In the last few years, a slew of new acronyms have been added to the rapidly transforming automotive industry: EV (electric vehicle), AV (autonomous vehicle), SDV (software-defined vehicle), etc. These acronyms represent real change. EV registration in the US, for example, jumped 60% in Q1 of 2022 and estimates suggest that EVs will reach a 40% market share in 2023.
With the growing demand for EVs and SDVs, software development has become a key aspect of an industry that was once almost totally mechanical. While automotive hardware remains a vital aspect of any car, automakers and suppliers are racing to create better driving experiences while shifting from hardware-centric to software-defined. This shift has required an entire industry rethink, wherein development productivity is of foremost concern.
To stay competitive, the auto industry’s software engineering teams will need to not only meet vehicle release deadlines, but also keep up with over-the-air (OTA) updates throughout the vehicle’s lifetime. That means streamlined application updates and releases beyond point-of-purchase. As new vehicles roll off the assembly line, SDV and EV engineers arguably face stricter deadlines than just about any other industry. How can automakers deliver?
Rubber and silicon
As consumer demand for smarter, digitally interconnected vehicles rises, automotive manufacturers are feeling the pressure to ramp up their offerings, including both software-forward cars and EVs (which themselves tend to be souped up with software). Some major manufacturers such as Hyundai have announced goals to transform all of its fleet to software-defined vehicles by 2025, and General Motors intends to increase EV production this year by nearly 60%.
With new software-driven features proliferating, critical automotive software must quickly evolve to meet the moment. But this also means every car will have more avenues for glitches and technical difficulties.
To meet customer expectations and provide seamless software updates, OEMs and suppliers have begun to establish systems that interconnect software and hardware development along the entire lifecycle of the vehicle. For instance, GM recently unveiled Ultra Cruise, its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) designed to enable hands-free driving in 95% of all driving scenarios. Notably, Ultra Cruise leverages development acceleration software to assure consistent, seamless OTA improvements to driver safety and the overall driving experience, without any extra effort or expenditure on the part of the vehicle owner.
Another company moving the automotive software needle is Qualcomm, which has developed a suite of car-to-cloud services with accelerated deployment of OTA updates throughout the vehicle’s lifetime—not only to increase user satisfaction and help automakers effectively manage the costs that come with cloud utilisation, but also to combat the ongoing supply shortage affecting semiconductor manufacturers.
As software becomes increasingly critical to automotive development, industry leaders and innovators must seek out the tools that will enable them to develop faster and iterate along a more frequent and consistent version release schedule.
The compute power dilemma
Developing next generation automotive software takes speed, which can only be achieved with adequate compute power that can handle increasingly fast release cycles and other challenges like processor supply delays. To meet these new challenges, the auto industry must shift gears to focus on increasing productivity and optimising cloud compute power—a must for creating the high-level software needed to run in-vehicle computing.
One great example of this was spotlighted at CES 2023, where Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Ride Flex SoC, a solution standardising central-compute practices for automakers and suppliers to significantly scale multi-tiered SDV production and maintenance throughout a vehicle’s lifespan. Ride Flex SoC represents one of the many ways in which the automotive industry is quickly adopting DevOps best practices, including increasing its dependence on cloud-native workloads.
Another example can be found in the partnership between Stellantis and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to create a suite of software-based products and services that add value over time through regular OTA software updates. This partnership will allow Stellantis to utilise cloud development to scale globally and accelerate time-to-market for digital products.
With cloud spending in general expected to reach US$600bn in 2023 and rising, such acceleration solutions enable autoscaling of cloud resources in order to reduce costs without compromising on performance. Utilising cloud compute power not only allows for heightened speed and productivity, but also reduces industry reliance on hardware, which has been harder to come by in light of continuing chip shortages and supply chain issues.
The need for speed
Consumer demand for more efficient, safe, comfortable, enjoyable and sustainable driving experiences is constantly on the rise. The type of evolution seen in the mobile phone, app and SaaS industries—all of which offer continuous updates and new features OTA—is now occurring within the automotive industry. By embracing solutions that optimise software development, manufacturers can essentially do more with less, ultimately achieving a much faster and consistent version release schedule that will allow them to stay in the race in an increasingly competitive automotive marketplace.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.
Dana Rochman is Chief Product Officer of Incredibuild
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