The Volkswagen Group presented publicly their “One Digital Platform” concept allowing to connect in-car services as well as run additional services for vehicles like charging or parking. Especially in the current era of people being always online, there are challenges to satisfy customer needs and expectations, which require a reliable IT infrastructure as a base platform for vehicles and services.
The cloud promised to be the solution for that challenge, especially when a runtime platform like Cloud Foundry and an Internet-of-Things (IoT) service are included. To verify that claim, one brand of the Volkswagen Group, in that case, Porsche, organized a group-wide Proof-of-Concept (PoC), and with the help of different partners, like Grape Up, there were various scenarios prototyped.
As the automotive industry is rapidly changing, Porsche is adopting powerful cloud and IoT technologies. To create a seamless customer experience enabled by the fully integrated vehicle into the cloud, the company has decided to use the IoT paradigm, which empowers the end-user to interact with their cars.
On their way to build a unique experience for its customers, Porsche decided to use the virtual representation of the car in the cloud – a Digital Twin. A Digital Twin can capture the behavioral and operational data of the vehicle and provide near real-time data as a basis to analyze the overall vehicle performance, delivering personalized service for customers. This allows business services to become independent of the vehicle's connectivity status to provide functions or content based on last known data points. Additionally, the digital twin could even support answering ad-hoc questions for groups of vehicles sharing the same data model.
The Volkswagen Group has been implementing cloud technologies to its cars for years, but there occurred a strong need for a unified platform that could connect all the vehicles designed by the entire group. Along with the technology development, the transfer of the plain data between the car and the cloud via mobile networks has become not that challenging, thanks to the number of communication providers available on the market. The challenge occurs when the company is putting solutions on top of it to support various ways of software component communication between cars and the cloud (technologies like Azure IoT, Wireless Car, or the VW Group backend “Modularer Backend-Baukasten” – MBB). Having a large number of services deployed in the cars, providing inconsistent APIs combined with the variety of transport mechanisms significantly complicates integration for both – third-party and in-house developed services. Such a complex design makes even simple cloud-to-car requests tough. Cloud applications have to know how to reach a particular car and which transport protocol should be used for a given in-car service. That extra information needed by cloud service increase complexity and affects the performance of the whole system.
Things are getting even more complicated when tackling complex scenarios, especially with advanced user interaction or timing requirements. Edge cases, operations at a huge scale (with thousands or even millions of cars connected to one platform), as well as automated updates for the in-car software modules make this project a huge R&D endeavor.
In the context of e-mobility, the Volkswagen Group, including Porsche, is simplifying its overall electronic and software architecture. Radically standardizing the software interfaces with a common platform and assuring that software can be updated or upgraded over the whole lifecycle is a revolutionary step in the automotive industry.
During the entire process, particular teams from Grape Up were responsible for providing essential ingredients of the project. Grape Up has developed the gateway component that communicates with a car using provided connected car solutions, which are a smart link between a car and the platform, regardless of which specific software is actually used by a single car. This solution enables service providers to deliver new apps faster.
Along with the gateway, Grape Up delivered the so-called Vehicle Shadow (part of the Digital Twin concept) that allows gathering data and information transferred to a car through the cloud. The Vehicle Shadow enables the Volkswagen Group to solve complicated use cases (for example what to do when a car is offline and how it should respond to user actions when getting back online) and to make use of collected information to improve customer experience. To help Porsche with getting the most out of the data sent by cars, Grape Up developed an original query language (based on GraphQL and the RSI protocol), which empowers users to query specific information available on the platform.
Porsche uses Cloud Foundry, which is a perfect fit in a project that evolves so often, as this technology allows for great flexibility and development speed. By using Cloud Foundry, the team behind the project is able to cut the time cost of the works with the architecture (development and maintenance) and focus on providing business value. Grape Up has extensive experience both from application development and operations perspective in regard to cloud technologies with special focus on OSS Cloud Foundry on top of AWS.
After completing the initial phase and documenting experiences covering technologies and concepts verified through the project, the collaboration focused on implementing a market-ready solution based on a unified API and communication platforms delivered by chosen providers (Azure IoT, VW Group backend MBB, Wireless Car).
The prototyped automotive cloud provides a stable environment for developing applications, features, and services. Using the new platform, the Volkswagen Group can verify various communication patterns between cars and the cloud. The implemented, unified API concept enables its customers to communicate with their cars through the cloud at the same quality level as when they use direct connections, for example, Wi-Fi. The unified API works well with the Digital Twin concept which leads to cuts in communication with the vehicle, as third-party apps are able to connect with the services in the cloud, instead of communicating directly with an in-car software component.
Porsche has accelerated its release pace and speeded up a feedback loop, which allows developing new ideas faster. Porsche has been designing supportive technologies for their vehicles through the years but to redesign in-car software architecture, they needed to build one place where all apps and services could be integrated and connected. By building the platform, Porsche opened up to develop and deploy new functionality in the car and in the backend at the same time or even independently.