Automotive E-ssentials

Automotive E-ssentials

Your regular update for technical and industry information

Your regular update for technical and industry information

Homologation of Updates

Homologation processes that last for months and extensive documentation are becoming outdated. They no longer match the pace of vehicle functions that can be installed on cars and trucks via over-the-air software updates. TÜV SÜD Mobility Division aims to leverage Germany's advantage in autonomous driving laws and is actively developing digital solutions in this regard.

Homologation of updates, vehicles on streetTraditionally, once a vehicle is homologated, its technical configuration remains unchanged for an extended period, until the next facelift, model upgrade, or the introduction of a new vehicle generation, typically after around seven years. In addition, the homologation is carried out in a conventional manner: driving tests, laboratory examinations, extensive documentation on paper, lengthy coordination between the manufacturer, testing organisation and authorities, and finally the type approval.

"This has been the conventional approach until now, but it no longer meets the practical requirements of today's automotive industry", Christian Pahlke, Head of Future Vehicle Technologies in the TÜV SÜD Division Mobility, notes.

Traditional processes are no longer sufficient to achieve the homologation of software updates efficiently and cost-effectively for safety-relevant vehicle functions.

Christian Pahlke

Head of Future Vehicle Technologies, TÜV SÜD Division Mobility

The industry is increasingly shifting towards autonomous driving, as demonstrated by the new law on autonomous driving passed in 2021. This law allows level 4 autonomous vehicles to operate nationwide on public roads in defined areas, as long as their operation is continuously monitored by a technical supervisor.

Leading the way internationally

“Thanks to its strong legal framework, Germany is currently at the forefront of international efforts, giving it a competitive edge. However, this position also brings to light the existing weaknesses within the system”, says Pahlke.

Because new vehicle functions with safety implications must be reported to authorities and undergo homologation - unlike comfort features - the rules are clear. However, Pahlke points out the new challenges: "For instance, during map updates - a convenience feature - new safety-related functions such as an autopilot can be unlocked." Furthermore, software is constantly evolving, not least because the learning effects from networked vehicle fleets should benefit everyone involved as quickly as possible in specific situations.

Simulated tests, fast routes

Legislation frequently follows new technologies, but in the case of autonomous driving precisely the opposite it true: The legal basis exists, and the technology is only gradually being implemented on the road.

“Using traditional procedures, it will be difficult to effectively homologate SAE Level 4 vehicles.” TÜV SÜD Division Mobility is focused on creating the necessary conditions today for a safer tomorrow, while ensuring that safety remains an appealing aspect for future vehicles. "Safety must be verifiable, readily accessible, and cost-effective for all vehicle types and their software updates throughout their life cycles," emphasizes Pahlke.

The challenge at hand is to bring together all stakeholders, including vehicle manufacturers, as well as government bodies such as the Federal Motor Transport Authority (Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt, KBA) and technical service organisations like TÜV SÜD, to collaborate and establish a shared path for defining a new process. The objective is to create a digital process for the homologation of software updates that ensures the safety of vehicle functions.

Complex interaction

Pahlke further elaborated that they are referring to the technologies used in level 4 vehicles, which could potentially be introduced to the market in the upcoming years. However, due to the complexity of the matter and the multitude of stakeholders involved, preparations for the topic have already begun. The testing organisation is currently launching several projects and anticipates the initial results to be available by the end of this year.

"Virtual homologation of software updates is crucial to ensure the safety and sustainability of mobility," says Pahlke. The TÜV SÜD expert highlights the pressing need for action, as he anticipates a higher number of over-the-air updates for vehicles in the future, requiring a corresponding increase in homologations per year.

Intensive preparation for the future

The importance of the role played by “virtualization in type approval” for the whole industry is currently also discussed in various expert rounds and conferences.

In the future, trucks will have new functions added through software updates, which will create challenges for the homologation processes. To address this, the aim is to have a fast, transparent, and paperless process for homologating these software updates.

Copyright: VerkehrsRUNDSCHAU


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