In the past decade, the automotive industry has witnessed a revolution, prioritizing an enjoyable and seamless user experience. Whether it's EVs, internal combustion engines, or hybrids, performance and quality have become key value propositions of this automotive evolution. With embedded systems taking center stage, a vehicle's value and success are now defined by its software, surpassing the significance of its mechanical aspects. This shift has reshaped the global automotive industry, which is currently valued at a staggering $2.9 trillion.
Outsourcing ECUs: Pitfalls of disconnected systems
Modern vehicles are equipped with an impressive array of electronic control units (ECUs), overseeing vital functions like engine control and power steering, as well as comfort features such as window adjustments. ECUs also play a crucial role in vehicle security, managing keyless entry, airbags, and emergency braking. They streamline data transfer, ensure reliability and security, enable efficient networking, offer proactive diagnostics, and provide real-time decision support.
As the automotive engineering landscape evolves rapidly, advanced vehicles like the BMW-7 series now accommodate over 150 ECUs and millions of lines of code.
Most auto manufacturers outsource ECU design and software as they often lack the necessary infrastructure and expertise for in-house development. For example, Volkswagen estimates that only 10% of the software in its vehicles is developed in-house. However, manufacturers bear the responsibility of developing an integrated embedded system with central vehicle controllers.
This outsourcing practice introduces complexities as various software suppliers use different licenses, development approaches, operating systems, and languages. The integration, verification, and validation become challenging due to disaggregated systems, leading to a cumbersome development process.
In fact, a recent survey revealed that 37% of software developers across the automotive supply chain find it difficult, if not impossible, to determine the impact of code changes in one ECU on another.
Integration errors and software modifications resulting from the outsourcing of ECU design and software have led to vehicle recalls. Even with a focus on automotive experience engineering, the goal of integrating various technologies, software, and systems to create a seamless and user-centric experience has not always been met. It's time for a streamlined approach to avoid these pitfalls and ensure a smoother development process.
To address the challenges associated with outsourcing ECUs, manufacturers need to build their own automotive engineering muscle to self-build software and system integrations. By taking control of the development process, manufacturers can ensure a seamless user experience and enhanced product performance through:
Greater control: Manufacturers have complete control over the development process, enabling them to align software and systems integrations with their specific needs and objectives. Tesla's in-house software development and system integration expertise have allowed them to create unique features like over-the-air updates and autonomous driving capabilities.
Faster innovation: Automakers increase the pace of innovation by eliminating dependencies on external partners and streamlining the development cycle. BMW has leveraged in-house expertise to develop the iDrive system, which integrates various features like infotainment, navigation, and vehicle settings into a user-friendly interface.
Improved quality and performance: With in-house expertise and direct oversight, manufacturers can ensure the quality and performance of their software and system integrations. Ford's SYNC system offers seamless integration of communication, entertainment, and navigation features, providing a high-quality user experience.
Cost efficiency: Developing in-house software and system integrations can reduce costs associated with outsourcing and licensing fees. General Motors' decision to bring software development in-house has resulted in cost savings and increased efficiency in their vehicle development processes.
Intellectual property protection: By keeping development processes in-house, manufacturers can maintain greater control over their intellectual property. Volvo's decision to develop its own autonomous driving software protects their proprietary technology and expertise.
Unlocking the potential of in-vehicle 360° data using cloud infrastructure
To build their own automotive experience engineering muscle, manufacturers should leverage IoT technologies and cloud-based solutions. This enables them to collect comprehensive 360-degree data from vehicle sensors, cameras, and connected services. Through advanced analytics, this data provides valuable insights into product performance and usage patterns, enabling manufacturers to optimize software, identify areas for improvement, and seamlessly integrate ECUs responsible for various vehicle functions. A cloud-based infrastructure enables automotive manufacturers to offer personalized subscription plans, granting customers access to specific features or services as per their preferences. This flexibility empowers users to customize their automotive experience, resulting in heightened satisfaction and loyalty.
