Software is the heart of the modern car experience. How can you beat the increasing complexity to keep up the accelerating development pace?
Software is the heart of the modern car experience, making rides more comfortable, safer, less polluting, and adding new services over the lifetime of the vehicle. Executives in the automotive industry highlight that “Software will account for 90% of future innovations in the car” (Herbert Dies, Volkswagen Chairman).
Modern vehicles have over 100 ECUs (Electronic Control Units), altogether comprising 100 million lines of source code. Each new functionality for safety, comfort, infotainment, and personalization introduces additional electronics and components – and adds a large set of new software. This software requires extra development, integration, and quality assurance effort towards SOP (start of Production), and poses additional challenges to ensure software maintenance on a very long lifecycle and perform software updates.
But this is just part of the puzzle. Different regional regulatory requirements, increasing options to fit individual car owner preferences, and evolving models to cater to market demands lead to large variations of configurations, trims, and models, which add another dimension to the complexity. The explosion of combinations means that not every configuration can be tested and verified in practice.
Vehicle recall data for 2019 in the USA reveals that while the number of vehicle recalls has decreased, software-based defects are increasing. More software is needed to detect abnormalities, add reliability, and ensure quality and conformance to safety standards. On the positive side, software-based remedies have been used for many mechanical or electronic faults that would have required repair or replacement of vehicle components in the past.
Over the years, Automotive OEMs have not been hands-on developing most of this software themselves. They have relied on tens of suppliers to provide the bulk of the software. Now, the situation is changing. OEMs are increasingly building their software engineering teams and practices – and driving further standardization either within their groups (e.g., CARIAD in the Volkswagen group), or through industry alliances such as AUTOSAR and COVESA (formerly GENIVI).
Software complexity in vehicles is rapidly outpacing the ability to both develop and maintain it, but software engineering productivity is not growing nearly as fast. Just like the Red Queen in Lewis Carrol’s Through the Looking Glass, the automotive industry has realized that “It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place”. Delivering on the software-defined vehicle requires the industry to run smarter rather than running harder.
We work with OEMs as a software engineering partner. Not only to scale their engineering, but also to adopt best practices in software development, DevOps, and Agile methods. Our experience in solving similar software complexity, scale, and re-use challenges also in other industries is instrumental to a successful transition to a software-centric automotive industry.
Mikel is a senior business leader with broad experience in helping global customers bring next-generation high-tech products to market. His passion is to combine business, technology, and software to create value. At Tietoevry Product Development Services, he is responsible for looking beyond the horizon and leading both customers and teams towards a bright future.