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The Vehicle API – unlocking the software-defined vehicle


Modern vehicles usually have more than a hundred electrical computing units (ECU) built in. Data flows and communication between them needs to be orchestrated. Today’s approach for the interface and communication management is characterized by:


  • Signal-based planning - interfaces are defined on a low technical  level which makes it difficult to consume existing data and to keep an overview of high-level features. Porting functionality to different hardware variants becomes costly.

  • Upfront planning - A full upfront planning of all features and interfaces limits the possibility to respond to change or improvements later on. It often leads to an inflated  design.

  • Ineffective communication management - Tools and processes around communication management often add a large amount of organizational overhead. This results in a poor developer experience and reluctance to change.

  • Hardware-coupled implementation - The signal-based communication between different ECUs leads to a tight coupling to the target hardware which makes reuse and portability complex.



Changing the communication architecture of a vehicle is a significant commitment, however, to respond to the increasing demand of software-based features, companies need to adopt the concept of a Vehicle API.


Our perspective of a Vehicle API includes the following core principles:


  • Hardware abstraction - Abstracting the details of a specific hardware allows the creation of interfaces with an excellent consumer experience. Porting software features to vehicle variants also becomes more efficient.

  • Developer Experience - Designing processes, tools and documentation in a way that allows for a self-service approach, discoverability of interfaces and end-to-end prototyping for engineering teams. 

  • Modern API Governance - Establishing modern governance practices like API first thinking, policies as code and consumer driven contracts  will allow developers to work autonomously while ensuring compliance, quality and safety. 

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