; just one last question remains: if cars are the new smartphones, are automotive OEMs the new software houses?

 


How to format drives in NTFS on a Mac—in 3 easy steps

Sharing data between a Mac running macOS or OS X and PCs running Windows may not be that straightforward. By default, Macs can only read files from Windows-formatted external hard drives, but not write to them. This prevents you from saving, editing, copying, or deleting anything stored on your drives using your Mac. The reason behind this? The file system used by Macs (HFS+) is different than the file system used in Windows (NTFS).

How to read NTFS files on a Mac

There's a real easy solution for this, however: your Mac just needs a driver. Tuxera NTFS for Mac is a full read-write NTFS driver that enables your Mac to read and write NTFS-formatted drives. It also comes with Tuxera Disk Manager, a companion app that lets you format, check, and repair NTFS drives. Tuxera Disk Manager lets you fully manage your hard drive and stored data regardless of the operating system.

Formatting drives with Tuxera Disk Manager

You may find that you first need to format the external drive so it can be used with both your Mac and your PC. Formatting is the process of preparing a drive for use by an operating system. For reference, we explain in more detail what formatting is and why you need it here: http://www.tuxera.com/formatting-an-ntfs-drive-using-a-mac/

Here’s how you format a drive using Tuxera Disk Manager:

Tuxera_NTFS_for_Mac_Tuxera_Disk_Manager_format_NTFS

About Tuxera NTFS for Mac

Tuxera NTFS for Mac and Tuxera Disk Manager work in the latest macOS and OS X 10.11 El Capitan. It's backwards compatible and runs on all OS X versions starting from Tiger. Personal licensing allows you to install Tuxera NTFS for Mac on all your home computers with a single license.

Get Tuxera NTFS for Mac with Tuxera Disk Manager to get started:

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Why mentoring matters in technology

One thing I appreciate most about working at Tuxera is the support we get for taking part in activities outside the organization. For instance, last January Tuxera started a collaboration with the Helsinki chapter of Girls in Tech, a global non-profit organization focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of women in technology and entrepreneurship.

We helped them arrange their first Skills Bootcamp, where they ran workshops on programming, service design, leadership, sales and venture building. Soon after, Girls in Tech launched a mentorship program. They asked me to mentor a freshly graduate service designer from Aalto University. I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to share some of the things I've been learning at Tuxera.

It turns out software companies have a lot to offer to those trying to get their foot into the tech industry and vice-versa! For one, mentoring gives you the chance to learn what issues and challenges recent graduates face when finishing their studies. But more importantly, mentorship presents a learning opportunity for the mentor too.

For more insights about my experience as a mentor and the importance of mentorship, be sure to check out my post in Medium.


Sneak peek into our annual summer party

While at Tuxera we have a strong sense of community and do a lot of activities together outside the office every day, there are certain events that brings us even closer and where we have the opportunity to interact with colleagues we do not see that often. We've blogged a lot in the past about our traditional company parties and company culture, so this time we wanted to do something more distinctive and give you a sneak peek of our latest summer party. Because if an image is worth a thousand words, a video should be worth a thousand images:

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We thank all of our Tuxera team for always making company events special. For many more to come!


Tuxera NTFS for Mac 2016 RC - macOS Sierra and NTFS drives

After our visit to Apple's WWDC last week we couldn't wait but get our hands in the new macOS Sierra and start working on a release candidate of our driver Tuxera NTFS for Mac for all those developers and users who depend on our software to ensure the compatibility of their storage between Mac and Windows machines. This release candidate is available for download directly from us: https://www.tuxera.com/mac/tuxerantfs_2016-RC.dmg.

And in case you missed it, here is a piece of news that Mac users were hoping for in the release of macOS Sierra: you can use Apple's integrated Disk Utility to format NTFS volumes again. Tuxera NTFS for Mac still ships with Tuxera Disk Manager which helps you format and repair your NTFS drives in macOS Sierra, OS X El Capitan, and previous versions of OS X. In the release history page you will find a summary listing all the major changes and improvements to our NTFS driver for Mac.

As with every developer preview and beta versions released by Apple, macOS Sierra is as new to you as it is to us. We'll be listening to your feedback and suggestions for improvements and keep working towards our final release. If you are a new customer, you can visit our product page https://www.tuxera.com/products/tuxera-ntfs-for-mac to purchase the software or to download it and try it out for 15 days. If you have any questions, contact our support team at macsupport@tuxera.com.

UPDATE! Get the full version of Tuxera NTFS for Mac 2016 with support for macOS Sierra here:

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Tech, devs and sunshine - overview of Google IO 2016 in 59 seconds

The 10th edition of Google IO has been the largest IO in number of attendees with over 7,000 people at the Shoreline Amphitheater and outskirts. Now it's time to look back at what Google IO 2016 has brought to the software industry.

