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Vehicle Programming

In a world where technology is constantly evolving and integrating into all aspects of our lives, it is no surprise that vehicles are adopting this change too. Basically, there has been a shift from the traditional hardware build of cars and now, each car is designed with a sophisticated software. The software is used to notify users or drivers with details on car diagnostics ranging from steering functions to entertainment system functions. In line with this idea, cars today are designed with control units that manage various aspects of cars. In order to understand vehicle programming, it is important to begin by understanding car software.

Vehicle Programming

What is a car software?

Just like our phones and tablets have become smart and equipped with connectivity, cars too have underlying connected components. The foundations of this aspect in cars is brought by the software. A car software is designed to ensure the smooth functioning of the vehicle and identify inconsistencies. Car functions such as cruise control and collision avoidance are among many functions of a car software that is powered by sensors. And these features have been appearing in cars for many years now. Through the years the foundations of car manufacturers have been increasingly shifting from hardware to software development. In fact, most changes and upgrades in cars today are software related.

A detailed breakdown of a car software

Understanding the details of any software can be daunting, but a car software is not that different from things that we already know through other forms of technology. For starters, a Controller Area Network or CAN is the heart of most cars manufactured after the mid-90s. So, cars have shifted from the traditional hardware build for a while now.

The main purpose of the CAN is to promote the safety of cars. Through the use of control units (known as electronic control units or ECUs) and sensors, CAN, provides details on vehicle type diagnostics ranging from steering function to car temperature to window up-down mechanics. These ECUs are also equipped to monitor major and critical car functions such as braking, accelerator and yaw and roll, which can help notify vehicle owners or drivers of possible areas of concern and steer car mechanics in the right direction. As a result, a car software makes automotive damage detection and the repair process more efficient. Consequently, this helps improve vehicle safety and reduces maintenance and repair time. 

The car software programming industry has a few major players. With the integration of these types of software in car mechanics, there has been a development in the field as well. While CAN is the building block of car software, there are few more notable advancements in the car software space that are important in the understanding car mechanics. The Motor Industry Software Reliability Association or MISRA has a set of programming guidelines for cars. Another key component of car operating systems is Open Systems and their Interfaces for the Electronics in Motor Vehicles or OSEK, which is an important communication and network management software.  Genivi is another software that is used to manage automotive infotainment.

Popular car software details

Before getting into vehicle programming, a deeper delve into the different car software options will act as a knowledge building block. Now, that the concept of CAN is well explained as the central automotive component (that replaced the use of wires) of each car software, the next step is to understand the processing systems. With the advancement of CAN, the need for the understanding of embedded applications increased. This is where MISRA steps in and aides this process by providing a set of C language guidelines for automotive systems. This created a standard for vehicle programming language. Interestingly, the MISRA automotive C guidelines even extended to programming of other products too in the form of C++. OSEK is a real-time operating system and the main purpose of this software in vehicle programming is to ensure the safety of the control system. The safety feature of  OSEK lies in its design which eliminates system failure possibilities by the use of a standardized operating system, communication and network management. Lastly, Genivi integrated open source software usage in vehicles to support vehicle infotainment. As a result, Genivi helps realize the connected and smart car concept.

The connection between car software and vehicle programming

Given that cars today are equipped with a software, this paves way for vehicle programming. The software in each car keeps track of the multiple ECUs in a car with the help of sensors and wires. All this information needs to be stored and this is where the CAN or car software steps in. The ECUs ensure all commands like simple locking and unlocking and ambiguous things like not shutting doors tightly do not go unnoticed. While this could be done with wires in the past, the use of sensors in cars has made the designs of cars sleekers and freed cars from the complexities of a ridiculous amount of wires. For example, think of the various features in a car like the anti-lock braking system, which can now work minus wires and with the use of sensors. This reduces the excess of wires and reduces the complications of car functioning and diagnostics. The dashboards in cars are equipped with gear that notifies vehicle drivers or users with inconsistencies in the ECUs. This information can also be used by automotive repair and diagnostics shops.

What is vehicle programming and why is it complex?

Vehicle programming takes care of the mechanics of vehicles. With the reduction of wires and the introduction of sensors in cars, the need for a CAN was established. This means that cars are now equipped with a data storage component like most items we use in our daily life (ranging from smart phones to smart TVs). All software requires understanding to optimize use and management. So, the data collected by the CAN can be integral in all car diagnostics and repair. While there are certain issues that can be easily addressed at home, there are certain issues that require the eye and help of an automotive repair and diagnostics shop.

For example, if your brakes have an , you could conduct a diagnostics but you might feel more comfortable consulting an automotive repair and diagnostics shop with some expertise in both understanding and fixing your problem. This is where vehicle programming steps in. With the increased software sophistication of cars, fixing them is no longer just about some tools. The understanding of vehicle programming is key to understanding the diagnostics and conducting adequate repair.

Vehicle programming of different automotive brands

With the development and advancement of car software, the need for programming and coding is increasing. While the general understanding of car software helps to understand the basic makings of all car software, there are some vehicle and brand-specific programming details to be mindful of. Like most products these automotive features are equipped with manuals. But, unlike most products, a lack of understanding of car software details can get in the way of driver and vehicle safety. Here are some brand specific details:

Mercedes Benz Software Calibration Number (SCN) coding/ programming

This is a car and make specific requirement and the main purpose is to lock the vehicle from unauthorized software use and circulation of automotive parts.  Unauthorized use or update of Mercedes vehicles with this software will result in system failure. 

BMW programming

As the name suggests it is BMW specific and the main purpose is to keep a brand-specific programming requirement. Again, there are a specific set of guidelines for authorized use. 

Audi programming

Audi and Volkswagen have a communication software manual to ensure adequate programming and usage. Understanding of the manual key for the safety of vehicle use and programming.

Volkswagen programming

As stated above, Volkswagen and Audi have a common communication software manual to ensure adequate programming and usage. A proper understanding of the manual helps with vehicle programming and usage.

Mini Cooper programming

Like other vehicles with sophisticated software, Mini Coopers have a programming manual as well. Proper coding is key for proper functioning of vehicle features.

Long story short, car software and vehicle programming are multi-layered topics. Car software brings a lot of sophisticated features in cars, but with this comes a set of complex vehicle programming needs. Though understanding of these concepts can help maximize the use of your vehicle, an experienced automotive professional is key in order to adequately understand and meet their programming needs. Remember, timely vehicle maintenance and programming through an experienced professional will enhance vehicle experience and ensure vehicle safety- both of which are not things people want to compromise on!

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