Continuous Automotive Software Updates through Container Image Layers




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Peer reviewed



The vehicle-embedded system also known as the electronic control unit (ECU) has transformed the humble motorcar, making it more efficient, environmentally friendly, and safer, but has led to a system which is highly dependent on software. As new technologies and features are included with each new vehicle model, the increased reliance on software will no doubt continue. It is an undeniable fact that all software contains bugs, errors, and potential vulnerabilities, which when discovered must be addressed in a timely manner, primarily through patching and updates, to preserve vehicle and occupant safety and integrity. However, current automotive software updating practices are ad hoc at best and often follow the same inefficient fix mechanisms associated with a physical component failure of return or recall. Increasing vehicle connectivity heralds the potential for over the air (OtA) software updates, but rigid ECU hardware design does not often facilitate or enable OtA updating. To address the associated issues regarding automotive ECU-based software updates, a new approach in how automotive software is deployed to the ECU is required. This paper presents how lightweight virtualisation technologies known as containers can promote efficient automotive ECU software updates. ECU functional software can be deployed to a container built from an associated image. Container images promote efficiency in download size and times through layer sharing, similar to ECU difference or delta flashing. Through containers, connectivity and OtA future software updates can be completed without inconveniences to the consumer or incurring expense to the manufacturer.


open access article


virtualisation, ECU, automotive E/E architecture, containers, over the air, software updates


Ayres, N., Deka, L. and Paluszczyszyn, D. (2021) Continuous Automotive Software Updates through Container Image Layers. Electronics, 10(6), pp.739.


Research Institute