In terms of launches and new products, Google Assistant was announced, and Google Home together with it. We are looking forward to get our hands on it by Christmas time. The also launched messaging apps Duo and Allo should however be released end of this summer --with support for iOS as well.

If there was something we were expecting that was VR. Taking the technology a step forward, Google presented their new VR platform (software and hardware) Daydream, and participants to the conference were able to hear first hand not just about how to implement controller support in Unity and C++,  but also how to market and distribute apps in the Play Store for VR (if you missed any of the sessions, Google has published all of them in their dev channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=PLOU2XLYxmsILe6_eGvDN3GyiodoV3qNSC&v=862r3XS2YB0).

At IO 16 we had the opportunity to test some of the new Android N features like split screen and instant apps, and also learn more about Firebase and its expansion towards a unified app platform for Android, iOS and mobile web development. Project Tango, Android Auto, Google Maps and other Google products were also in the spotlight, available for everyone to play around. Check out this video recap of 59 seconds for a glimpse of IO 2016 and feel the atmosphere that filled Mountain View for 3 sunny days:

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Google I/O 2016 - what excites you the most?

We just finished packing our stuff and are heading to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View for Google I/O 2016. The full schedule of the conference has just been announced and based on the titles of the keynotes we can't wait to see Google's developments in areas that are very familiar for us like Android OS and self-driving cars. Another big topic seems to be VR and augmented reality: two presentations for Project Tango on the second day of the conference that we are definitely not going to miss. IoT and wearables are still grabbing attention. We were there last year at Google I/O 2015 when Project Brillo was launched and not much noise has been made about this tiny OS specially designed for IoT devices, but seems like Google has kept an ace in the hole for it and we hope to hear more at the event. Last but not least this year we will also be able to ask Google experts to review our apps: what would they tell us about our AllConnect App and its new look and feel?

Tuxera_Android_Google_IO

We are excited to participate once more in Google I/O and will be posting and covering the event live so make sure to follow Tuxera in our social media channels to stay tuned, and ping us if you are in the conference and want to meet up:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Tuxera

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Tuxera.filesystem/

YouTube: https://plus.google.com/+tuxera/videos

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/tuxera/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/Tuxera/

 


Mikko_Wolves_Keynote

How to find software products that sell - Mikko Välimäki at Wolves Summit

In today's world we are surrounded by all kinds of mobile devices and we use them on a daily basis. Most IT companies and developers turn to mobile applications and front-end software because of their nature (easy to see and "easy" to do) and the potential for new ideas. But what if we look at the latest trends in technology? For instance, cloud is one area beyond apps and games that is full of possibilities. Or what if we look at the low level of the stack and basic things everyone needs? Security protocols, databases, file systems... are critical components that everybody needs but most IT companies and developers overlook. How to find opportunities in system software, infrastructure software, embedded software? Our CEO Mikko Välimäki was a featured speaker last month at Wolves Summit covering this topic. We've compiled the most relevant parts of his keynote in this video:

 


Why we contribute to open-source and the Free Software Foundation

As a workplace we are bold in many ways, and one of them is to get involved and support causes we believe in. This winter, our QA team had the idea to contribute to the Free Software Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software and technology that we use in our homes, schools and businesses. Todor Vlaev, R&D manager in our quality team, explains the rationale behind the decision of sponsoring the Free Software Foundation in this blog post in form of an interview:

Q: Why did you choose open-source as a theme for your sponsorship?

Todor: Because we use a lot of open-source tools in our daily work. For example build and compiler tools. Similar commercial products would cost thousands of euros for licensing. And because our engineering team is full of open-source enthusiasts :), and basically because we think it's only fair to pay for these tools that power our commercial business.

Q: Why the Free Software Foundation? Aren't there many other communities supporting free and open-source software?

Todor: The Free Software Foundation is behind the GNU project. The GNU is a collection of many programs: applications, developer tools, libraries... the open-source tools that we use are part of that, they enable us to do our work, and it is fair to give back to the community as much as possible.

Q: How do you feel about using these types of tools at work?

Todor: They really are quality tools. They are not buggy it that's what you mean --and if we find something off or wrong with a tool, or ways to improve it, we make a contribution to the code. Additionally, there is a huge community of developers and driven contributors behind. If there are issues, somebody will find a solution, but overall, the quality is excellent.

Q: Why do you think it is important to support these communities?

Todor: Because of the fact that it's open and not controlled or driven by any company's interest and the fact that the FSF contributes to the society. Most software engineers I know believe open-source is the right way to do things. Several of them come from research backgrounds and for them open-source is a way of releasing knowledge to the world.

Q: Do you plan to continue your support in the future?

Todor: Certainly! We look forward to it and also to increase our collaboration with other open-source software projects.