Moreover, a cloud infrastructure empowers automotive manufacturers to develop their own machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, further reducing reliance on outsourcing. Leveraging scalable computing power and storage, manufacturers can build and deploy models within their infrastructure. The cloud enables training and inference using vast vehicle data, facilitating the development of tailored algorithms for safety, autonomous driving, personalized experiences, and applications driven by generative AI and large language models. It fosters collaboration among data scientists and engineers, enabling efficient sharing and development. With cloud-based ML and AI, manufacturers maintain control over the process, ensuring data security and intellectual property protection.
Improving user experience through in-house development and integration
With direct access to in-vehicle data via the cloud, auto manufacturers have full control of their sophisticated automotive experience ecosystem. They can now unleash personalized out-of-the-box experiences that enhance performance, lower power consumption, and centralize control, delighting customers and increasing loyalty.
Enhancing interface design and connectivity features: By self-building vehicles, manufacturers can design user interfaces with intuitive layouts and easy-to-use controls. A centralized touchscreen display can provide seamless access to various vehicle functions and connectivity options. Additionally, manufacturers can integrate voice recognition systems, allowing drivers to control features using natural language commands for a more convenient and hands-free experience.
Integrating advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS): In-house manufacturing enables manufacturers to tightly integrate ADAS technologies that use ML and AI algorithms into their vehicles. They can design vehicles with forward-facing cameras and sensors strategically placed to support features like lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking. This integration ensures optimal performance and responsiveness of these safety systems, providing users with a heightened sense of confidence and security on the road.
Optimizing user comfort and convenience: Manufacturers can focus on enhancing user comfort through thoughtful design choices. Not only can they offer customizable seating options with adjustable lumbar support, ventilation, and heating features but also develop ML-based intelligent climate control systems that automatically adjust temperature and airflow based on individual preferences. These comfort-focused features contribute to a more enjoyable and tailored driving experience for users.
Customizing vehicle performance and driving modes: In-house manufacturing allows manufacturers to offer customizable driving modes to suit user preferences. A sports mode could support enthusiasts seeking a more exhilarating driving experience with enhanced acceleration and dynamic handling. On the other hand, an eco mode can help those prioritizing energy efficiency, adjusting power delivery and throttle response accordingly. This customization capability enables users to personalize their driving experience based on their specific needs and preferences.
Providing seamless software updates and maintenance: With self-built vehicles, manufacturers can establish direct communication channels with users for software updates and maintenance. For example, they can offer over-the-air (OTA) updates, allowing users to receive and install software improvements wirelessly. Additionally, manufacturers can develop mobile apps or online portals where users can schedule maintenance services and receive notifications for regular check-ups or recalls. This streamlined approach ensures that users have access to the latest software features and that their vehicles are well-maintained for optimal performance and reliability.
Enabling robust security measures: Manufacturers can employ ML and AI algorithms to detect anomalies in vehicle data and network traffic that may indicate potential cybersecurity threats. By continuously monitoring patterns and behaviors, the algorithms can identify suspicious activities such as unauthorized access attempts or abnormal data transmission. Manufacturers can also use encryption techniques to protect sensitive data transmitted between different ECUs or to external systems, ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of the information.
Take control of your automotive experience with Grid Dynamics
Integration issues and supplier challenges can put the brakes on the progress of automotive manufacturers. To shape the future of driving and deliver cherished user experiences, manufacturers must prioritize automotive engineering excellence and take control of their systems by self-building Electronic Control Units (ECUs). Leveraging data analytics and cloud computing is crucial in achieving these objectives.
From tackling integration issues to overcoming supplier problems, Grid Dynamics brings its track record of successful project deployments across industries to the table. We understand the intricate value of aligning software, hardware, and systems, ensuring seamless cooperation between different parts of the vehicle. By partnering with Grid Dynamics, you gain a trusted ally who can guide you through the maze of automotive experience engineering. We specialize in developing robust data and analytics solutions, helping you harness the power of cloud computing and data-driven insights:
Deploy cloud infrastructure from scratch or migrate your existing on-premise data processing solutions to the cloud;
Realize the full business value of in-vehicle data with an advanced analytics platform;
Improve scalability to continuously deliver modern automotive experiences;
Enhance your existing experiences through actionable insights.
#PrepareToGrow on your path to automotive engineering excellence with Grid Dynamics.
For expert advice on automotive experience engineering solutions at Grid Dynamics, please contact Dana R. Wolfe — Senior Director, Client Success | Automotive & Manufacturing.
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