The Changing Approach to Software Development in the Automotive Industry

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By Abu Miah | 1Q 2024 | IN-7253

Digital twins have been explored by 70% of C-suite technology executives at large enterprises and their utility in the automotive industry is being realized, but their advantages must be cultivated with an organizational transformation at the automaker level and an examination of how the entire ecosystem can contribute to software development.

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QNX Accelerate and NVIDIA Omniverse


CES 2024 saw the showcase and discussion of countless innovative automotive technologies rooted in software, but critics were outspoken in criticism of the still fragmented supply chain in the industry and lack of software expertise at the automotive Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) level. As computer code has become the root of most vehicle quality problems, many OEMs are lacking the ability to both quickly address issues in their vehicles and develop new features for them. Building software expertise at OEMs through hiring software engineers is one approach to addressing this, but it will not fit all OEMs due to the high cost and limited supply of software talent. An alternative solution can be an ecosystem approach, where instead of OEMs taking ownership of their software stacks, they can collaborate with software vendors and cloud providers to develop software solutions. Stellantis, BlackBerry QNX, and Amazon Web Service (AWS) announced a virtual cockpit collaboration, using the QNX Hypervisor in the cloud on AWS Marketplace to develop multi-Operating System (OS), embedded applications in mixed-criticality environments, which they say will accelerate the customer feedback process and Stellantis’ response to it. The NVIDIA Omniverse Extended Reality (XR) framework unveiled several partners aimed toward automotive configurators, with Lotus adopting the solution. Looking to the future, Omniverse could also allow collaborative development at the OEM level and beyond, including its Tier One, silicon, and hypervisor partners, for example.

Collaborative Innovation in a Changing Automotive Ecosystem


These solutions are allowing development to occur at an expedited pace at a time when the automotive industry is keen to match the speed of the consumer electronic space as closely as possible. Previous approaches to innovative software development in the automotive industry, such as spin-off software divisions like CARIAD or Woven by Toyota, failed to execute their vision for a variety of reasons, but the need for organizational transformation and improved efficiency of software development is driving more approaches to be refined. Collaboration won’t just be occurring between OEMs and their partners—teams within an OEM, across cluster and infotainment, for example, will also need to interact more than they used to as the digital cockpit consolidates more domains in a single cockpit domain controller. For more information on this trend, see ABI Research’s Accommodating Mixed-Criticality Compute in Digital Cockpit Domain Controllers report.

Digital twin solutions can enable this transition in bringing teams together, escaping the automotive legacy trend of development in silos, at a later stage along the production line. The faster interaction among teams and partners that these enable will drive improvements across several parts of the production and post-sales development process; the latter of which is quickly becoming a key factor in consumer satisfaction with their vehicles. Higher frequencies of quick and meaningful Over-The-Air (OTA) updates will translate to an improved consumer experience in the vehicle, and in the long term, can lead to consumers with a more open response to paid software features in the car after the point of sale, when they have experienced or heard of the material improvements that software can bring to their vehicles.

Fostering the New Software Supply Chain


Introducing technology solutions like digital twins cannot be the sole enabler of an effective software-driven supply chain. The band-aid solution of technology without a coherent plan for execution and standards of collaboration has the dangers of misalignment of priorities and misunderstood roles of different vendors. For an effective software development and deployment plan, the OEM should always be acting as an “overseer,” benefiting from the expertise of its partners without relinquishing control of its product and outcomes for its customers. Software vendors from the silicon development to the application level can provide utility; for example, silicon Intellectual Property (IP) partners can use digital twins to allow System-on-Chip (SoC) vendors to experiment with their IP early in the production process, with the OEM overseeing development and sharing its goals for delivery to its end customer. Several parts of the ecosystem will be able to interact at earlier stages, and more often than what is the current standard for the automotive industry.

Already, silicon vendors are becoming a key point of contact for OEMs as they use not only their hardware solutions, but also cloud solutions and Artificial Intelligence (AI), data center, and energy efficiency expertise. The “software Tier One” is a partner in discussions for roadmap planning as much as the traditional Tier One supplier is, so improvements in the efficiency of their collaboration will yield significant returns for the industry. The Software-Defined Vehicle (SDV) transition necessitates innovation in both technology and method. CES’ announcements are bringing us closer to this reality, but focus must be placed on how all parts of the ecosystem can provide their expertise to be an effective part of this collaborative approach to software development.



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