The software-defined automobile, with its connectivity, enhanced driver safety systems, and consumer-centric mindset, is poised to bring about significant change in the automotive industry.
Automakers, who have traditionally been at the forefront of automotive technology, must now prepare to become part of a larger ecosystem in which technology giants associated with computer manufacturing, internet search engines, and mobility as a service (MAAS) are leading the charge in terms of investment and innovation.
What kind of disruption will be caused by the new technologies and architectures in the software-defined automobile, as well as the evolving topology of the supply chain, in the automotive industry remains unclear.
The traditional architectural style has reached its limit.
With each new generation of automobiles, the number and sophistication of electrical equipment utilized in them increases. According to the year 2000, the average car had roughly 10 processors and included a few thousand lines of code. Fast forward 20 years, and today’s automobiles include around 45 processors, each of which has hundreds of millions of lines of code.
The wire loom becomes very complicated in the conventional vehicle design, where these components are all linked via copper, and it accounts for a significant amount of the vehicle’s overall construction cost. It’s safe to assume that the evolution of car manufacture has followed this pattern for the last 100 years or so. It has been determined that the capacity of a vehicle developed utilizing a conventional architecture has been attained.
It is a dramatic, even disruptive, departure from this approach in that it separates the hardware from the software – what we call abstraction — and moves away from the “flat” architecture that has typically been observed in conventional vehicle design in order to achieve this separation.
The software-defined automobile will be characterized by two concurrent architectural modifications, namely zones and domains, that will be implemented simultaneously. Control units will most likely be integrated and consolidated into high-powered computers, resulting in three or four distinct zones. When using a zonal approach, wiring becomes easier, and the software environment becomes more scalable and adaptable since domains are linked by automotive ethernet and accessible using domain controllers. By using centralized over-the-air (OTA) updates, the software is simply upgradable and provides efficient support for the user-defined vehicle.
It is possible to virtualize use cases, and the real-time needs of safety systems with guaranteed reaction times (a design imperative) may be met with confidence. The use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in such systems produces replies that are more human-like than the “if-then-else” character of ordinary software programming. Secure vehicle-to-cloud communication becomes more vital in this context, and it is dependent on the flawless integration of several ecosystems to function properly. It is not only the creation of particular new hardware platforms, but also the confluence of numerous technologies and approaches, that constitutes technological disruption in this context.
Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), which are further strengthened by artificial intelligence and machine learning, move the horizon closer to Level 4 and Level 5 autonomy, which is the driving force behind most of this progress. Hardware abstraction makes it possible for hardware components to be interchangeable, enabling new players to join the automobile industry, whether they are IT giants or start-up companies.
The product lifecycle will be prolonged as well, since a vehicle’s feature set will be expanded and optimized via over-the-air upgrades after the vehicle has been purchased (POS). They may be able to generate new income streams and business models via the selling of apps and driver data collected through data analytics.
Supply chain topology is changing as a result of this.
The majority of the current automakers have a lengthy history and have evolved into massive enterprises throughout time. They have established processes, employees who have been educated in accordance with these procedures, and complicated supply networks that are designed to complement these procedures. To make the transition to software-defined cars, manufacturers and Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers will need to adopt a new approach to vehicle development as well as make adjustments to their relationships with one another. One option that automakers have is to cooperate directly with Tier 2 suppliers such as NXP.
As this transition accelerates, NXP has increased its own software team from 30 employees in 2008 to 700 people today, and has developed new automotive platforms that provide scalable solutions for the connected vehicle’s systems.
At the same time, a few automakers are investing in proprietary car operating systems and are contemplating whether or not to license them to other companies. In order to do this, they will need to make considerable financial investments and demonstrate a high level of organizational agility, which may not be appropriate for many manufacturers.
Then there’s Big Tech.
Tech behemoths are also making investments and developing new technologies in numerous facets of the automobile industry. Some manufacturers provide familiar operating systems for connected in-vehicle entertainment systems, with the goal of providing drivers with an interface and application ecosystem that is similar to what they are accustomed to on their mobile devices.
Others are concentrating on the development of self-driving automobiles. The risks are enormous, but the benefits are clear: a successful outcome. Having an autonomous self-driving car that can operate as a taxi around the clock would be very beneficial to a corporation whose major emphasis is mobility as a service, as would the widespread use of a certain infotainment operating system.
An automobile that has been historically designed will have a value and feature set that is optimal at the time of purchase, just as a typical mobile phone does. When driving a software-defined car, programs and operating systems may be updated and expanded throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle through over-the-air (OTA) updates, similar to those available on a mobile phone or tablet. It enables the user to customize and optimize their car to a certain extent, while also keeping the vehicle’s safety features up to date..
A new age of collaboration has begun.
The software-defined car marks the dawn of a new era in collaboration and innovation, in which established automakers and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers will collaborate with technology behemoths. Despite the fact that such collaboration constitutes a potentially challenging paradigm change, we may advance closer to real safety and autonomy by using the years of investment in software innovation made by these behemoths.
Furthermore, by using analytics to close the loop on customer satisfaction, drivers will benefit from improved functionality, experiences, and overall safety. Because of their experience in security, software, and scalable hardware platforms, technology firms like as NXP and others will play a big part in the automobile industry’s future as we go toward Level 4 and potentially Level 5 autonomy.