Building and Modernizing Connected Vehicle platforms with AWS IoT
AWS is excited to announce new and updated architectural guidance and design patterns for modernizing and building Connected Vehicle platforms with AWS IoT. Today, automotive manufacturers (OEMs) are differentiating their portfolios, not just by the hardware and specs they offer, but also by the innovative, software-driven connectivity features they provide. With vehicle connectivity and the opportunity to gather vehicle data (telemetry), automotive companies are building and offering more advanced features, such as:
- Software-defined vehicles (SDV) and over-the-air (OTA) updates that can improve vehicle features spanning the vehicle lifetime (e.g., autonomous driving)
- Intelligent mapping and location services (smart parking, traffic prediction)
- Vehicle geo-fencing (locating family members)
- Infotainment and entertainment services (dynamic app store)
- Enhanced driver support (sleepy driver alerts)
- Vehicle security mode (event-based recording and live streaming from connected vehicle cameras)
- Remote vehicle operations (remote car start, lock/unlocking vehicle, digital keys)
Connected Vehicle platforms enable and simplify the process of collecting and sending vehicle telemetry to the cloud, enabling AWS services to gather, analyze, and act on ingested data. Automotive companies, such as Honda and WirelessCar, have adopted AWS IoT for their Connected Vehicle platforms based on the performance, scalability, cost-effectiveness, and flexibility of the services. Many companies that maintain legacy vehicle platforms and on-premises technology stacks are modernizing their systems by moving to a cloud-native architecture, which allows them to offload responsibility for scalability, elasticity, and security of the underlying infrastructure to AWS. In this post, we share how you can use services like AWS IoT Core and AWS IoT FleetWise as part of a modern Connected Vehicle platform architecture.
Benefits of an MQTT message broker
A message broker is central to a connected vehicle architecture because it provides bi-directional, secure communication between the vehicle fleet and the cloud. MQTT, the de facto standard for connected vehicle message brokers, allows for a persistent, always-on connection between the vehicle and the cloud. With intermittent connectivity (e.g., a vehicle traveling through an underground tunnel), MQTT effortlessly handles buffering, queuing, and synchronizing when vehicle connectivity is re-established. MQTT is an ideal communication protocol for connected vehicle platforms because it is lightweight and enables efficient communication with the cloud and decreased power consumption at the edge, utilizing persistent connections instead of request/response and multiple TLS handshakes that make other protocols more costly and less efficient (e.g., HTTP, etc.).
AWS IoT Core offers a managed MQTT message broker that already supports hundreds of millions of devices connecting daily, obviating the need for automakers to worry about scaling, elasticity, or provisioning of compute infrastructure to meet peak demand. AWS IoT Core easily scales and reliably handles millions of vehicles in your fleet, with multi-region capabilities and a pay-as-you-go utility pricing model. By migrating to managed AWS IoT services, customers can reduce operational costs and the cost of third-party technology licenses. AWS IoT Core is available globally, enabling customers to comply with local data storage, sovereignty, and privacy requirements. As a commitment to the uptime and availability of the service, AWS provides a service-level agreement for AWS IoT Core.
In the context of Connected Vehicle architectures, AWS IoT Core provides the connectivity layer (an industry-standard managed MQTT message broker) that vehicles in regions around the world use to securely communicate with the cloud. The AWS IoT Core MQTT broker enables an event-driven architecture utilizing a publish/subscribe mechanism. This communication protocol also allows vehicles to securely connect and communicate with other downstream AWS services for cost-effective storage, on-demand high performance compute, a deep portfolio of machine learning services, and many other AWS service integrations.
- Flexibility in companion app development with Message Expiry and Request/Response options
- More powerful device messaging with Protobuf support and user properties
- Shared subscriptions for more easily scaling ingest-processing applications
- Improved resource management with a topic alias feature and session expiry
With these new MQTTv5 features, many customers are migrating their existing in-production MQTT message brokers, hosted on-premises or with third party solutions, to AWS IoT Core for a managed MQTT service. This retains feature parity with their current platform, and saves money and engineering time by reducing the operational overhead of managing the infrastructure themselves.
Modernizing existing Connected Vehicle platforms
AWS recently published a new set of reference architectures for building Connected Vehicle platforms with AWS IoT, focusing on demonstrating the ease of migrating to AWS IoT Core while keeping existing vehicle configurations static to minimize risks associated with modernizing in-production legacy platforms. With the newest MQTTv5 features, OEMs can avoid vendor lock-in and migrate to a managed MQTT message broker by seamlessly updating their current connected vehicle workloads and switching their ingest endpoints to AWS IoT Core (as long as the existing platform adheres to and properly implements the MQTT 3.1 or MQTTv5 specification). This enables OEMs to modernize their current message broker and provides easy access to other AWS services (storage, compute, machine learning, analytics, visualization tools, etc.).
