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Article, Developers Blog

Updating Your Car Over the Air


Over-the-air update, which updates software and data on the vehicle system without having to visit a service center and connect the vehicle to a PC, has arrived for HMG vehicles.

Over-the-air update, which updates software and data on the vehicle system without having to visit a service center and connect the vehicle to a PC, has arrived for HMG vehicles. Let’s hear from the engineers, who developed HMG’s first over-the-air update system incorporated in the GENESIS G90 and the 8th-generation SONATA, why over-the-air update is the way of the future.

It took a long time for over-the-air (OTA) update to become available for vehicles, compared to smartphones. Why did it take so long?

(From left) Jung-suk Park, Head of Group / Yong-jin Shin, Senior Researcher / Young-chun Seo, Senior Researcher / Nam-jun Kim, Head of Group

Jung-suk Park
HMG’s navigation system receives regular software updates which not only updates the map data but also other features including the infotainment system. We have made a lot of improvements including to its usability and interface and introduced many new features. However, previously the updates had to be made manually which was an inconvenience.
We made it slightly less inconvenient by introducing an automated update when the car was not in use. However, drivers still had to download the update onto a SD memory card and then transfer the file to the car. OTA update makes the process much easier but the cost involved sending large software and map data made mass deployment difficult.

Nam-jun Kim
Unlike smartphone-based navigation apps, map data for our system is very large since it needs to work even where the network signal is unreliable. Sending a large package of data containing country-scale maps through a mobile communication network presented a major challenge. Many factors including the engine on and off signal, battery drain, and communication network errors needed to be considered. Ultimately, we developed a differential update technology which only downloads the map data with changes, significantly reducing the size of the data. This led to the necessary reduction in data communication service costs, enough to make it economical.

What are the types of technologies required to make over-the-air update for automobiles work besides a mobile communication technology?

Nam-jun Kim
Differential update technology and data reliability, which I mentioned earlier are the two very important technologies required. Super reliability is necessary to prevent update failure. Memory redundancy technology is also needed so that the navigation system can continue to operate during the update. We also needed to monitor deployment and system reliability after the launch and worked with the relevant teams to address these issues.

Jung-suk Park
In the past, drivers had to download data onto an SD card and wait 10 to 20 minutes in the car until the update was completed. OTA update automates everything which made downloading in the background and automated update technology necessary.

How is the over-the-air update process done? What happens before the driver gets to use the new software and map data?

Nam-jun Kim
The system first notifies the driver of the release of the new update and begins downloading before updating. It then notifies the driver that the update is complete and about any new features and fixes as part of the ‘What’s New’ message when the car is started after an update. The onboard navigation system with the latest map data and features then becomes available at all times.

Jung-suk Park
The OTA system update is triggered when the driver taps on an update and turns the engine off. The rest of the process is all the same including the display of details about the update.

How long does an OTA update take?

Hyundai-Kia Infotainment Platform Development Team #1, Jung-suk Park, Head of Group,
Yong-jin Shin, Senior Researcher

Nam-jun Kim
It used to take at least one hour to download update the data on an SD memory card or memory stick, to bring the memory card/stick to the car and wait until the update was completed. However, the OTA update eliminates all of this since the system takes care of everything from downloading to updating by itself.

Jung-suk Park
So, it does not take any time at all from the driver’s perspective since the process does not require any action from the customer. For example, the 8th-generation SONATA downloads the update in the background and the update is done afterwards when the engine is turned off. The update itself takes about one hour and we plan to release a new version which will reduce the time it takes to update.

What are the key challenges you faced during the development of the OTA system?

Nam-jun Kim
The biggest challenge was ensuring reliability in a wide range of conditions. We had to ensure reliable operation during a wide range of unexpected events such as engine switching off during download or update, battery charge depletion and network failure. We ran many automated tests to ensure reliability in a large variety of unlikely conditions. I believe this was the most difficult part.

Jung-suk Park
We focused on making it userfriendly and reliable to make sure that customers feel comfortable using it. A failed update could undermine customer’s confidence in not only the OTA but in HMG’s vehicles as well. Therefore, we tested the OTA system extensively for extremely unlikely conditions such as removal of car battery during download, navigation system reset during update and so on to ensure the highest reliability for mass production.

How will we benefit from the advancement of connected car technologies? What kinds of changes will it mean for us?

Hyundai-Kia Infotainment Platform Development Team #2 Young-chun Seo, Senior Researcher, Nam-jun Kim, Head of Group

Jung-suk Park
I believe that the ultimate connected car should be able to identify the best route, that is not only the fastest but also the least stressful to drive and will help the driver navigate to their destination while providing the best care possible to the driver. I think the OTA update that keeps the software and map data up to date is a solid first step towards the realization of an ultimate connected car. I think OTA will increasingly become the norm.

Nam-jun Kim
The increase in connected cars will lead to the collection of huge amounts of data on many things including vehicle usage patterns. The collected ‘big data’ will then be analyzed to create new features which can be updated as soon as they are made available. Customers will be able to experience the latest features and services and that’s what makes connected cars so attractive.