The Modernization reference architecture provides high-level guidance for the most common features within Connected Vehicle platforms. It is not required to implement all use cases or features listed in the architecture. Instead, it is intended to illustrate the power of MQTTv5 with AWS IoT Core, providing best-practice technical guidance and repeatable design patterns. To implement the reference architecture, a basic assumption is that the vehicle is (or will be) provisioned to securely connect to AWS IoT Core using mTLS, MQTT, and proper crypto libraries (e.g., OpenSSL libraries that support the necessary requirements for connecting to AWS IoT Core). Migrating the MQTT message broker to AWS IoT Core allows the publish and subscribe mechanisms in the existing vehicle platform to work as-is. To complete the migration, logic within the cloud is updated and configured to process data payloads sent from the vehicle.
At AWS re:Invent 2022, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America presented their approach to message broker modernization, describing how they migrated millions of vehicles to AWS IoT Core to reduce the complexity of their message broker implementation and to reduce costs. For them, the modernized publish/subscribe architecture provides better observability on a per-vehicle basis for troubleshooting, debug, and trace functionality. With a streaming architecture and updated message broker, they can separate telemetry collection from command/control operations, allowing for quicker iterations on production workloads and seamless integration with other downstream AWS services such as Amazon Kinesis.
With this approach to message broker modernization, OEMs can start their migration to AWS IoT Core with a few simple steps, providing immediate impact and value to the operation, observability, and scalability of their connected vehicle platforms.
Building new, next-generation Connected Vehicle platforms
For OEMs, autonomous vehicle startups, or telematics solution providers that set out to build a new, next-generation connected vehicle platform with MQTTv5 and AWS IoT Core, or want to extend their existing AWS IoT Core platform with new MQTTv5 features, we have published a new Connected Vehicle reference architecture that highlights the key elements and features of a connected platform. This is a best-practice design or blueprint for building a next-generation connected vehicle platform with AWS IoT and related AWS services, demonstrating the art of the possible with a modern, cloud-native approach.
The architecture starts in the vehicle with components that are necessary to securely connect the vehicle to the cloud with AWS IoT Core and AWS IoT FleetWise. For communication with AWS IoT Core, mutual TLS (mTLS) authentication is a requirement with an X.509 certificate and private key. AWS provides an IoT SDK that can be customized and integrated within a connected vehicle software stack, or the customer can build and deploy their own custom MQTT client if that is a preferred path. To connect to AWS IoT Core, AWS does not require or mandate any specific software be deployed to the vehicle. To include AWS IoT FleetWise in a connected platform, AWS provides an open source, lightweight AWS IoT FleetWise Edge Agent that can be downloaded from GitHub. The FleetWise Edge Agent will decode signals from the vehicle CAN bus and send data to the cloud based on conditions and events, working in conjunction with the AWS IoT FleetWise service in the cloud to store data, take actions, and distribute data that is sent to your AWS account.
For multi-region deployments, AWS has a simple design pattern that uses Route53 geo-location routing that identifies the closest broker the vehicle should communicate with, based on rules that are customer-configured to govern how a vehicle should connect to the cloud infrastructure. We also provide guidance about dynamic topics and subscriptions that can be used as a bootstrap configuration for the vehicle when first connecting to Route53.
AWS IoT FleetWise is the first AWS service purpose-built for the automotive industry, using a cloud-first approach to model the vehicle and deploy data collection campaigns with those models. This removes the undifferentiated lift of writing and maintaining a data logger or other data collection mechanism, as AWS IoT FleetWise works alongside and in collaboration with AWS IoT Core, using the same authentication mechanism as AWS IoT Core to aggregate and send data to AWS.
The guidance in the new IoT reference architectures is intended to demonstrate and provide guidance and best-practices to AWS customers and partners that are building Connected Vehicle platforms with AWS IoT, and is not meant to be an all-encompassing, monolithic architecture that must be deployed without modification. The architectures are intended as blueprint starting points for discussion, brainstorming, and foundation for architecting a modern, next-generation connected vehicle platform that is optimized for long-term operation and maintainability throughout the vehicle lifecycle. For more prescriptive guidance beyond the technical architectures, we recommend referring to the AWS IoT for Automotive workshop or the AWS Whitepaper ‘Designing next generation vehicle communication platforms on AWS IoT Core’. We also encourage customers to contact their AWS account teams to schedule brainstorm and other technical sessions, inviting AWS subject matter experts to help design an optimal AWS architecture that best meets your business and technology requirements.